I have known Nettie all my life. I can't recall a time when weren't friends. As kids, my mom always made me go to her house for birthday parties and her parents did the same. I even have pictures of us, in my closet somewhere, playing in the playpen. Our grandmothers lived in the same building and were close friends. Then, our mothers became friends, and eventually we followed in their footsteps. I really liked Nettie, but as people, we were entirely different. Even as kids, we had major disagreements. I remember one time she came over to play with me. We began playing with my Barbie and Ken dolls. Somehow, she managed to decapitate one of them. I was so angry with her. I knew she was sorry for what she had done, but I could not control my temper and demanded that she leave immediately. She did leave and I did not see her again until five years later when we were both preadolescents.
Nettie had lovely bright hazel-green eyes, very straight light brown hair, full pink pouty lips, and a large broad nose. She was very outgoing and loved to flirt with the boys from a young age. She seemed to be very aware of her female form. I, on the other hand, had wavy brown hair and almond shaped brown eyes. My face was powerfully sharper and chiseled. I was very shy as a teenager and felt very awkward around the opposite sex.
Over the years, Nettie and I went through good times and bad times as all long-term friendships do. We became closer in our teenage years until eventually, in our adulthood, we became roommates. Before moving in, I purchased a queen sized bed, had a rug installed, painted the walls of my room, bought some odd pieces of furniture, and began a thorough cleansing of the premises. I wanted everything to be perfect before my six-year-old daughter, Monica was allowed to bring her toys and belongings to our new nest.
I had always been hesitant to enter this particular room. From the time we were kids, strange things happened in this room. The room was always unusually cold and once inside, one felt "a heaviness" in the atmosphere. It was a very strange feeling and one that is rather complicated to describe. A few times, the plywood plank within the moldings of the door would resonate as if someone were frantically pounding on it from the other side of the door. We would always lock the door since we naively believed that by shutting the door, the room would get warmer, but that never happened. Even with the radiator at full speed, the room never seemed to feel comfortable. Sometimes, the knocking was so violent, that the wood would actually bend and cave in almost entirely. We always feared that it would break apart, explode, but it never did. The first few times this happened, we thought Nettie's mother had returned and was going to catch us crowded in her room playing hooky from school, but to our surprise there was not anyone there. We would inspect the apartment thoroughly only to discover we were still alone. Eventually, this became so frequent that we learned to ignore the violent beatings on the bedroom door.
When Nettie decided which room I would be staying in, she assigned me her mother's old bedroom. I seriously considered not moving in at all, but I tried to curb my impulses and forget the uncanny experiences that were still fresh in my mind. Once I had finished the few repairs and the decorating of my new bedroom, the room gradually began to feel warmer. It seemed to undergo some kind of transformation. It was no longer the drafty, dusty, and desolate room it had been once before.
I recall one a particular Friday morning. Nettie had found her old answering machine in a closet and placed a blank tape inside of it. She connected the wiring to our phone line and told me that until she recorded our incoming message, I should answer the phone. It was my day off from work so after she left for work, I began watching TV and fell asleep. After my midmorning nap, I went into the living room on my way to the kitchen. On the way back from the kitchen, I noticed the number three flashing on the circular digital display. I pushed the play button and heard a man's voice, "It is May 13th, the time is 10:25 a.m." There was the usual beep, and then, a message from Nettie's mom, reminding her of some menial task she had promised she would take care of for her. Another beep. The second message began "It is May 13th, the time is 11:05 a.m." and a message from one of my boyfriends followed. Another beep. The third message began playing, "It is May 13th and the time is 11:40 a.m." The voice of the man announcing the date was low but powerful, eerie, and somewhat muffled as if coming from a far distance. It was almost otherworldly. For some reason, the voice replayed in my head, it haunted me and would not leave me. And, the date was not May 13th. In fact, it was mid summer so I began searching for a button that would allow me to alter the incorrect date, but I could not find any. When Nettie returned that evening, I asked her if she would please correct the timestamp on her machine.
"Millicent are you crazy? There is no timestamp on this machine" she retorted. I insisted that I had heard the man's voice announcing the same date three separate times. Nettie had always been a prankster so I again urged her to do what I asked. Finally, in order to convince me, she played back the messages. I heard her mother's voice immediately after the initial beeps that followed her pressing the play button. Then, I heard the second and third caller's voices. Indeed there was no date and no other voice. We even had another friend call us to test the incoming call mechanism and still no unearthly utterances. Could that voice have been a figment of my imagination? It just could not be. It seemed so real. She played the rest of the entire tape, which was blank. I could not understand what had happened, and I sat on the black leather couch staring into space. All kinds of random thoughts were rushing through my mind. I held my hand to my open mouth and took a deep breath. At that moment, I heard Nettie say, "Maybe someone was trying to tell you something" She chuckled and walked away.
For a few weeks after that, I allowed Nettie to review the transmissions on the answering machine. I would always make sure she was in the room when I listened to the recordings that had been left for us. Eventually, my fears were quelled, but every time I push that button, I shudder at the thought of ever hearing that cryptic voice again.
Millicent and I worked together in the Admissions Office at a successful community college in Queens, NY. She was a good friend to me when I truly needed one. Ever since I left my home in Barbados, I have been very lonely. I had no choice but to leave my family and friends behind in order to follow my dream of studying Nutrition in an American university. I presently live with my cousin, Dianne, but we do not see things on equal terms. She can be very harsh and cruel at times.
Millicent and I socialized regularly in and out of the workplace. One day, Millicent stated she wanted to go to the graduation party cruise the College was having for the students. We had so much fun the night of that magical boat ride. We danced, we drank, we ate and Millicent made me try Tequila shots for the very first time. Afterwards, we returned to her new place. At bedtime, I rolled my hair up as usual and placed a hair net over it. I brushed my teeth and said my evening prayers.
Millicent preferred the left side of the bed, the one facing away from the wall. I was so tired I did not care which side I slept on. I lay my head on the pillow and immediately began drifting off to sleep. I felt someone sit on the edge of the bed. I thought Millicent must have gotten up to go to the bathroom. I shifted in the bed and fell back asleep again. Then, I felt someone shoving my feet to one side. I thought I must have kicked Millicent in my sleep. So, I moved over to one side and continued resting. In my sleep, I felt a heavy weight on my feet that finally woke me. It felt as if someone was sitting on my feet. I struggled to move them about, but I could not. I shot up and opened my eyes wide looking about, I didn't see anyone there, and I was able to move my feet once again. I thought I must have been having a vivid nightmare and ignored it. The very last time I was wakened, I felt a chill. I sat up on the bed, and saw Millicent sleeping peacefully next to me. I looked for the blanket and found it bundled in a corner next to my feet. I pulled at the blanket, and for a second, I could not pull it back with me. It felt as if someone was holding it or even sitting on top of it. I frowned and thought to myself for a few moments. This must be the "friend" Millicent told me about. "Listen to me, I want to go to sleep and I am very cold. Please let me have the blanket and tomorrow I will not be here anymore." Suddenly, the blanket was released from its hold and I quickly covered myself. Somehow, I knew I would not be disturbed for the remainder of the evening.
The next morning, I told my friend what had happened. She was toasting some bread for me in the kitchen. She smiled at me, and seemed relieved that I was so calm. "I am sorry you had to go through that." She said. "Don't worry about it. I know he was just trying to lie where he usually did next to you while you slept." Her eyes opened wide and she nodded and took a sip of her coffee. I left her home that afternoon, keeping my promise to the unsettled gentleman I had bargained with the night before.
I was spending the weekend at my big sister's. Her annoying roommate, Millicent and her had gone out so I had a few friends over to keep me company. After my girls left, I showered. I loved what those two had done with the bathroom. They had hung nice healthy plants near the window and placed pastel green curtains and rugs to decorate the rest of the room. They had even installed a new medicine cabinet with double mirrors. I brushed my hair. And after I had finished, I put the brush down and went into the living room to watch TV. I fell asleep watching a late movie.
Nettie and Millicent came back really late. Nettie shook me awake and began yelling at me, something about the bathroom. I automatically sat up on the couch and followed her. I saw red nail enamel splattered all over the floor, it had been smeared on the transparent shower curtains, and some of it had somehow made it to the walls and the mirrors of the new medicine cabinet. Nettie was very angry. I saw the small broken bottle on the tiled floor next to the toilet. Nettie picked up the broken glass and looked at me "Chloe!" she snorted. "Nettie, I didn't do it." I answered innocently.
"How can you say that? Isn't this your nail polish?"
"Yes, but the bathroom was clean before I went to bed."
"Were any of your friends over?"
"Nettie, yes, but I'm telling you… The bathroom was clean before I went to bed and they had already left."
"Chloe, you know I don't want your friends here when I am not home." We argued over this for at least a half-hour afterwards. She would not believe me, and made me help her remove the messy enamel. I was really angry with her for not trusting me, not believing me, and decided I would not return to her house until things blew over.
I waited a few weeks before calling her again. I called her at work one afternoon, and told her I was coming over to visit her. I told her I would go hang out with my friends first, and then stop over at her place. She told me she was very tired and to knock very loudly in case she fell asleep.
At 2:00 am, I pounded on Nettie's door for over fifteen minutes. The neighbors had opened their door and peered through to see what was happening. Nettie slept so soundly when she was tired. I tried calling her on the phone before I arrived, but no one had answered. Just when I was getting ready to go back downstairs and call again from the pay phone on the corner, the door popped open. I stood there for a second. I reached for the doorknob and pushed the door back as I entered the apartment. No one was standing there. Nettie must have run back to bed. I came in and removed my jacket throwing it on one of the chairs in the hallway. I opened the door in Nettie's room and said, "Nettie are you awake?" I heard no answer. I tiptoed closer to my sister, but she was still sleeping. I shrugged and thought Millicent must have gotten up to open the door for me. However, there is no way I am going to go knocking on her door to find out.
The next afternoon, when I woke up, Nettie asked me how I had gotten into the apartment. At that moment, Millicent was passing by and conveniently overheard the conversation as she always did. She had a real talent for this type of thing. "It wasn't me," she said. "So then it must have been Monica." I answered. "I locked the bedroom door last night and Monica is not tall enough to reach it yet." Millicent responded. I knew she must have been lying. She always managed to get me in trouble with my sister. When I came in last night I didn't see her run back in her room, but I know it must have been her.
I lived with Nettie for two years before Millicent moved in. Nettie and I had a good arrangement. Ever since her man left her, she let me move in. I would give her money, and she would let me bring girls over. I worked in a dance club in downtown Manhattan. I had many different girls. In fact, I could have a different girl each night of the week if I wanted to. There was no need for that though. Once you find a good thing, it makes sense to stick with it. I had a few favorites. All I needed was a place to go when they wanted to show me how much they liked me.
When I first moved in, my room was real dirty. The vinyl and plywood bar set, which had been in the living room, was now kept in there. I never bothered to fix up the place. All I needed was a bed, which there was, and a place to put my stuff. Every once in a while, when I wanted to impress a special lady, I would arrange my baseball caps on the wall according to the order of my favorite teams. I had a cap for every day of the month, but some I didn't wear because I wanted to keep them looking new. Of course, this did not stop Nettie's little sister from coming in every once in a while and taking one. Sometimes, she would return them, and sometimes, she would just keep them and swear she didn't do it. That girl was real good at lying.
During the time I lived there, Nettie always told me we had a ghost in the house. Nettie was a levelheaded girl, and it was very out of character for her to make a claim like that. But, she would not let it go. She used to say that the ghost lived in my room. I never saw or felt anything out of the ordinary. The only thing that struck me as being weird was the fact that the room was always freezing cold. There was a radiator right next to the window, and I hardly ever opened the window. One time, I ran my fingers across the pane of the window looking for drafts, but there were was no air coming in. It was as if the coldness was coming from within the room itself. I always thought this was weird, but it wasn't enough to give up such a sweet deal.
Since I was a child, I had been hearing a man's voice calling to me. I would hear this haunting whisper mostly when I was alone. Sometimes, I would be watching TV in the living room and hear his voice calling me from my mom's old bedroom, which I had occupied as a child. When I would go in and search for him, I would never find anyone waiting for me. However, I always knew he was there watching me, protecting me. My mom and dad would have bitter fights that lasted for hours; I would retreat into my room and cry myself to sleep. My parents went through a bad divorce. This voice was my only comfort at times. I knew that even when things got really bad, he would always be there with me, and he would never let anything happen to me.
A few years before my family moved into this apartment, a man was said to have lived here. He fell in love with a very beautiful woman and they lived together for a while. But for some unknown reason, his lover left him suddenly. He was overtaken with grief and took his own life by hanging himself in his bedroom. For some time after that, no one wanted to rent our apartment. Finally, the landlord, in an attempt to recover some lost revenue, rented my mother the apartment "dirt cheap".
The neighborhood people are a very superstitious bunch. They believed that a suicide could never rest in peace. Being that this man died in this very apartment, it would be natural that he would linger here. All I know is that the spirit that lives with us is benign. He is sometimes mischievous and seems to enjoy scaring visitors. He seems to dislike men for the most part, but I can't imagine what life would be like without him. He has always been with us. He spoke to me and protected me when I was a child. He watched over my friend Millicent's child while they lived with me. And now, he watches over my own little girl. From time to time, I think he must be very sad because he is an eternal prisoner of his own passions, but maybe he tries to make up for it by keeping an eye on us. Maybe one day, he will do enough good to earn himself a place in heaven. Maybe. Just maybe.