Ghost in the latrine
"I think I have a poltergeist in my bathroom," I said over the phone to my best friend in London, and I was completely serious. It was the only explanation I could conjure on the spot, because what was happening just didn't make any easy sense, and the noise of it was distracting. Bang. Bang. Flop.
We were well overdue for catching up, and I wanted to give her my full attention. We'd pre-arranged this call (for Wednesday the 11th, two days before the only Friday the 13th in 2008), to circumvent the five-hour chasm between us. Last time, she cancelled due to a migraine, and a few times before that, I'd missed her call. And now, now there was a poltergeist in my bathroom.
What I was seeing was akin to special effects for low-to-no-budget films, something facilitated by someone's dad, and at par with footage from You Tube. And since I live alone in a multi-storey walk-up, on a middle floor, and my windows weren't open at the time, I was at a complete loss as to how someone's dad might've gotten in to arrange this.
I've played witness to strange happenings before, back home in Nova Scotia, so I didn't panic. My family's house there, according to local lore, is haunted. And if it's not, it certainly should be. Any old, wooden sea captain's house set in a fog belt on the windy Atlantic shore, near a cemetery with especially creepy grave markers (a number of which are inscribed with, "Lost at Sea") must have some restless spooks. Rot at least.
My old bedroom there was supposedly particularly haunted, and not by lovers. I was only sixteen for shit's sake. Anyway, one night, a school friend stayed over and while we chatted in the dark, a dim phosphorescent orb appeared near the ceiling in the corner of the room. I noticed it first, but I'd expected, for some reason, that it would disappear as soon as I mentioned it, or that she'd just suggest I had a cataract. But it didn't and she didn't and so we had to deal with it.
Not that it was doing anything disruptive (aside from showing up), but it's hard to relax with a glowing orb in the room. Incapable of conjuring an explanation of our own, we summoned my ever-rational, scientific-to-a-fault father to have a look. There we were, three of us in my bedroom, hands on hips, orb-observing. A minute passed before my dad, who always had an explanation, concluded, "Well, that's pretty weird."
It was the most unsatisfactory explanation he'd offered me as a child (of course, not including, "...because I said so."). I just couldn't let it go at that, and forced an explanation from him with a pout. He thought for a moment, and then decided that there was likely a phosphorescent fungus in the attic that permeated the ceiling in that one spot, causing the appearance of an orb - a yellowish, glowing, "pretty weird" orb. Or something. His explanation still lacked, but the orb didn't seem to be going anywhere, or doing anything, so my friend and I did all we could: We got over it, and went back to bed to talk about boys. By the next morning, it was gone, and it never reappeared. A crap explanation sufficed then, and I was sure, for my current situation, a crap explanation was all I needed now. Then, I could get on with my intercontinental conversation.
The loose ceiling tiles in the bathroom had been floating upward into the infrastructure of the building, and randomly slamming back into place, over and over. Bang. Bang. Flop. My brain did a quick scan for an explanation. Human error? That usually works. OK, me first: Was I nuts? Surely, but hallucinations aren't my style. Maybe, I thought, I have someone living in my ceiling like that guy in Japan who had a woman hiding in his closet for months. That's not so unrealistic, it happened. No, she could never move all those tiles at once. A fire. Must be a fire, I thought. Remember Backdraft? There was some vacuum action in that. Meh. That explanation requires evacuation, so ixnay. Next. Hmm. Perhaps the apartment upstairs blew away. No, now that's just ridiculous.
My friend waited patiently while I stuttered on the phone. "I don't know what's happening," I said. Then it came to me: "I think I have a poltergeist in my bathroom." There, that's perfect, I thought. There's nothing I can do about a poltergeist. Not my problem. And just as it happened after the incident with the orb in my bedroom all those years ago, we did what we could: We got over it, and went back to talking about boys. A natural transition really, because the appearance and behaviour of both still remain, to us, largely ill-explained.