The ghosts lived inside her head.
It wasn’t the TV, her computer monitor or a dripping faucet. The silence brought the whooos and aaaahs of an ethereal entity. Her doctor could not explain it.
“There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Can you look again?”
“I can look again and again, but I’ll find nothing.”
She huffed and felt thankful for health insurance.
At night, she couldn’t sleep. The moaning kept her awake. Every time she turned on the TV the noises would compensate — louder and louder — till she reached for a bottle of ibuprofen.
“Please stop!” she shouted at the voices.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” They moaned in return.
“Oh, hello…” she said, shocked. “Why are you haunting my head?”
“We’re not. We’re alive. We live here.”
“We like you, my dear.”
“Oh, it’s ever so comfortable.”
“I can’t think with all of that noise going on in there. Can you stop?”
“Oh dear, it’ll be a couple more weeks. We’re doing a few repairs.”
“Yes, this house is old.”
“Have you had your ears checked recently? Yes, this is our old ancestral home that’s been sitting vacant for years.”
“So all of those moans were just machines?”
“Some of them, yes. Some of them are the ghosts that haunt this house.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
Then all at once the voices said, “Ghostbusters…”
In line at the grocery store, the beep-beep-beep lulls me into a daydream. My feet shuffle from side to side because I want to be anywhere but in this line, but I need butter, cheese and bread. Need. What do I really need? I think about just walking away, but then I start thinking about the grilled cheese I wanted to make, so I stick it out. I wait-wait-wait and listen to that headache-inducing beep-beep-beep. I shuffle. I sing along to the pop hits of 2002 while the cashier calls for a price check. I look at the woman behind me and we share a sympathetic smile with each other and shrug our shoulders.
It’s too late to change lines.
Every single one moving faster than this one.
But I think of that buttery bread toasted just right and the ooey-gooey cheese burning my tongue. The sting of painful pleasure. How, if only this line would move, I could be home making the sandwich of my dreams.
Finally, finally, it’s my turn.
Change exchanged, canvas tote filled and I get to my car and realize I forgot the pickles.
You are beautiful. I don’t say it enough, but you are beautiful. Every night when I’m in that quiet place that exists in my head — I close my eyes and your face is there reminding me that the world isn’t that bad. It’s not bad because you make it glow with your kind words, encouragement and gentle nature.
And even though I am reckless and mean and want to spit fire, you console me with your blue eyes and hold my hand, even though I’m throwing hadoukens at your stomach. You calm that spirit in me. You look past the person I pretend to be — to the very center of my heart and you rip it out and hold it in front of me.
You show me how to live.
You tug me along and whisper sweet nothings. You make me such a girl for you. You make me feel strong instead of sour. You make me feel like I belong in this world instead of me versus them. It is us and no one else matters.
It’s not a video game.
There is no them.
There is only us.
And each time I look in your eyes. Those beautiful, kind eyes, I know that I have fallen for the right person. The person that will accept me for who I am and make me better even when I’m the most rotten, lousy and terrible person on the planet.
And for that — you are a superhero.
And for that — I’m the villain.
And together — we’re love.
It arrived on my doorstep a little after noon. I wasn’t expecting anything, but packages hardly hold the same value they did when I was in college. It was probably some stale cookies from my grandmother. She was always trying to send me things to make me feel bad for not calling her more often.
No return address.
My first instinct was to call the police. Unfortunately, we lived in a world where anything out of the ordinary was suspicious. Sometimes a package was just a package or a bucket just a bucket.
I shrugged my shoulders and figured at 40, I had lived long enough to take a little risk. My will had been written long ago and if someone wished ill will towards me, I’d give them props for making the ultimate effort.
The opening didn’t come easy to me.
I decided to have a last meal.
The ultimate guilty pleasure meal, so if my face was ripped apart by the mystery package, I wouldn’t be too depressed by my lack of lips.
I decided to swing by my favorite fast food places. I got a personal pan from Pizza Hut, some chicken McNuggets, a whopper and 12 tacos from Taco Bell. I was too sick to finish my cherry limeade, but I figured just showing up was enough for me. I always appreciated the neon sign more than the food anyways.
Too bloated and nauseated to deal with the package, I took a nap.
Four hours later, I awoke, rested and greasy with a fever.
I cursed my bad luck and flipped off the package.
“It’s your fault. Look what you’ve done.”
I couldn’t procrastinate much longer, so I took to unwrapping the brown paper, cutting the tape with my house key and dumping an incredible amount of Styrofoam peanuts on the floor.
Out dropped a plastic-packaged pair of jeans and a packing slip.
Then it hit me, I’d made a late night order on eBay for a pair of vintage jeans.
I laughed, sloshing the food around in my stomach, and cried as I remembered what I’d done.
So much for growing wiser.
(inspired by this writing prompt)
His face appeared to me in a dream. Long and weeping like the moon. I wanted to console him, but instead I wake up sobbing.
There’s nothing in my room but shadows.
I close my eyes but behind my eyelids is his face. I can’t shake him. The butterflies dance in my stomach. The sweet relief when I open my eyes and he’s gone again.
Night after night, he’s there waiting for me.
He sings to me a haunting tune about cookies and the moon. I can’t get away from this furry monster. His guilt-stricken voice echoing out his remorse for eating the moon.
How can I tell him that it wasn’t the moon at all?
It really was a cookie.
A giant space cookie.
Thank you, Monster, you saved us all from certain doom.
You whisper secrets to the trees, held tightly in their trunks,
rooting into the ground till they mingle with the moles. They dance
among the carrots, turnips and groundhogs.
But nothing is safe in the dark.
Blood oaths exchanged, the moles sell your deepest thoughts to the
snakes and rabbits. Burrowing deep into their hidey-holes but having
too much to drink, speak a little too loudly to their spouses.
Mischievous and tipsy, the alpacas overhear something they
shouldn’t, spreading the news into the wind. The kangaroos make a fast
buck selling your story to an obnoxious celebrity gossip news source.
The spiders add a bit of flare before letting it out onto the Web. By
the time it gets back to you, unrecognizable and misconstrued, you’re
He looked up into the sunless sky and cursed the clouds for the darkness that shadowed his morning. He kicked an empty soda can down the street, hands in pockets and muttered nonsensical words under his breath.
Weeks of planning ruined by the weather. There was nothing he could do now, because the wheels were already in motion. His legs were eager to get there, but his guts danced with nervousness.
He looked into the sky again, whistling a jolly tune that he didn’t know the name of, smiled at the neighborhood kids and the clouds parted as he began to dance.
The butterflies flying out of his stomach like musical notes.
The blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds like a painting worthy of a museum wall.
His frown nothing more than a wisp of stress long forgotten and as he arrived at the train station twenty minutes early for her arrival, he thanked Mother Nature for holding out a bit longer.
Till he mustered the courage to finally say hello to the girl that made his coffee every morning.
She smiled, dismissed his dollars and took his number.
He knew today was going to be a very good day.
Karen sat at her computer, watching the birds fly by her window. She had something to do, but no matter how hard she tried, the something wasn’t happening.
The something was due tomorrow at 9am. Too early for her but everyone else seemed to make it there on time.
Her retinas burned thinking of the bright sunshine of the early morning hours. Tired and groggy, she cursed the California sunshine and wanted nothing more than to live in a sleepy New England cabin.
She typed a few words knowing they made no sense, but as the afternoon turned to evening, she knew she’d have to turn in something or face flunking her senior year.
Her teacher’s nearly purple complexion yelling at her face, pieces of food flying out of her lips, sticking to her glasses. There was no way she could risk repeating it all over again.
Her words nothing more than nonsense connected by periods and commas. She was citing total bullshit. She started to describe the scene outside her window. The eerie silence, the one star that she could see that was obscured by her favorite creepy tree and the man clawing at her window.
Her heart raced as his face appeared out of nowhere, withered and worn, he looked like her favorite dog-eared comic book. She kept typing and the more she did, the more he came alive. Watching her but nothing more.
She wanted to yell, but her mother would scold her for waking up the baby and her father would hit her for no other reason than she wasn’t his favorite.
He fogged up the window with his breath.
She wrote about his yellow teeth, long fingers and balding scalp.
She blinked but he was still there. She closed her eyes, wishing him away and just like that, she awoke in a puddle of drool with an empty white screen and no reason to even bother anymore.
So she walked to school forty-five minutes later with a typed version of last night.
Crossing her fingers that it would be enough to save her from him.
William and Samuel had been going out for three months, but Samuel always kept an eye out for someone new. It wasn’t that he didn’t like William, he had often said I love you without lying, but there were so many men and he always doubted his decisions.
William was always rolling his eyes and letting out exasperated sighs. “What are you doing, Sammy?”
“Please don’t call me that, okay?”
“Whatever,” William said, rolling his eyes again. “Are you checking that guy out? Aren’t I good enough for you?”
“Yes and yes.”
“Well, I’m not keen on sharing, so you’d better make up your mind.” William would say, sashaying away. Samuel rather enjoyed watching William slink away in his pink silk pajamas. He had bought them for his “girlfriend” on recommendation from the salesgirl at Macy’s. They were a perfect fit.
The thing about William is that he was imperfect. It wasn’t an ordinary human flaw, but many that kept piling up forcing Samuel to rent out several storage lockers.
“Why are you wearing your pajamas out in public?”
“You didn’t stop me? Plus, they’re comfortable, Sammy.”
It’s true that no one batted at eye in William’s direction anymore. He was no longer unusual. He was just weird. His weird was the usual.
“Why can’t you be normal?”
“Samuel, I’m normal for me. I thought you liked my pajamas.”
“Yes, I love them very much when you wear them for me in my own house. It’s something we do together. It’s not for everyone.”
“Well, you certainly seem to be interested in everyone lately, so I thought why bother?”
“I’m sorry, I’m distracted.”
William rolled his eyes again and drank his orange juice. William refused to drink anything but mimosas. He wardrobe was like a cartoon characters. He had one pair of pink pajamas but everything else was black stretch pants, black and white striped shirts and berets. People often referred to him as the “mime.” Samuel was not pleased. Even when he called his friends out on it, no one apologized.
“Guys, he’s my boyfriend. Stop it!”
“But haven’t you noticed?”
“Yes, of course, I’ve noticed!” Samuel shouted. “Everyone has flaws.”
“They’re not just flaws. We’d forgive that, but now he’s wearing his pajamas in public and…”
“Stop it. Just stop it. William is unusual.”
“No, he’s just weird.”
“He’s mine and that’s fine.” He’d waved his hand in the air to dismiss his friends and walked away.
Because of that, he no longer had many close friends.
In fact, Samuel often looked in awe at the other men having dinner with company. Why couldn’t he be more like them? Why couldn’t we just fit in?
Then it occurred to him that he should stop trying so hard. He’d just do whatever he felt like.
“Samuel, why are you wearing my clothes?”
“Why not? I like them.”
“Because you look like a fucking mime!”
Samuel bowed and said, “I go by Sammy now.”
Three weeks later, William was sitting at a table surrounded by his friends.
“I don’t know what happened to Samuel. He just went off the deep end. He wouldn’t stop dressing like a mime in public. It was pathetic. Look at him sitting all alone crying into his mimosa. It’s unbearable.”
Everyone nodded, causing their berets to shift on their heads, and they held up their glasses in silent toast to their crazy ex-friend, Samuel.
The problem with falling for your friends is that you never know what to do next. Usually it happens out of nowhere. Casually over dinner. Accidentally touching hands at the mall. Helping them with their homework.
Those everyday things that you overlook but start to add up.
One by one you start to notice all of these great things about them.
The color of their eyes, the smell of their detergent and their choice in footwear.
It happens slowly over time. Subconsciously. Then boom.
It explodes in your lap and suddenly you’re nervous.
What do you wear? What do you say? What do you do?
Suddenly you’re awkward and always saying the wrong things.
You want to make them laugh, but instead you stumble over your words and spill soda in your lap.
It works because they’re laughing. At you. But you take it.
And they help you clean up your mess and call you stupid and sometimes give you a hug.
THISCLOSE and you’re hypnotized by their shampoo.
You want to touch their hair all the time.
You lock eyes longer than usual.
You think about them when you’re all alone.
All alone in your empty house.
You think about calling them.
You think about kissing them and what that first kiss would be like and if it would live up to your expectations.
You suddenly find yourself invested in their favorite activities. The things you thought were lame before are suddenly interesting.
They make them interesting.
You can’t stop fantasizing about the what ifs and what nows.
They show up occasionally in your sexiest dreams.
It was hot.
You want to tell your friend about your hot dream.
You meet them after school with their favorite donut and a coffee.
You listen as they tell you all about So And So and how they kissed in the library.
You listen because you’re still their friend.
You plot out how to get So And So out of the picture.
You spend nights on why So And So isn’t good for your friend.
It’s irrational the amount of time you think about So And So.
You start to think about So And So more than your friend.
So you back up, close your eyes and think about Jennifer Lawrence.
And strategize your plan to Hollywood instead.