For the past seven years on Halloween, I can’t help but reminisce about the first one a few months after buying our house. We were so excited to have a trick or treaters. Even though it was a dark and stormy night, kids still came to the door. Meanwhile, I was so sick it was like that scene from The Exorcist. I couldn’t get off the sofa and had to watch as David answered the door for each rain-soaked child. Make-up streaming down their faces and into their costumes. Two days later, my stint as Linda Blair continued, and I was admitted to the ER. I stayed in the hospital for almost a week. Multiple people told me how close I was to death. Within half an hour, one said. But it was the ghost hanging out in my room that made me believe it.
When we got to the ER, I was afraid to sit down, so I paced back and forth with my eyes closed, counting the doors between the waiting room and the bathroom. Drunk dudes in disheveled costumes yelled about the zombie apocalypse and laughed when they saw me. If only I could have thrown up on their shoes instead of my socks. I managed to open my eyes to look them in the face, then flipped them off.
I was quickly taken to a dark, quiet room of the ER and drugged heavily, which I continued to be for the next several days. Don’t let all the drugs fool you. There was a ghost. I had rounds of lucidity and rounds of pain so bad that I was curled up in a ball on my right side, gripping the railing of the bed. A visiting clown put a happy face sticker on the side of my bed as a Drishti to focus on as I tried to control my breathing. Eventually, I’d pass out because my body couldn’t take it anymore.
It was in those first few moments of waking up, in the calm of a broken fever and pain subsiding, that I could feel it the most. Always on my left or behind me, it waited. It wasn’t scary. It was just there like a stain on the wall. After a wicked nasty bout of pain, I woke up with my fingers still gripping the railing. With my mouth dry and lips cracked, I managed to croak, “Hello?”
“It’s just me.” My mother-in-law replied, but even though she came around the bed to sit in my field of vision, the feeling of someone behind me remained.
After a few days, they brought in a roommate who was noisy and angry. She was experiencing GI issues after having her stomach stapled and was upset because she thought the staff was judging her. A nurse got a needle stick during her surgery, but my roommate refused consent for an HIV test to set the nurse’s mind at ease and avoid a retched round of anti-viral prophylaxis drugs as a precaution. My ray of sunshine roommate said the nurse shouldn’t have been so bad at her job.
As the ranting and ravings and demands of more jello from my neighbor on the left side of the curtain continued, I felt the presence pacing. Before that, it had been motionless, sitting, waiting. Now it felt agitated and unsettled by the chaos of this girl. After I had the surgery I needed, I had to stay for a few more days. I started walking around my floor at various times of the day or night, partly to help with the healing and somewhat to get away from my roommate. The night was best because it was quiet on the floor, and the staff seemed to enjoy having someone awake. If there was nothing else going on, one of them would walk with me and chat.
All the while, as I walked in the halls in my black sweatpants, burgundy sweatshirt, and medical gown, I felt it following. The presence. The feeling. The warmth of eyes in my back. I never saw it, even when they were maxing out the morphine and I was crying from the pain, but it was there. In all the hours I felt it near, I never asked it what it wanted or who it was. It could have been a friend or family member who’d passed. Perhaps just a spirit haunting the halls. The fact that it was so near left me anxious and nervous. It filled me with the reality of how close it and I were. And when the time came to go home, I worried it would follow me. Maybe I shouldn’t have since it didn’t feel evil or malevolent. It was simply there.
It didn’t follow me. I don’t think. After I got home, I didn’t feel it anymore. My kitty Pan, an incredible caretaker, sat close to me and watched anything that dared come near me for weeks. So if it did hitch a ride to my house, I’m pretty sure Pan chased it away.
As I remember that hospital stay, I want to thank all the doctors and nurses who care for us at some of our worst moments.
*** The photos in this story were found near each other on a recent walk in the woods. They are bits and pieces to a puzzle. I’d love to hear your story after putting them together.***