Written by guest blogger, Marie Casey.
“Hello? Are you okay?” I asked, approaching a woman dressed in red. She was weeping in a dark alleyway at the break of day. She paced back and forth, looking lost in a small amount of space.
I walked with caution in my steps. She looked confused and I could sense her anguish. The alleyway was a pool of her sadness and I found myself drawn in by her waves. It’s easy to get cast into someone’s sea.
“Yes?” she gasped. Looking up at me, I could see her face washed away, make-up smeared across her it.
“Do you need help? Do you need me to call for help?” I asked. I halted my pace several feet away.
“Wait, you can see me?”
I smiled and let out a quick laugh. It wasn’t that I found the question to be funny, rather it was one I could not grasp. “Of course I do. Why would I not be able to see you?”
She perked up sharply and ended her wails of despair. She stood tall, much taller than I, and I looked up at her as her face shifted, her frown disguised. She dropped her handbag and embraced me in a hug.
“I can’t tell you how happy this makes me to hear you say that and how delighted I am to touch a person again.”
My thoughts spun and spiraled. I only went out to take the trash to the dumpster. Now I have a stranger clinging to my neck. Perhaps I should call some kind of emergency service or perhaps I should run?
She let go of her grip and salvaged her purse from the ground, picking up lipstick and various pieces of paper. One receipt began to float away and I bent to pick it up. I tried to hand it to her, but she did not appear concerned enough to take it.
“I’m sorry, I know that was weird. I don’t think you would believe me if I told you. It’s been a hell of a couple days.”
My mouth drooped and I searched for muscles in my face, but could not get my lips to formulate words.
“I am just so excited to not be lost forever in this world without being seen again. Being invisible is not all what it’s cracked up to be. It was fun for a moment, but imagine screaming and no one, not a single person hearing. Do you know what I mean?”
Oddly enough, I did.. Maybe not so much in a literal sense, but between the multi-day binges and a lifetime of avoiding feelings, I feel as though my voice has gone permanently rasp.
So, I nodded in agreement.
The woman wiped her face and took a seat on the curb. She patted for me to join and I did without much thought.
“Sorry, I don’t think I follow what’s going on.”
“Like I said, I don’t think you would believe me—“ but before she could finish her thought, a door slammed open and a man appeared. Also with a bag of trash, he walked to the dumpster and swung the bag inside.
The woman jumped up and started walking in his direction. “Hey! Want to see my tits?” She lifted her shirt and shouted loud enough the walls replied.
My jaw became useless and nearly hit the pavement. At first, it was in awe of the audacity and fearlessness of this woman. Then it was the intrigue that this man did not seem to notice her in the slightest. Her breasts were bare and exposed to the world, and this man simply threw his trash and took drags from his cigarette. And before I knew it, I was following this woman to meet this strange man.
He looked over at me as I walked towards him. He nodded as a greeting and continued to smoke. I kept approaching until he gave me a side eyed glance filled with unease.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Can you see her?” I pointed at the woman only a few feet away.
I put more emphasis in my point in the hope that it would make him see, but even I knew how silly that was . But how could he not see a woman standing just a few feet away? The tides shifted in confusion and I was desperate for air. Words tripped and escaped from my lips. The man rolled his eyes and inched back toward the door frame.
“I gotta go. You okay?” he asked, ready to leave.
“Yeah, sorry to bother you.”
He nodded, still looking bewildered, as he escaped.
“Why could he see me and not you?”
“Perhaps you were the focus but I told you no one could see me,” the woman said from beside me, her top back on.
“But why? Why can’t they, and why can I?”
“Um, well, I think I died. I think I am a ghost. And why can you see me? I don’t know, perhaps you're lost just like I am.”
“Wait, you died?”
“Yeah, I was walking home from work and just like that, bam.” She clapped her hands. “I was hit by a car. It’s a funny realization not to be seen in my current state as I died, because I was not seen crossing the street. Makes you wonder, right? Are we ever seen or do we float around hoping for existence?” She laughed as my eyes widened. “Sorry, I have had a lot of time to think. But it makes you wonder, right? Who really sees us and if they do, what would they do about it?”
I wasn’t sure anyone had noticed me before. Between work to home and home to work, I found myself floating past people and life, but priding myself for survival. Just survive today, good job, tomorrow will be better. Then tomorrow would bring more hopes and desires for the next day to arrive. And this cycle would rotate the clocks, round and round. Life drifts by while hoping for a better one then bam, you’re dead. Perhaps I was already dead.
“What will you do now?” In my own disbelief, I believed she was a ghost. What else was I supposed to think? What human could not see a woman screaming and exposing herself in a small alleyway?
“I don’t know. I always said I wouldn’t be one of those people who would regret not doing the things they wanted to do. Life’s too short, ya know? I suppose I’ll do those things. . Read that long list of books, maybe learn to play the piano. That would make me happy, right?” Doubt and sorrow filled her toned. Whereas there was a sense of excitement, I could not shake the sadness which radiated from her. Being dead isn’t supposed to be happy, I guessed.
We sat silently together in the alleyway behind my downtown apartment. Early morning with the stench of dirty puddles and garbage. I wanted to continue questioning her ghostly existence, but what more was there to ask?
I selfishly thought about how this was ruining my newly designed routine. Get up early, clean, and get my life back on track. That’s what my self help book taught me; set up a strict routine. Get up early and work, work, work. Don’t miss out on life. Yet, a week in, after the excitement of new had faded, I found the same dread had crept back in. There’s not a self-help book out there that will tell you to cure your insufferable cycles of dread by finding a ghost. Yet, here I was, finding relief in the moment. We were floating in unison in a dirty alleyway.
I looked down to realize I still held the receipt that had fallen from the woman’s purse. It listed a shade of red lipstick and store brand gummy candies. I found nothing particularly odd about the receipt, boring drug store purchases. I stared at the creases and I felt the smoothness of the paper.
“What did you have planned for the day?” It was an odd question to be asked by a ghost, but she was the first one I had ever met.
“I was going to finish cleaning my apartment and catch up with some work.” I laughed because saying it out loud felt so lifeless and I could hear it. Facing death has an impact.
“Want to take a walk?” she asked.
I nodded yes. It was a nice idea, clear my head, and enjoy the early morning glow. We left the alleyway and the sun exposed itself from between the buildings. The warmth on my face calmed nerves and alleviated my dread.
We waited at a crosswalk to switch lights, again in silence. I noticed a trash can and I shuffled over to throw out the receipt in hand. However, before I made the final plunge to dispose, I looked at the receipt once more. It was dated today. She was a ghost, why would she purchase such silly earth possessions? How could she?
And as I turned to confront her, I could tell by the look on her face that she knew. I held up the receipt and her eyes turned black. She lunged at me and as I tried to run, I face planted into a man. It was a strange man, but one I had met several minutes ago, the man from the alleyway.
“You were already dead,” he smiled and pushed me into an oncoming car.