When Ms. Sherbet Clearwater moved into her new one-bedroom apartment in the city, she didn't exactly expect to find a rude teenage ghost in the closet. Nothing about this apartment stuck out as a red flag but now she is on the verge of a heart attack. She is looking at the ashen face of someone who probably once was a fifteen year old living person. She is regretting every decision that has led up to her moving in here.
She could comfortably live out the rest of her life in the suburbs with whatever wealth Mr. Clearwater had left her. Yet after his death she realised that living jobless and alone was starting to slowly drive her crazy. That's when she decided to call up her then neighbour Gina and begged her for a job. 50-year olds are not exactly fit for a retail job in the city but Ms. Sherbet is still at it quite successfully. Due to her pathological need for validation, she constantly gets out of her way to make people like her. From bringing in chocolate chip cookies for her co-workers on Mondays to resiliently listening to her manager rant about his landlady for forty minutes at a stretch, she has been able to remain everyone's favourite. If one were to look through the divine records, they would find that there was no one who disliked Ms. Sherbet, well, until this evening.
Mr. Clearwater had passed away having been struck by lightning on a raging thunderous June day three years ago. The pair had first met at an Ozzy Osbourne concert in 1981. Ms. Sherbet was going through her rebel teen phase. On that fateful concert night, she felt compelled to do something bold to make it memorable. What she did would haunt her for the rest of her life. She accompanied Mr. Clearwater to a tattoo parlour and got two gigantic tattoos on each arm. On her left arm, she got the tattoo of a screaming Osbourne in a greenish hue. On her right arm she got a sloppy recreation of the artist's vampire skull tattoo which looks more sad than scary. Her mother would find out about those a week later. She raised hell. She reminded Ms. Sherbet, “What would the neighbours think of you? Do you ever think about that?” If that was not enough, everyone Ms. Sherbet ever met would remind her of how she would look when she gets old. Of course, contrary to popular belief, the tattoos were never a problem in job interviews because she never did appear for one, until three years ago. She knew better than to ever bare her arms at her job. She really needed people to accept her.
The movers left after placing the last carton in her bedroom. As she plugged in the TV and sat down with some store-bought soup to watch the five o'clock news, a slight thud came from inside the bedroom closet. She looked around to find nothing but the closed closet door in front of which rested two huge pink suitcases of clothes. Ms. Sherbet turned her attention to the news. The war in the Middle East is getting worse. Finally the day's exhaustion consumed her and she slowly fell asleep to the news of bombing in Afghanistan. She dreamt of a translucent silhouette smirking at her from beside the TV. Sleeping at odd hours always gives her nightmares. It was one of those dreams which feel excruciatingly real. She shuddered and woke up to find the room dark and a bit chilly. Having closed the window, she picked up the bowl from the coffee table. The five feet tall transparent figure suddenly materialised before her. Ms. Sherbet dropped the bowl on the rug making the leftover soup spill all over it.
“Jeez, woman, calm down,” said the figure with a judgmental teenage sneer.
Ms. Sherbet was still clearly dreaming. But this dream slowly led up to one of those exciting ones you don't want to wake up from too soon.
The figure in front of her had all the mannerisms of a ghost and Ms. Sherbet was smart enough to figure that out. It was a teenage girl clad in a black jacket and black leather pants, with black lipstick and an undercut on the left side of her head. She was fiercely chewing gum, drawing up grey bubbles as she stared scathingly at Sherbet.
“Well, you look ghastly. Are you seriously wearing a fuchsia top with mauve leggings?”
As amused as Ms. Sherbet was by this imaginary dramatic exchange, being mocked for her fashion sense hurt her a little.
“What you have done to this apartment physically hurts my eyes. Even your couch is pink. Honestly, are you colour-blind?” scorned the girl.
“Why are you being so mean? You are in my apartment and in my dream. You don't get to be mean to me,” said Ms. Sherbet mustering up all the courage she had. Ever since she stopped being a teenager, teens scared her.
“I am in what?” the girl rolled her translucent eyes. “Lady, you are not dreaming. I am real.”
“No, you are not. I am having a nightmare,” replied Ms. Sherbet.
“That's offensive. So, you are one of those people,” sighed the ghost. “You are not dreaming. This used to be our apartment. I still like living here. At least I did till you murdered the ambiance with this pink garbage.”
Ms. Sherbet pinched herself hard. Boy, it hurt. Really hurt. Was she not dreaming then? Is she honestly talking to an unpleasant ghost?
The ghost had acknowledged Ms. Sherbet's predicament. “Will you stop? I am not going to harm you. I miss being human. I scared off the previous two tenants. I could have scared you off too but I honestly need some company. There is no Wi-Fi unless people live here.”
“Maybe you should haunt a restaurant for free Wi-Fi,” Ms. Sherbet's change of tone surprised them both.
There is no history of mental illness in Ms. Sherbet's family. Though in the days following Mr. Clearwater's death she struggled to deal with reality and life in general, she never thought that she would completely lose her sanity this way, more so when things are now going well in her life. As she decided to call up her daughter to find some solace, the ghost said, “My name is Aura. Sorry if we got off on the wrong foot,” she apologised with visible difficulty.
Ms. Sherbet was horrified. The last thing she needed right now was an awfully mean ghost judging her every move. Why does Aura hate her? Her blood pressure was rising. She couldn't just take this. She might have a heart attack. She turned on the fan. As she sat down on the dreadfully pink couch and took off her baby pink cardigan, the ghost squealed. Ms. Sherbet looked up to find Aura positively ecstatic. Her eyes fixated upon the massive tattoos all over Ms. Sherbet's arms and to the newfound acceptance shining in the transparent teenage ghost's eyes. It was an overwhelming moment. It took her a minute but finally Ms. Sherbet looked up towards the ceiling and thanked God for the approval of her new paranormal companion. She picked up the pink iPhone and updated her Facebook status tagging all thirty-seven of her friends.
“Sherbet Clearwater was feeling validated with 37 others.”
Anupoma Joyeeta Joyee is a perpetually sleepy Law student who emotionally identifies with ducks and occasionally sets out on writing sprees. Feel free to rant to her at firstname.lastname@example.org