Met up with a friend last week over coffee. Although he’s usually very neat about how he looks, his appearance that day shocked me. There was week-old stubble all over his chin, his nails were cut jaggedly, there were paper cuts all over his hands, and his eyelids were baggy and dark, as though he hadn’t slept in days. I asked him if there was anything wrong. This is the story he told me:
My mom dragged me to this guy’s funeral. He was her painting class friend’s son. Something like that. I didn’t want to go, but he was my age, died tragically, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Plus, my mom didn’t feel like driving that day. I didn’t see how that would automatically concern me. She could have dragged my brother instead. She should have just dragged my brother.
I ran into my girlfriend there. She was in a black dress, had her hair tied back in a bun. Talked to her for a bit after they buried the dead guy. She said she was friends with him, Kev–no, Christopher-something. That’s his name. I’d never heard of him until then. But she never told me anything, anyways. She’d gone back to the funeral parlour where they’d started putting out some food for the guests. I stayed behind while everyone left because I thought I saw something next to the gravestone.
It was the dead guy. Or, rather, it was the dead guy’s ghost. He looked like how he did in the coffin, wearing the suit and everything, except he was kind of transparent-looking, like a ghost. I mean–well, now you know what ghosts look like. Anyways, the poor, miserable guy was talking to himself, muttering:
“Is there anybody going to listen to my story,…”
“You’re a ghost,” I said to him. How do you start a conversation with a ghost, anyways?
“I think so,” he replied. “So, I’m really a ghost. You can see me?”
“Right as hell I can.”
“Oh, I thought I’d be invisible,” he said.
“Nah, it might just be me who can see you. The other guys here didn’t notice you earlier. Just me.”
“So I’m really a ghost.”
“Sorry, man,…Condolences.” I had said that word so many times that day. It just rolled off my tongue.
“Just look at that thing!” Christopher pointed at his gravestone. “I can hardly believe it myself.”
It was a slab of rock, about knee-high, half as wide. Looked like all the other ones in the graveyard: cross carved into the top, name, birth date, date died, R.I.P.
“I always thought I’d get some nice eulogy carved in there. Something like, ‘A great guy. Died far too young,’ something like that. ‘We’ll always think of you,…'” He glanced at the other gravestones. He looked disappointed.
I decided to ask, “Why are you here?”
Christopher scratched his head. “No idea. I guess I’m supposed to haunt someone. That’s what ghosts do. At least, I think that’s what they do.”
“If you want to haunt someone, you need a grudge.”
“Just give me a second. I’ll think up one right now.” Christopher crossed his arms and leaned against his gravestone. He wrinkled his forehead and thought–
“Do you know how I died?” he asked.
“You got hit by a car. That’s what everyone was saying.”
“Ah,…no wonder it hurt so much. Was the driver drunk?”
I told him I wasn’t sure.
“Didn’t they catch the guy?”
“The driver? I think he was just here. The guy who was crying next to your mom.”
“Then,…my girlfriend? But, ah–!” he threw up his arms. “I can’t haunt her.”
“What about her?” I asked. He shook his head.
“No,…not really.” He thought for a while. “I don’t want to blame her.”
I was curious. “What happened?” I asked.
“Well,…” Christopher crossed his arms and leaned back again. “It started–no, wait. My girlfriend.” He rubbed his neck, looking confused. “Well, I thought she was cheating on me. Again. That’s,…” he sighed. “There were times she cancelled our dates–always on the odd numbered days. I thought that was kinda weird. So I follow her one night. I saw her crossing the road with some guy. I was gonna chase after her, but then,…I guess that’s when I got hit.”
“Oh,…sorry, man. About your girlfriend, too.”
“Well,” he grinned sheepishly, “you know what it’s like. She’s the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry. Still, you don’t regret a single day,…”
I knew what it was like. “You never thought about leaving her?” I asked, but I already expected the answer.
“I’ve tried,” he laughed. “Yeah,…it wasn’t the first time I’ve caught her cheating.”
“Know what you mean,” I said. “Beautiful girls are like spiders, spinning webs, catching flies.”
“And we’re the flies,” Christopher laughed.
“My girl is like that,” I continued, “I’d caught her with another guy before. Said he was her brother. I told her, ‘Siblings don’t kiss like that.’ Then,…well. Said she was sorry, that she loved only me, said she’d never cheat on me again. Next month, saw her with another guy, asked if it was her cousin this time. Damn, when I think of all the times I’ve tried so hard to leave her,…” I swore and kicked at the ground. Thinking about it, I was really the idiot. She always hid secrets from me. Going to the funeral that day, for example. She didn’t tell me anything. But, I could never do anything to her, anyways.
“My girlfriend did the same to me before,” he said. “I know how you feel. If I try to bring up the topic, she’ll turn to me and start to cry. She promises the earth to me. Don’t now why I believed her. After all this time, I don’t know why,…” He shook his head and sighed.
I could imagine my girl saying the same thing. Her voice tugs, at the heartstrings, you know? Like a spring bird’s song. No man can resist, least of all me. Even to this day, against my better judgement, I’m still caught by her sweet magic. Every day, man, I know I should leave her. But I can’t. I just can’t.
“My girl, she’s the kind of girl who puts you down when friends are there,” I said. “She talks like you don’t exist. Her friends, when they’re there, I feel like a fool. You know?”
“That’s happened to me so many times. You try to be nice to her all the same, ’cause you still want her to like you. But when you try to compliment her, she acts as if it’s understood. She’s brushed me off so many times–”
“But you can never leave her.”
“I asked her once, ‘Does a man have to break his back to earn his day of leisure?’ She just stared at me like I’m stupid.”
“Girls like her, they enjoy playing us.”
“Yeah….Wonder if she’ll still think of me, now that I’m dead. But, ah–” he rubbed his neck, “I forgot. You know her. I shouldn’t talk about her like this in front of you.”
That shocked me. “Who?” I asked. Didn’t think I knew,…
“You know, that girl you were talking to? This tall,” he gestured, “slim, wearing a dress, brown hair, wore it in a bun–”
“Yeah. I’m glad–”
My blood ran cold. “Shit,” I said. I should have kept my mouth shut.
“…That’s my girl.”
If ghosts can turn pale, Christopher must’ve turned paper-white.
“Fuck, yeah,” I said.
Then, the guy who he said he saw, the one crossing the road with her on the night he died?
Turned out that was me. So, if you can see that sort of hazy-thing behind me–Now you know.
Fuck, I hate my life.