After her 6 song set, and right after she exchanged tequila shots and kisses goodbye to whoever she graced with her presence, we head to my car for our graceless exit from today’s episode of “Life With Me.” All day, I was feeling like something was off. All night, the hair on the back of my neck was standing straight up. I thought it was just because of her performance on stage. Nuh uh.
Just as I’m about to open the car door for her, ‘She’ shows up. And I end up staring at ‘Her,’ completely fixated on her dank eyes fixed right back at me. She’s dressed in her favorite black strappy dress with her DMs firmly planted on the ground. The right boot bearing the brunt of her weightless weight. Leaning on a lamppost. Her arms crossed. A half lit cigarette in between the fingers of her right hand, an engagement ring on the other. She cut her hair short. Looks pretty good on her.
What the fuck do you want…
“So, are you gonna open the door for me or what?” the girl I’ve been seeing (once again) asks.
“Huh?” What the fuck do you want, God damn it. ‘She’ sneers at me, blows smoke on our direction, and I can almost smell it.
“Yoohoo, have you gone to space without me?”
“What are you-” she stops. She looks at the lamppost. “What are you looking at?”
“Oh, hey. It’s nothing. Let’s go,” I say. I finally open the door for her and she closes it shut.
“Again, what are you looking at?”
“Drop it, okay? It’s nothing, just thought I saw something.”
“What did you see?”
“Nothing! Can we go already? Sun’s coming up in a bit.” A passing car’s headlights shine on ‘Her’ and she shields her eyes with her arm. She disappears for a bit then reappears again.
“It’s 2:43am. Still early for the sun.”
“It’s late for some people.”
“What are you talking about? Hey, come on, what’s going on?”
What the hell do I tell her? That I may have lost my mind? Again? That I’m seeing my, I guess ‘ex’ is the word? Again? That I need to lay off the booze for a while? That I need a sleep that comprised of more than three hours?
“You can tell me. I won’t judge,” she says. What the heck is she talking about. ‘I won’t judge?’ What’s she getting at? “I kinda know what it’s like after a while. I was the same when my dad died.”
“What the heck are you talking about? What are you getting at?” I look at her and I look at “Her.” And back to her. “It’s not- it’s not what you think.”
“You’re seeing her, aren’t you? What does she look like? Does she look alright, like, with us seeing each other?”
“…” Damn it. Why’d she have to be so…so God damned accommodating? The woman of the hour is still as beautiful as ever. It’s fucking annoying. “She looks hollow. In brief flashes, she looks like she wants to kill you. And then me. And then back to hollow again.”
“Oh.” She looks at where I’m looking at, the lamppost, and proceeds to approach “Her” cautiously.
“Hey, what the fuck are you doing?!” I grab her arm and she twists hers to free herself. Jesus fucking Christ.
“Shhhh!!” she shushes me as she moves closer to “Her” with the same caution as before.
“I…fine. Jesus fucking Christ.” I’m too spent to put up a fight. It’s been a long day of interviews and – shit she’s talking to ‘Her.’ SHIT SHE’S TALKING TO HER! What the fu- is this…is this shared insanity? This is shared insanity, right?
This creature I’ve been splitting my cigarettes with has lost her fucking mind. She nods her head and turns her head to me, smiles, turns back to ‘Her,’ and nods again. She gleefully turns around, her hair spinning around and around til it flies on its own. She walks towards me, carelessly, this time.
“Well?” She stops inches from me, asks for a cigarette and a light. “You ever gonna buy your own? What the fuck was that?”
“You ever gonna stop swearing so much?”
“What the heck was that?”
“Give me a cigarette and I’ll tell you!”
“It’s in the car. Get in. I’ll take you home. Fuck.”
I unlock her side of the door and let her open it herself. I hurry to the other side only to find that I forgot to lock it earlier. When I get in, she’s already lighting my cigarette. Two cigarettes. She passes the other one to me.
“We’re good,” she says. She looks at ‘Her’ and her demeanor and stance changes from ‘I’m gonna kill you’ to ‘Okay, okay.’ She continues, “she just wanted – just don’t forget her.”
What are you, oh bug-eyed creature beside me?
“Hey, where’s my baby guitar?” she asks as I swerve and survive the trucks that’s racing with us on the road.
“It’s in the trunk.”
“Why is it in the trunk? Told you to put it inside. I wanted to play it!”
“I know. That’s why it’s in the trunk.”
“You’re gonna have to get over your disdain for its sound if we’re gonna be spending time together.”
“I don’t disdain it.”
“I see your eyes roll when I’m using it.”
“I disdain it.” It’s not the guitar itself that I have problems with. It’s that one song she wrote with it.
What happened last night didn’t sit right with me. Haven’t slept. Couldn’t sleep. I was too bothered by what went on. I didn’t let her see that when I drove her home. I kept it cool and casual. I’m sure it didn’t work. She sees through me. I let her see through me. There are only a few people whom I let my guard down for. She’s the fourth one on that list of five. Except for that night we met, even Ellie’s not on that list.
Ellie is my ghost. No one’s supposed to talk to her, or get aggravated by her, except me. It’s eight am on a Sunday and if Marcy’s still asleep, then tough.
“You awake?” I ask Marcy over the phone.
“What time is it?”
“Time to wake up.”
“What time is it?”
“Check your phone!”
“It’s too early. Why’d you call?”
“Nothing. Bye.” And I hang up. I may have been labeled as petty by a select few.
I don’t know when Marcy stopped being just a warm body to fill the space in my bed when Ellie offed herself. We’ve known each other for quite some time now. About three years or so. We dated each other on and off. There was always something there. Something that we couldn’t admit to each other. Whether it was love or something almost like it, I couldn’t really tell.
The timing was always against us. In those times we dated, something always happened to disrupt whatever seriousness our relationship could’ve been.
One time, her ex came back in the picture. We were having dinner at a Japanese fusion restaurant, and as fate would have it, her ex was the head chef. They chatted for a bit. She introduced me to him, we shook hands, he seemed friendly. Marcy and I parted ways that night with an agreement to see each other again. We never did.
On the last time we dated before now, I had to go abroad for an assignment. We were almost there, almost to the commitment stage. The assignment didn’t take long. Three months. But it ruined the momentum we had going on. We Skyped, messaged each other, saw each other “online.” But the attempts to still maintain what we had weren’t enough. On a Skype session, we mutually agreed that it wasn’t working. I emptied a bottle of red wine that night. I was completely and utterly devastated. Here was a woman that, despite knowing all the shit I’ve done in my life, still got the gall to be around me.
I was on a three week bender after the Marcy catastrophe. I stopped answering and returning calls and correspondences from my friends, my colleagues, my editor. I had gone too under the radar that people thought I had died. The pub that lets shitty bands play became my hideaway. I was drinking away a good sum of my savings every night. I was never fond of the place, but it’s only two blocks away from my apartment. The distance was its only saving grace.
That no name pub was where one of the most memorable nights of my life happened. I was at the bar facing the bartender. I can’t remember his name up to this day. I don’t think I ever asked. We were talking about something…pets I think? Anyway, I suddenly heard feedback coming from the speakers. It happened too often, but what happened next had never happened before in my three week overstay there. “I’m sorry for the feedback. You guys here better have someone check on it. Or upgrade your shit,” the voice said.
It was ballsy. I turned my head and saw this woman who was non-ironically dressed like a goth in church on Palm Sunday, sardonically smiling her ass off, as if daring the sound techs to fuck up her set. “Sorry, I’m drunk. The extra stale beer here really got to my head,” she followed up. I laughed and fell down from the stool. Hit my head on bar counter’s corner.
I jolted back up and shouted “I’m fine! Nothing’s bleeding! Except my heart!” to the crowd of six. It wasn’t my finest moment. I was about to rush out the door, until…
“You’re broken hearted? You’re drowning in a sea of sorrows? So am I, drunken stranger! This song is for us!” she said over the mic. She played what sounded like a dirge. Her fingerpicking on her reverb drenched electric guitar and her throaty vocals clinched it. I sat back down on the stool that dropped me like my relationship with Marcy did and I ordered another beer. “I’m an island alone in an island for two…” she sang.
The techs didn’t fuck up her set. I later found out that her father runs the place.
We hit it off that night. Talked for hours after her set. We laughed about the smallest of things until last call. Exchanged then recent relationship war wounds and advices that didn’t make sense on how to deal with breakups until sunrise.
“You’re a wasted beauty,” she said before I made the wobbly trek back to my apartment. “I’ll see you soon.”
That’s how I met my ghost. That’s how I met Ellie.