I’ve had tea with the ghost the last five midnights in a row. She’s lovely and 785 1/2 years old. Scarlet hair and murky gray eyes and that stare that causes you to rethink your five year plan.
We’ve been having tea because she’s bored, I imagine, and I’m the only guest at this low key hostel near Central Park. I’m in New York for the business of having no business at all. Some call it a vacation but it’s more just a temporary escape from the burden of being me, and I’m not sure I know the difference.
I walk into the basement lounge & she’s sitting there at the tiled table. She reads the New York Times while writing invisible symbols on the recycled newspaper with her left hand.
Hi, I say.
Good, she says, I’m reading about China.
What’s going on in China?
Chinese things. Plenty of talk about money woes.
If this sounds boring, you have to realize she’s translucent and has a shining aura, so I suspect she could recite the tax code and I’d be half interested.
I’m a simple farm boy from Indiana so you can imagine how New York feels like Mars with more smog and street dancers. It’s all so foreign.Today I saw a man talk to God on the subway. Today I had a man ask at a convenience store if I was talking to him. Today a woman smiled at me while walking past, never to be seen again. It is Jupiter. It is a dream.
What’d you do today? I ask.
Not much, she says, haunted a few people.
How’d that go?
Alright. Sometimes i don’t have the drive.
Actually, I can’t do tea today, I’m scheduled to go haunt this little park.
Better than a harbor. Tired of getting hit on by drunk fishermen.
You have no idea.
She drinks the rest of the tea then gets up from the chair.
Okay, I’ll see you later, she says. She walks over to me and kisses me on the cheek.
We’re not seeing each other. This is the first instant of any physical contact between us and it felt like caffeine and liquid nitrogen brushed my face. Wondrous in its terror.
Why am I talking to a ghost rather than, you know, an actual living, breathing woman from this reality? Because I’ve tried that routine. Many times. This pathway has the attraction of the exotic. She’s funny too. Granted, she’s probably been courted by one of my distant warlord ancestors but I bet he didn’t know how to get the best rate on a hotel in prime tourist season, or cook every meal with kale and not make a person want to learn the gag reflex on command. These are weak sauce 21st sad American male skills, but their my skills, so I’ll own them. I wonder what she thinks about me. I’m a child of privilege and opportunity so vast I should be familiar with all the classics, the philosophies that create character, the god in which a person holds to as a first cause. Instead I watch a beautiful ghost leave a room and immediately load up an internet series on my phone.
She comes back to the lounge. We talk. I kiss her.
I ask the staff if I can stay another week.
Sure, says the front desk clerk, a woman with the darkest eyes I’ve ever seen and a penchant for playing folk songs, any reason why?
I’m just really digging the vibe.
I teach her how to freestyle rap. She tells me stories of the Vikings coming to New York. She was just 20.
I was betrothed to the chieftan. So old was I.
Yes, very old. I resisted.
I loved him.
And he was powerful.
Once he had gone into battle, and five Saxons attacked him at once. He took them all down, then returned their heads to their village. He told the Lord if they ever tried such malice again, he would keep their skulls.
And that was attractive to you?
Yes. It was a different time.
I think about the time I killed a bee for my mom, or when I once stared down the neighbor’s dog in a fit of bravery, but nothing comes close.
Envy lays at door.