A Close Encounter With a Lighthearted Ghost Child

Toya Qualls-Barnette
4 min readNov 1, 2023

A true spooktacular tale

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.~
Maya Angelou, And still I rise

I lie still as a vacant corpse in preparation on my back, eyes shut tight, teeth clenched with double sheets and duvet pulled up to my neck, afraid to budge — hoping I was dreaming. My mind fully awake, listening.

“Every shut eye ain’t sleep,” my grandmother used to say.

I couldn’t blanket the room’s chill, no matter how high I turned up the heat before going to bed. For some odd reason, I placed the desk chair under the doorknob. So quiet, you could hear a rat piss on cotton. Was I the only guest in the hotel?

Long gone are the days when I traveled for work — excuse me while I blow a thankful kiss to the sky with both hands. Although my convention sales trips weren’t all drudgery. After business hours ushered in the most fun — networking on steroids. The idea of meeting strangers I would never see again was comforting.

Some folks on the road are buck wild. Moi? Never.

One of our colleagues went missing for two days after a visit to the real Cheers bar in Boston the first night after our training workshop, met a male hottie, and left us stranded without her portion of our work assignment. I heard it didn’t end well. But that’s another story.

By the time I arrived at the hotel in Minneapolis, it was nine at night. One flight is enough, connecting flights — too much and twice the risk. I was dead tired, had to be up by 5:00 the next morning to meet my team across town.

When I checked in, the night auditor stood tapping her fingers on the desk as if she had been waiting to reprimand me for being late. Her protruding hazel eyes stared me up and down as I approached, as if she’d never seen a stylish woman of color. I wanted to say, “girl, take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

Our interaction, brief and clipped, she seemed joyful to tell me the restaurant…

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Toya Qualls-Barnette

*Top writer in This Happened To Me| Writing about the impact of relationships|Contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul| Dreamer|Mother|HSP in drag