“It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. I’m sure you’ve been told before, but it seems that love is lost but only after having made you lose your mind. Maybe we have to be crazy to fall in love anyway. It seems like nothing a sane mind would agree to, delegating your happiness to someone else to do with as they please, to succumb to their whims and fall in servitude. I guess it’s okay when they feel the same, but who am I kidding, people never feel exactly same. In fact, scratch that, it’s never okay! If only we didn’t get lonely. Loneliness can be fought away, by the company of friends, surrounding yourself with invested loved ones, all the usual solutions, but there are times when loneliness finds us at our weakest, and that’s how my story starts.
I had been hired by a company to work in their IT department, the only problem was that this city is about 5 hours away from where I live. It became obvious that I would have to move and so I began searching and found my new abode in a quieter part of the city, close enough to work and the commercial area at an affordable price. I guess I should have figured out that something was a bit off since the price was so disproportionately low. The home owner told me that there was one room in the house which was locked and that I wasn’t allowed to enter it. She, however, explained that it was her daughter’s, who was a travelling journalist and who would rarely be in town and even then, rarely stay in the house. The house itself was quite comfortable and well kept, a kitchen, two bathrooms, two rooms and a small hall. In contrast, the two houses to its left and right seemed abandoned and in states of complete disarray. They were both two story houses painted a dark brown which was starting to peel in places. I soon moved in and began making mysel comfortable in my new abode. The closed room would sometimes annoy me and curiosity would almost overwhelm me at times, but I kept true to my promise to the home owner.
After a few weeks of work, I was struck by the realisation that not only was my department seemingly a boys only club, but rather our whole floor consisted almost entirely of men. I am not one to scour the workplace for love interests, but perhaps some female presence would have kept me from what I was about to do. I have never been in opposition to internet romances, but I myself had never been in one. The idea of trusting a computer to decide who I would be most compatible with, it’s hardly ideal. Firstly, I know the limitations of computers and secondly if I myself haven’t been able to find someone compatible with me, how could a computer do so? Also, people lie on the internet and I might find myself falling for some 35 year old man who spends his time pretending to be a 20 year old woman with hopes of tricking lonely guys out of a buck. A few more weeks passed and I was becoming that lonely guy, desperate enough to seek the assistance of the internet. A coworker told me about a website that, unlikely the more popular trends of the day, relied exclusively on text and information. It also gathered, after giving it permission, your trends and habits across social media. The only catch was that there are no pictures, which at first was almost entirely off-putting, but upon further consideration I thought to myself that it’s an app and completely noncommittal and so I gave it a try.
I recall the first response I got, in fact it was the only response that I got. It was an especially long day at work and I had every intention of going immediately to bed, but just as I was about to pull the cover over my head I saw my phone faintly glow. It’s funny how readily we abandon our intentions when our phones summon us. I wonder if it’s a sense of curiosity or obligation that drives us to answer every beck and call of these small devices. Everything could have been very different if I had just decided to sleep. I found that I had received a message from one of the girls I had expressed my interest in. Her name was Sarah, and she was perfect, her profile was at least. We had so many interests in common and liked the same videos and responded positively and negatively to the same articles. The fact that I was exhausted seemed to have become completely null and the fact that I had work tomorrow completely slipped my mind. I was, no, we were completely engrossed in conversation that covered everything ranging from mainstream media and internet culture to science and philosophy with every overlap in between. We said so much that it felt like we hadn’t said anything at all by the time we realised the time was getting late.
Surprisingly, the next day I had no trouble waking up. It was as though I had slept at my intended time and the whole conversation I had, tapping at my phone screen curled under my cover was only a dream. I of course checked my phone to make sure the conversation had actually taken place and was surprised to see several messages had been sent while I was asleep. At first it was slightly offsetting. I’m not one to warm up to people too easily, but after reading a bit I found any and all discomfort had been replaced by a small storm of excitement. I had to get ready for, and go to work, so I sent a message simply saying “I will get back to you on that, I don’t want to run late”.
A few days later I felt peckish and so I decided to fix up a sandwich, but when I reached the fridge and started rummaging for the cheese I had bought the day before I couldn’t find it. I tried to imagine what could have happened, but nothing other than Jerry from Tom and Jerry came to mind. That was the first experience with the ghost that I had. It only became more frequent as time passed. Groceries started appearing instead of just disappearing. I’d hear the door open and shut and I run out and find nothing. Furniture would have moved when I got back from work. It was strange at first, I thought I was just being forgetful. Over time a genuine fear started to come over me. One day, I heard the outside door open and just as I walked into the room it shut. The floorboards were also creaking and making their way to the closed room. Its door opened and slammed. I was standing there frozen in awe, not knowing what to do, wondering if I had merely lost my mind. It was unlikely that I would find better housing, and the ghost was doing little to harm me. I decided I’d look for other homes that were affordable, but I was pretty much set on not moving.
I had been talking to Sarah for a week or two and I was so caught up in conversation that I didn’t to meet, or her phone number or in fact her social media profiles or anything. In fact, realising this made it even more difficult for me to ask. Perhaps it was sensing that she thought I was uninterested I blurted out to her that maybe we should check out each other’s profiles on other websites. She enthusiastically agreed to the idea, but the strange thing was, once she gave me her links, it seemed that all her pictures were either set to private or wouldn’t load. Before I could point this out to her, she sent me a message asking if I had her on limited, which I didn’t. I told her that I was having the same issue and we speculated what it might be, that it may be some conspiracy to stop us from seeing each other. It might as well have been, but we were ready to fight it. With the blocked pictures fueling our curiosity we decided to meet as soon as possible. It was to be the next day during my lunch break at a cafe near my work place. The sense of urgency was augmented by the fact that she was to be leaving soon on a business trip.
There I was, sitting at the cafe waiting. I stopped myself from ordering until the waiter nervously approached me and almost pleaded with me to order as he kept looking over his shoulder at the manager. She had stood me up. It was the most frustrating and humiliating experiences I had ever been through. I checked my phone to see if she had perhaps apologised or excused herself, instead I found a long and wordy message expressing her disgust and disappointment in me and how I had stood her up! I scrolled up and found several messages asking where I was and her saying that she’s waiting at the cafe. I was confused and myself frustrated, I thought that maybe she or I had gotten the time wrong but the timestamps on the messages showed that it was at exactly the same time I was there. I messaged her and explained that maybe we missed each other because we don’t know what we look like, though I recall the cafe having no other individuals sitting alone and I’m sure she did too. I suggested that I could maybe meet her near where she lives and she agreed. She told me her area and I was surprised to find out that it was the same area as mine. I told her that we might be neighbours and she asked what street my house was on and when I told her, we were both shocked that we lived so close to each other. I jokingly said that we might as well be living in the same house. I then hesitated for a moment and I gave her my full address. She had replied immediately to every message I had sent before that as long as she was online. I asked her what was wrong, I pleaded with her to reply, but no response came.
I went to sleep nervous and anxious, and woke up with a degree of difficulty that directly contrasts that which I had felt over the past few weeks. I eventually managed to drag myself out of bed and got ready, avoiding checking my phone because I was so uncertain of what I would find. It seemed that regardless of whether or not I found a message, what I had said apparently hurt her or drove her away. I finally mustered the courage to check out the application inbox and I found what could only be defined as an essay on stalking and ethics. I read through it and was confused what she was talking about until the part where she stated that the address I claimed as my own was actually hers. I froze, for what must have been a relatively long period of time because it sparked the concern of my nearest coworker. I told him that my stomach was acting up and I went to the head of department and requested leave. I got home and sat on the edge of my bed staring at my phone for what felt like an eternity, wondering what I should write, when suddenly I receive a message from her. “Are you alive?”
“Yes, are you?”
“I’m alive, but I don’t think you understood my question. Are you a living, breathing human being?”
“Haha, I know I seem too good to be true, but I’m here and I’m real and I’m alive.”
“I’m not joking. Listen, can you hear that?”
“Nothing, I guess it’s all in my mind, I don’t think we should keep talking to each other.”
“Wait, what’s wrong, I don’t know what it is, maybe there are two houses registered under the same address?”
“That’s pretty unlikely.”
“Alright, tell you what, let’s bother just walk outside and see if we can see each other”
“You just want to make a fool of me like you did at the cafe!”
“You’ll just be stepping out of your house, it’s hardly an embarrassment”
“Okay, but I’m blocking you after this.”
“Please don’t, lol, but okay.”
So I headed to the door of my room and opened it, simultaneously the door across the hall also opened. It quickly shut and I quickly shut mine. I quickly typed “was that you” in my phone and just as I pressed send I received a message saying exactly the same thing. I replied with “I think so”.
At this point of time it became more than apparent that Sarah was the ghost that had been haunting my house and consuming my groceries. We talked about our experiences living in the haunted house and about disappearing groceries. There was a sense of enchantment and confusion but below it all was a sense of disappointment, we would never be able to see each other. We experimented and found that we could also not feel each other. We each walked directly out of our own respective rooms and into the other’s across the hall and would pass through each other without feeling a thing. Small object would disappear if one of us was holding them, our clothes would remain invisible for extended periods of time when we weren’t wearing them until the ‘invisibility wore off’.
We continued talking to each other just as regularly and getting along just as well as ever. She’d go on her business trips and bring my back gifts that would take a day or two to reappear sometimes. I would treat her by getting her favourite snacks and whatever else I could. It was comforting knowing she was close sometimes. It was also painful, knowing that I would never be able to be as close to her as I could any other person. What made it more painful is that she was closer to me than anyone else, both literally and metaphorically.
Days passed and we slowly became more and more aware of the limitations of our relationship. She said she had a business trip coming up soon and she’d be gone for a few months. When I said we could just talk like we always did, she said that the internet wouldn’t be as available and that it may be best if we didn’t talk as often anyway. It what she wanted to say was clear from what how she was saying that. I wanted to protest, but I guess I also felt the same way.
Months passed, more than she said she’d be away for, the ghost hadn’t made any grand appearances, perhaps just a few slamming doors once or twice a week, but no more. I would resist the urge to message her, but sometimes I’d fail. She’d give me lukewarm responses, I guess in response to lukewarm messages. One day she sent me a message saying that she was going to delete the application. This caused me distress but at the same time comfort, it was the final step to letting go of what we had. I was making more friends at work and joined a few clubs. I was getting to know more people. None, however, were as outstanding as she was.
She had almost completely left my mind, as completely as she ever would I guess. I remember coming home from work, excited about some new episode of some show or something. I sat down in front of my computer and just as I was about to click play, I hear the outside door open. I hadn’t heard it in such a long time, maybe that’s why the effect was so intense. All the feelings suddenly came rushing back for some unknown reason. Then I heard a man’s voice. It wasn’t the ghost, I must be being robbed. I grabbed a wooden shelf off the wall and balanced it on my shoulder and quickly made my way outside my room. I found a tall man standing in the middle of my hall staring at me, at first he was shocked, then his expression grew menacing. I shouted at him asking what he was doing there, but before I could finish my interrogation I see a small figure standing behind him a little way off. The man answers “This is my fiance’s house, you must be the tenant”.
My heart and mind shattered into a thousand pieces in that instant. I could tell by the horrified look on her face that she, too could see me. It was undoubtedly Sarah, she had described her appearance, and this was definitely her, though she was far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. My stomach churned and I must have blacked out, because I don’t recall what happened next. I woke up in my bed the next day, that man must have carried me there. That being, perhaps, the most emasculating moment of my life. I made my way downstairs and had breakfast, I found a note from Sarah, asking me to meet her at the cafe we were supposed to meet.
We didn’t stand each other up this time, but it seems that the chemistry we had was forced out of our systems. We got along just as well as before, but perhaps it was that the exhaustion of trying to find ways to work around our barrier had taken too much of a toll on our affections. She said she came to invite me to her wedding, which would be in three months time, which was also the time I had to vacate the house. I didn’t have any problems with that, that haunted house held too many memories for me anyway, and I had been promoted at work and so could afford somewhere more comfortable. We parted that day, me and Sarah, not meet again until her wedding day and after that we wouldn’t meet again, or perhaps we passed by without seeing each other.