I thought this would go the way ladies’ lunches go—talking about kids, hubbies/lovers, work stress, to-lust-for bags or Nadal/Federer, not necessarily in that order of importance. This time, however, it doesn’t go that way.
We are three girlfriends doing lunch. Girlfriend #1 complains about how she’s been in and out of the hospital, terrible headaches, suspected to be sinus-caused.
“Told you not to work in the hospital,” I remind her, “because you catch all the bad germs and negative vibes there.”
“Now they want an MRI or CT Scan, might need surgery,” says Girlfriend #1, pointing to her forehead, her face a mock-up of shock and grief. “But I really feel sick, don’t know what causes it.”
“That’s because it’s only in your head,” I say.
The talk veers to Girlfriend #1’s recounting of her “odd” sensitivity to “room vibes.” “I was in this room (of exclusive resort/club) last week, asleep when, in the middle of the night, I woke up ’coz my bed was shaking. Thought it was an earthquake, but no. Really shaking.”
I clarify a minor point. “You were alone? He (her hubby) wasn’t with you, and you’re not doing anything strenuous?”
She was alone, she’s emphatic. “Well, I found out later that room was really notoriously haunted. But why do I usually get it? Like I see things…”
We want to say, aren’t you just being retro, like hung over from “Sixth Sense”?
She recalls some sightings from her childhood—an ability or disability we didn’t know about her until then. That your friend “sees” things (as in dead people) is no minor point you want to gloss over, not especially if you’re likely to share a hotel room at one time or another.
Shrouded in black
“I must have been six then. I was alone in my room, just woke up from an after-lunch nap. I opened my eyes, and outside my window I saw an old woman shrouded in black,” she recalls. “She was coming—flitting—toward me. I screamed and ran downstairs to my mom crying. Told her about it, but she wouldn’t believe me, said I was just dreaming.”
She must not have been. Since then, Girlfriend #1 now realizes, seeing or catching images of people has become “SOP” with her. She has learned to almost ignore them. She wrote about it once for Lifestyle and freaked out after she got so many online comments branding her a freak.
“Perhaps that’s why you get this headache,” I tell her. “Licauco (Inner Mind columnist Jaime Licauco, my guru for the inner mind and such) has always said you can choose to open or close your third eye. And sometimes when you suppress it, you get all kinds of headaches.”
“Thank god I don’t see things,” I say. “But then I hear things.”
One night in a resort town in the north, I was jolted awake by the sound of the stack of books on my bedside crashing to the floor. It was dark so I couldn’t see around me. I went back to sleep thinking my books really tumbled to the floor. When I woke up in the morning, I turned to my bedside and there they were, my books still neatly stacked.
No big deal, I thought. Second night, I was awakened again, sat upright in bed, as I heard what seemed like banging on the door. But there was no one, really.
As I narrate this over lunch, I realize that, come to think of it, midnight or post-midnight noise has been an almost common experience for me in hotels or out-of-town resorts.
Another time, staying overnight for a conference in an out-of-town business hotel, again, I heard a series of loud knocking, more like banging, on my door and thought the room boys hadn’t been trained properly—until I realized there was really no one outside that door.
But, I tell my girlfriends—my captive audience by now—that I don’t realize what has actually taken place until well after the sound intrusion, by which time it’s pointless to get scared.
I’ve always been unsuspecting. In Cambodia, we were in this beautiful colonial Phnom Penh hotel where, thank God, I told myself, I felt or heard nothing unusual in my room. On our last night, I woke up around 3 a.m. to use the bathroom when I heard what I thought was construction noise punctuated with “toktok” or the sound of wooden sticks colliding, as in the Asian sport arnis.
The noise seemed to be penetrating my bathroom wall so I couldn’t really determine whether it was coming from the street below or wherever. Cambodia’s economy must really be on an upturn, I told myself, there’s construction going on 24/7.
The next morning I mentioned this casually to the front desk as we were checking out, only to be told that there was no construction anywhere near the neighborhood. Again, casually I asked what this nice colonial building was—long history, they said, various uses, like it was once the headquarters of the Khmer Rouge. Gulp.
Still another time, in Chiang Mai, we were in this luxury resort and staying in its presidential villa. Promptly I requested the staff to have the lap pool cleaned so we could use it. As I changed into my swimsuit in my room, I heard a voice calling, and a “psst.”
What an ill-mannered staff, I told myself as I called out to tell them to wait outside. Another “psst” and I was about to storm out of the room to give the staff a dressing down, when the phone rang. It was the front desk saying the staff would be coming later since it was busy in another villa. Of course I didn’t tell the lifestyle editor who was villa-sharing with me, until we were driving out of the resort compound bound for the airport, and she turned to me, “Okay, out with it.” She knew I had a spooky episode to share.
Now that I recollect the “noises” in my life—the paranormal, not the self-made ones—I realize such vulnerability started way back in my youth, grade seven, to be exact. At least that was as far as I remember.
Our class was to have our annual retreat in this old retreat house. We were divided into clusters and for mine, our homeroom teacher assigned me the task of seeing to it that everybody followed the bedtime hour, that nobody would stay up for naughty activities, like chatting away or eating potato chips (in my grade school years, that was naughty). Sucking up to the teacher, I said yes, of course.
At bedtime, I lay awake in bed, waiting to catch the violators among my classmates, alert for any noise. Silence. Then close to midnight—yes, I was so into my sucking-up role—I heard a door opening and closing, then another door. Aha, I said, gotcha.
As I got out of bed to tiptoe to the corridor hoping to catch the girls hopping rooms, I suddenly heard more doors closing/opening, as if unhinged and flapping in the wind. This was strange, I said, and stopped in my tracks. I listened some more—more flapping doors, this time with loud gusts of wind, softer than a howl. Then it came—the moans and cries, as if seeping out of the walls. Like the “poor souls in Purgatory.”
So much for sucking up.
Girlfriend #2, who has been quiet at this lunch, concludes, “You hear things but don’t see them. You must be clairaudient, as distinguished from clairvoyant.”
Girlfriend #1 sees people
(mostly dead), not hears them, Girlfriend #2 notes.
Indeed, Girlfriend #2 says, “People have varying sensitivities. Some can hear but can’t see. Others can smell.”
I hear accounts of friends that, indeed, there are those who can only smell strange scents.
Mine is hearing. Enjoy the difference!
Then Girlfriend #2, the one most read about the paranormal and New Age among us, asks, oddly, “But when you’re trying to catch your boyfriend, would you rather see, hear, or smell? What paranormal ability would you rather have?”