My husband and I live in a haunted Inn in my hometown. The ghost confines herself to the dining room, but the spectral memories of my high-school-self rise up from the shadows in every other room.
The insecure girl wearing short black skirts, stealing sips of whiskey from the tumblers that the bartender would sneak back into the kitchen.
Creeping up the steep, narrow back stairs in between the main course and dessert to do turndown. Carefully folding back the sheets, feeling like an intruder in the guest’s private rooms. Then running back down the stairs to carry out plates of mousse and coffee as if I hadn’t just been touching their pillows.
Leaning against the Hobart dishwasher at the end of the night flirting with the chef as he drank a screwdriver from a plastic yogurt container and made up the next night’s menu.
The bank owns this building now, no longer an Inn but a collection of nearly empty rooms. They pay my husband and I to stay here and we do it because we can’t afford to live anywhere else.
I share the spectral memories with my husband as they appear, hoping that the telling will dissipate the weight of nostalgia. He tells me each time he sees the ghost and, in this way, we layer new memories over my old, worn out ones.
It’s here we invite all our friends over on Sunday mornings using the industrial Viking stove with the griddle that can cook ten pancakes at once. We serve breakfast on the blue and red patterned dishes that were boxed up in the basement and we never run short of plates no matter how many people show up. When we move to the building across the street, to our first real apartment, to our first house we bring the plates with us. Ten years later, so much has changed, but we still invite friends over to have pancakes on those dishes.
It’s here my husband and I teach ourselves how to make Indian curry because the decent restaurants are too far away to drive, and we can’t afford to eat out anyway. We eat it standing at the kitchen island because the dining room is too big and too dark for just the two of us. We leave it for the ghost, who makes herself known in breezes from the closed windows and shifting shadows across the dark portraits hanging on the walls.
It’s here that I show my husband how to dye Easter eggs for the first time with a cheap kit from the drugstore, dissolving the pressed dye tabs into vinegar and water in the glass ramekins that used to hold chopped chives and capers.
It’s here that we sleep in the honeymoon suite where the eastern sun streams through the bank of windows and wakes us up and I’ll never have an easier time getting out of bed in the morning than when I lived in the sunlight of that room.
It’s here in the bathroom of the honeymoon suite we fill the heart shaped tub and soak our manure splattered bodies, tired and aching from our second job milking cows that helps us make ends meet. It takes the entire tank of the hot water heater to fill the tub halfway. We slide in, our feet entangled and fall asleep while the water warms our bones, chilled from the drafty barn.
It’s here, as nearly newlyweds, that we make our first home. We don’t really care that that it isn’t a home at all but a collection of empty rooms. We enjoy the novelty of it and the memories and ghosts that accompany it.
By the summer we will have moved into another bank owned building. We will trade the ghost in the dining room for squirrels in the walls. Pancake breakfasts become movie nights. We still milk cows in the evening and for a while, we still think of Inn living as an adventure.
Kate Tagai writes things, draws things, lives near the ocean, and spends as much time on islands as possible. She has some publishing credits, a degree or two, and a blog: adventuresofagrievingmother.wordpress.com.
Kate wants you to visit:: www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep aims to offer every family experiencing the death of a baby the healing power of remembrance.