I’d finally gotten it, my own small house with simple white walls and soft carpet. I had organized bookshelves and color-coded food containers and silverware that isn’t missing spoons. I had clean windows and a shiny kitchen and a place for everything I had.
I also got something else, something unexpected that came with the house.
I got a ghost.
He messes up my food containers. He puts my potato masher in different drawers and gets it stuck there. Once, he threw flour all over the bedroom. I’ll still find it in cracks and corners. He’ll pull books off their shelves and leave them on the floor, on the couch, on the counter, on the bathroom sink. I have to sort through my mail quickly or else it gets strewn under my dining table.
One day, he started drawing on my white couches.
I had tried nearly everything to get him to stop, but nothing worked. The couches, though, my beautiful couches, pulled me to my last resort. I desperately hoped that it would work.
That next evening, I came home with three 64-count packs of crayons and a bucket. I could already see that my kitchen was a wreck again, but I would deal with that later.
My ghost usually avoids me, because I yell at him about the messes he makes, but as I started dumping crayons into the bucket, I could feel his curiosity pulling closer. It was as if he were trying to peer over my shoulder.
I dumped all of them into the bucket. All 192 of them. He was definitely close then, and I started speaking calmly and clearly while I had his attention. “These are your crayons. You can have the walls and color on them all you want, but if you touch anything else, I’m taking away the crayons.” My beautifully clean white walls. This is the price I would pay for my sanity. “Please, just let me have some peace, I’m willing to trade.”
With that, I sat down at my dining table to sort through bills. I heard rummaging in the crayon bucket, and when I looked up, my ghost was drawing. The rubbing sound of crayon against the wall was enough to make me cringe. Taking a deep breath, I focused on the bills and told myself it was only a wall, and my kitchen and bedroom and books were safe.
We spent the evening like that, and when I was finished with my work I braced myself to look at the wall.
He’d drawn balloons and golden sunflowers near the floor, bright and messy but in a way that someone might want to have it as wallpaper, if it weren’t done in crayon. Higher up, he’d drawn books. Stacked and scattered, some open and some closed, colored in solid blacks and browns and blues. I walked over to look at them, and after a quiet moment, my ghost picked up a red crayon and drew a question mark over an open brown page.
“You probably wouldn’t find most of my books interesting.” I told him.
The crayon dropped back into the bucket.
When I came home the next day, I set down my bags and went straight to the wall he’d been coloring. He’d drawn boxes of different colors, all stacked on top of each other to make a precarious looking tower. It took me a while of staring before I realized they were my food containers he liked to take out. Blue and orange stars spread across most of the wall, almost managing to tie the different drawings into one sort-of integrated piece.
I went back to the bags I’d brought home and pulled out a couple story books. “I got these, you might like them.” I set them on the table. “I can read one to you tonight.”
There was a phantom breeze that wafted past, and then my ghost pulled out a red crayon and drew a heart next to his drawing of a stack of books. A strangely nervous smile pulled the corners of my mouth. “Okay then.” I said.
That night, I read one of the books to a mostly empty room. I wasn’t quite sure if he was actually there until the end. As I rose to put away the book, he drew another red heart on the wall.
Next, he drew my potato masher, and I realized it had been forever since I’d made mashed potatoes. I told him I would show him how I used it, and another red heart appeared on the wall.
He drew stacks of papers and a couple envelopes, and I told him most of them were bills and ads. Still, when I opened the mail, I started explaining what each envelope held and why I was throwing them away. Another red heart appeared on the wall.
He drew music notes, and I started to wonder what kind of music he liked. I branched out and started playing all sorts of music, watching for the little red hearts. Searching through music I didn’t normally listen to, I found I liked a lot more than I thought.
It had been a long time since I just danced for the fun of it.
I started narrating most of my day out loud, and my walls became more and more covered in waxy colors. I’ve found I don’t mind them that way, not when they tell me a story. Not when the story is speckled in red hearts.
One evening, I found my ghost coloring on the hallway walls, and I thought about how it would feel to run the crayons across the walls. It was a sort of forbidden thing, but they were my walls, and they were being colored anyway, and maybe it would be fun.
I sat down next to the bucket, and my ghost paused his drawing. Before I could ask if I could join, he’d pulled out a purple crayon and dropped it in my lap.
The hallway has one of my favorite walls now.
I sometimes wonder how I’d lived before, without this color in my life. Comfortably, sure, with a routine and calm days and white walls. I still have some of that, but with little nudges to try something else or to rethink why, keeping everything from becoming dull.
And I think, now, I’m a little less lonely. There’s always a bit of curiosity somewhere near my elbow or scribbling on my wall.
Sometimes, that’s exactly what I need.