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When I was a Girl

Yvonne, New South Wales, Australia
May 1998

It's 1998 and I'm now 39years old yet I remember this as though it was yesterday....

I was born in the lounge room of the family home in Wales. The house was of the kind that is just windows and a door in what seems an endless wall of brick which spans the entire length of the street. Thirty homes and more are often included in these seemingly endless constructions. I don't know how old the building was then, but know that almost 40 years on it still stands.

The street is a small cul-de-sac with the railway line at the end which is situated much lower than street level. We migrated to Australia when I was six so I estimate my age at the time of my "experience" to be about 4 or 5. I was sick. My throat was sore and I couldn't sleep, hot one minute and cold the next. Seeking comfort I sought out my parents bed, presumably in the hope they could do whatever it is that only mum and dad can provide to a sick 4 year old. After a time, I'm was wide awake though not even irritating my parents who were in a deep sleep. I wondered how mum could go back to sleep so soon after my disturbance to their slumber, without fixing me and getting me better. How could she be so asleep again already when she was just welcoming me into the bed? I wanted to do stuff and to get out of the bed. I recall the chamber pot under the bed and trying desperately not to knock it as I reached for the old gramophone player which used to be Nana's and which I was not allowed to touch. The wood which is the casing to the old record player was smooth and I had some difficulty getting the heavy object out. Once opened, I moved the old twisty arm and felt the sharpness of the needle but I was cold and needed to get in between mum and dad again. That's when I noticed the figure. It was standing in the doorway of the bedroom and was taking up almost the entire space. I guessed that it was a "he" as he seems to have the shape of a big man, though no detail is there. He was like a grey unmoving shadow, just standing there. I looked at him for a while then I got back under the covers and listened to the silence of the room waiting for some other noise that shouldn't be there. I heard mum and dad breathe in the background. My breath was hot and unpleasant and I could feel the sheets around my mouth getting damp, I was holding them so close. I couldn't see the doorway but I knew that if I looked again the figure would be gone, so I stay down and gave him all the time he needs to get away from me. I looked over the wet covers too soon. He was still there. He hadn't moved one step. Steady as the door its self. Why didn't he move? I could see him, he was there, but too still. I kept looking at him, waiting for him to move but he didn't. I hadn't given him enough time to go. He obviously didn't want me to see him move. I went back under the covers and wondered what I should do. I could hear something this time though and I wasn't even trying to hear something. My breathing felt like I was just below the water hiding and so shallow I couldn't even hear it. But I could hear a rustle every now and then. My eyes were so wide that they hurt and I was trying not to blink. I was listening so hard. I could still hear the periodic rustle, and its close. I started to tap at mum, making as little movement as I could hoping she would wake up so I could tell her about him, but how could I talk without him knowing?. Mum moved. I'm terrified. Now he would know that I've done something. Her voice sounded so loud after the silence of the room. She's was making big movements and turning over, even worst still, sitting up!. God I was terrified, I was sweating as I grabbed her and screamed then started babbling about the man in the doorway. Dad woke up to, my ears hurt with the pain of my scream. Mum and Dad held me tight saying "there's no one here, look around". Were they blind? I didn't want to look around. This moment was because of me. What's was going to happen? I heard him rustling, he must still be there. But he's not. I look around & can't see him near the door or in the room at all.

I was taken into loving arms and brought under the covers. I was exhausted and sore and trying to get my breathing under control. In what seemed like no time at all mum and dad were once again breathing rhythmically asleep. I just wanted to go to sleep now but I could feel him again somehow. He was there again, even if it didn't look like it. Should I look? Yes, there he was in the doorway again looking large & still & grey. I looked at him for a while and felt that he wasn't going to hurt me. I don't know how I knew this, but I did. I got back under the covers and listened for noises that didn't fit in the room and I fell asleep

Post script:
I currently live alone with my son and sometimes feel a little vulnerable. What I have discovered at such times is that the rustling I heard so many years ago was probably my eyelashes on the sheets or pillow. I cannot explain the image that I know was there.

Yvonne, New South Wales, Australia
00:00 / 01:04
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