It was 2:35 in the morning and the teakettle boiled over. It would have whistled except the little upside down makeitwhistle thingy was missing.
The loft apartment was filled with soft classical music; cat and dog asleep in the living room curled together like an odd couple.
Gina stood lazily at the stove, half leaning on the counter, half sliding toward the floor. Slowly gathering her weary body into a haphazard Neanderthal stance.
Reaching into the cabinet she grabbed two Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Oatmeal instant packs, tearing them open and dumping them into the glass cereal bowl.
She looked around the kitchen realizing with much distraction that dirt was piling up. The trashcan was to capacity; bits and pieces of refuse a leaning towering hot mess toggling over the opened lid. There was a slight smell that could have been week old birthday cake.
A solitary reminder of her 30th birthday.
Having given up on society she had purchased the cake on her own.
She felt there no need to take part in the world. For what purpose?
She was okay being alone.
Kitty litter was scattered on the floor beneath her feet. The kitty litter was from her dog. He had been eating cat poo again.
She found that particularly unnerving.
Her Siberian husky would sneak into the bathroom, burrow her nose into the kitty litter box, snap up old kitty poop, eat it, then travel into the kitchen and cough the litter on the floor. It wouldn’t bother her except that she bought Eukanuba dog food, a treat for any canine; but her baby preferred cat poop.
Gina’s eyes scanned the kitchen noting old newspapers and magazines piled on the table, an open bag of bread, hardened and useless on the counter, a tub of margarine that had been sitting on the bakers rack for three days at least.
She squeezed shut her eyes rubbing them; losing her footing when she opened them.
“I am not drunk” She told herself “Just drained.”
As she turned off the burner the sleeve of her baby blue terry cloth bathrobe draped over the teapot and she received yet another steam burn. No matter. She didn’t give a flying fickle finger of fate anymore.
Lifting the teapot off the burner she poured boiling water directly into the bowl of instant oatmeal. Her mind wandered for what she thought was an instant. It was one of those episodes where you find yourself lost in thought then when you come to you don’t actually remember where you were lost.
When she snapped out of the fog she looked down and her instant oatmeal looked like runny soup.
“Shit!” She reached into the cabinet to grab a Cinnamon Oatmeal pack. She pulled at the cabinet with unnecessary force and the edge of the door inexplicably hit her in the face. “Got damn it!” She grabbed the pack of oatmeal, ripped it open and hastily mixed it into the bowl. “Dammit!”
The sound of her voice was her only company these days.
Not even the cat and dog were much company. She’d been so lonely lately that sometimes she would take the elevator ride to the lobby feigning a “mail check” in the off chance that she would run into someone, anyone in the hallways to have a conversation with.
She grabbed a bottle of Vodka peeking out from behind the sugar canister. “Ahhh, there you are, my genie in a bottle.” Gina reached for her; but the genie gave her a disapproving look.
On top of being lonely and reprimanded by a bottle of vodka, this was her anniversary. Three weeks to the day she last had a sound sleep.
She poured an ample glass.
Insomnia crept up on her like a stealth stalker. She took a long burning gulp of Vodka. Insomnia hovered in her background, giggling, watching her suffer each night. It’s evil denial tossing and turning her as she tried to fall asleep honestly, without the help of pills.
She read somewhere that the state of your home was a direct reflection of your state of mind.
Looking around the expensive loft apartment she realized she had a dirty state of mind, dirty thoughts.
Not sexual, but muddled. Thoughts so overcast they interfered with her lifestyle. She thought she was on the brink of going insane. Bits an pieces of her normally organized life lay scattered on the floor, jagged jigsaw pieces of her. A shocking disarray of character belied an indictment of insanity at the most, at the least – severe depression.
Dirty clothes piled about like little ant houses, dirty plates and bowls filled the kitchen sink.
It was not an unwillingness to clean – it was an inability.
Crippled by apathy, drowning in distress and loneliness she believed herself to be helpless.
A helplessness she couldn’t shake.
She felt as if she were cruising on a low rider of despair up suicidal highway without a helmet. She was 30, not married, no children and she did nothing to change her status.
Her depression was a slow surreal suffocation, the air from her lungs slowly sucked out. But like the magic of evolution, she adapted. She learned to live with it.
So here she stood 2:35 in the morning, talking to herself, lost in a fog, eating oatmeal when she wasn’t hungry, drinking a real dirty martini.
Tonight her spirit was restless.
It was too early for a “mail check” so she tied up her robe, pulled up her sweat socks, stepped into flat bedroom slippers, wrapped her hair up in a scarf and decided to ride the elevator to the 27th floor laundry room to get a bag of chips from the snack machine.
She stepped out of the elevator into an empty hallway.
As she turned the corner to enter the laundry room a tiny elderly lady emerged from the shadows.
She stood 5 feet tall, hunched over, with a scarf tied neatly around her head, she wore an old cashmere coat, flat shoes with nude colored thick stockings bunched at the point her feet and shoes met. She stood there, delicate hands clasping her coat together. She was indescribably old.
Gina’s eyes followed her hands. They were damn near transparent. You could actually see the blood pumping in the old womans veins.
“Where the hell did she come from?” “I’m drunk.” She thought. She tried to skate past the old lady with a quick “hi.”
“Ahh ahh are you the one who gets headaches from the smells?” The old woman had a graceful stutter; as if she carefully chooses every word before speaking.
“I’m sorry?” Gina asked.
“Um are you the one who gets headaches from the smells, because I get sick from the smells.”
Her sentences were peppered with “uhs” and “ahs” but on her it seemed quaint.
“I tried to call the Board President, but they just ignore me.”
The old woman continued to talk.
Gina immediately began to plan her extraction from this odd conversation. It was like this spinster delved into a previous conversation or she was just talking to hear her own voice.
“My neighbor, he said he could smell it sometimes; I think it comes through the pipes. It’s probably something you can’t detect. Well, I I called the CDC and the environmental people; but they just don’t do anything. So are you the one?”
Gina had no idea what she was talking about.
The old woman shivered and tightened the belt on her coat.
“I just felt a chill, you know my mother use to say that meant a ghost was passing through your body, but that’s an old superstition passed on by the elders, no one believes those old wives tales anymore.” She gave a nervous laugh.
Gina found herself pitying the lovely old woman who wanted nothing more than to connect.
When the woman lifted her head Gina noticed a heavy pink bruise caressed the womans right eyelid and crept down her cheek. It looked insulting on her, like an obvious lie.
“Oh this?” the old woman noticed Gina staring. “I hurt myself opening my cabinet door. I was trying to get something out of the kitchen and hit my eye with the door.”
Gina was overwhelmingly frozen with fear.
“I just said Dear Lord why are you doing this to me? If this is how I am suppose to live, well then just take me now. The pain was so horrible, I just wanted to pass on and leave this world, well I cried and cried and I just felt so awful. Well my neighbor was playing his music so loud on Friday, and I asked him to turn it down, well he and his boyfriend yelled at me. They aren’t very nice you know, they said it wasn’t bothering me, will I called the police but they called downstairs and told the consigliere not to let anyone up, those people downstairs are useless. They don’t do anything…well when he and his boyfriend went out they kicked my door. I went into my room and turned on the radio and put on my head phones because I don’t like to disturb anyone, so I put on my headphones and listened to classical music.”
Gina took a few steps backwards, her eyes widening in disbelief.
Then she looked directly at Gina.
“you look like a nice lady, would you like to come over for tea some time? It’s a bit messy in my place but I just don’t have the energy to clean anymore, I live alone, its not so important, but if you’d like to come over for tea…” her childlike voice trailed off in noble desperation.
Gina stammered out an “I’ve got to go but I’ll visit, okay? ” as she turned and walked rapidly back to the elevator.
Once inside her apartment, she ran into her bathroom and splashed cold water in her face.
Nervously she walked into her kitchen, surveyed the mess and began loading the dishwasher. She went from room to room and cleaned. Feeling a renewed sense of energy she made a mental note to call her doctor and talk to him about what she was going through.
Under no circumstances would she allow herself to become as pitiful as that poor wretched creature lurking about for company.
Finally finished, exhausted, Gina plopped on her bed cocooning herself in her favorite comforter, falling soundly asleep. As she drifted into that blissful sleep snapshots of the little lonely woman on the twenty-seventh floor hovered on her intelligence.
The next morning she stopped at front desk to ask about the old woman. She described her to the Consierge. “Which apartment is hers? I may visit her and have tea.”
“Well, I’ve been working here for over 15 years and that doesn’t sound like any one of our tenants Ms. Gina, most our people are young professionals in their early thirties. I’ve never seen anyone matching that description, Sorry.”
A confused Gina took the elevator back to the 27th floor . She walked into the shadows of the darkened laundry room not quite knowing what she was looking for.
There was no one there.
Laughing to herself Gina gathered her thoughts fighting the appalling reality and cold certainty she almost allowed to touch her.
Leaving the laundry room she pulled her coat tighter pausing momentarily as a chill passed through her body.
This is a slight variation of a story I wrote in 2014 Originally entitled “Dirty Thoughts.” My daughter is a fan of macabre.
This is my attempt at a ghost story for her.☺️I had fun and will keep trying for her!
She lives in Philadelphia where she works, plays and observes the subtle nuances of life.
Then writes about it.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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