I was perhaps fourteen, standing outside a classroom window, watching the antics of a group of girls I wished I could be friends with. I was hoping one of them would notice me, see how pitifully lonely I was, and welcome me in. In my head, I looked like a tragic Victorian orphan in the snow watching a family at Christmas dinner. In reality, I must have looked like a creepy stalker.
Perhaps luckily, none of them noticed me. I was just wondering whether I should knock, or just take my tragic loneliness away and brood somewhere, when a girl’s voice whispered in my ear.
I jumped, and whipped around to face the sound. If this were fiction, it would have been the start of a beautiful friendship. But it’s true.
There was no-one there. A ghost had just said hi to me.
‘AAH-hahaha-hi!’ I stammered.
I went back to that spot many times, but I never heard her again. Why not? I worried for years – I’m not kidding you, years – over what I might have done wrong. Was I just so closed-minded that once I knew I couldn’t see her, I couldn’t hear her? Was she teasing me? Did she think I was pathetic because I was scared? Or, worst of all, did she just slink away saying to herself, ‘You idiot. No human, no matter how lonely, will ever be anything but scared of you. That’s it. You’re on your own for ever.’
Only now, after twenty years, it occurs to me that maybe I did nothing wrong. Maybe ‘Hi’ was all she had the strength to say. How loud does a girl without a body, without breath, have to shout for a human ear to hear a whisper?
Maybe she just wanted me to know that I wasn’t alone.
And, you know, I did say hi back. So I stammered a bit. So what? Most people probably wouldn’t say hi to a ghost at all…