Monday, September 5, 2011

Untimely (Part 1 of 3)

There are two major downfalls to my existence:

 1.) I’m 5’4” and I wear a D cup

 2.) I talk to dead people.

I can’t see them, like that kid from The Sixth Sense. Thank god. That would suck. But sometimes I can hear them. And when I can’t hear them, they talk to me in other ways. This morning, it’s a greasy wrapper from a .99 cent heart attack lunch, plastered to my face by the “wind”.  The wind has good aim.

I peel the paper from my nose, wipe the leftover grease off my forehead with my jacket sleeve, and examine it--180 calories, and the 18 is circled. He or she is eighteen. Half of a word is ripped off so that it just reads, Mac. Mac, 18. The dead don’t do details.

“So, Mac. Is that short for something? Mackenzie? McEntire? Mac-hole.”  A passerby on the street gives me a backward glance. I turn the collar of my jacket up around my ears and hunker down into it. The wind blows cold, but this time it’s not the ghost. September is always cold in Vermont.

I picture Mac: I’m guessing a tall, gangly boy with blonde hair and pale skin, hands stuffed into his pockets, walking beside me down the sidewalk toward the dog park. I don’t have a dog, but I like dogs more than people. Dogs don’t like ghosts. And less ghosts is always a plus.

A dried red and yellow leaf skitters across the street. It stops abruptly when it hits the center of the sidewalk. I stop too. The leaf floats up into the air, eye level. What is he doing?

“I know you’re there. You don’t have to do weird ghost shit to prove it.”

The leaf crumbles and floats down to the ground in tiny pieces. Sometimes they try to tell me how they died. It helps them go on to wherever it is they go if they just talk about it. If one person knows. Usually I can understand the message—shot, strangled, drowned. If this is one of those messages, I don’t get.

“You were crumbled to death?” I keep walking. The dog park is just ahead around the next corner. The sooner I get there, the sooner I am ghost-free for the afternoon. I’ll reach the gate and Mac will stop short. There won’t be many dogs there today, it’s too chilly, but the dogs that are in the park will go nuts for a few minutes until I duck inside and claim an empty bench. When they go back to doing dog stuff, I’ll know Mac is gone.

The wind blows harder, colder. I wish I’d worn a heavier coat. I walk faster, even though I know I can’t outrun a ghost. A blast of ice-cold air hits me in the face, like I walked through a wall of cold water.  I freeze, stand up straight. My nose hairs stick together when I draw a breath. God, it’s cold.

“I said I know you’re there.” If Mac is doing this, he is one beefy ghost. They usually only drop the temps by a few degrees. I feel like I just walked through him, but ghosts don’t work like that. “Can we talk later? It’s not a good time.” It’s a selfish thing to say --it’s not a good time for me to discuss your unfair death and help you move on to find peace.

Maybe that’s another downfall. I’m selfish.

The gate to the dog park is shut tight and it sticks when I try to open it. I shove it and it swings in. The people in the park aren’t huddled into heavy coats like me. I can see my breath but not theirs. There is an empty bench in the sun, near a young guy with a toy poodle at his feet. That’s my spot. The tiny dogs are the most insistent barkers.

Locking the gate behind me, I anticipate the loud barking that I know will come from the small pack of Rottweilers in the corner. I smile as I turn around, but no sound comes from them. Or the Yellow Lab in the sweater. Or the poodle. Or any of the other dogs.

My back straightens and goose bumps prickle my skin. Every pair of dark dog eyes settle on me. The dogs aren’t barking at the ghost like they should be. They’re frozen, staring at me. Or something behind me.

I swallow hard and turn around.

Come back Wednesday for Part 2 by Valerie!! 

Photo found on tumblr. Original author unknown.

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