"Do you believe in ghosts?" I asked.
Long blonde ponytail with the pierced ear looked at me with a tiny glimmer of curiosity, but mostly apathy. He always looked like that. I don't think I've ever seen him smile. He once told me that he didn't bat an eye when the store got robbed and he had a gun to his head. I told him I didn't believe him, because the average person blinks fifteen times a minute, and a robbery like that would have taken two, maybe five at the most. He told me that after being in a drug cartel for a few years, nothing scared him anymore. And that getting robbed at gunpoint was better than being in prison, in his opinion. He asked me how I knew about robberies. I told him I watch a lot of crime shows on television. Sometimes I picture us getting married.
He slid my Snickers bar to me from his side of the counter and sighed. "Not really. I think it's all bullshit," he said.
"What if I gave you proof?" I said.
"Ha. You're fucking with me."
"I'm really not."
He stared at me blankly. There was no tiny glimmer. I could feel tension from the line of people behind me as they made exaggerated groans and passive coughs, but I didn't care. I stood there impatiently as I waited for him to say okay, fine, he'd believe me if I brought him a photo or a recording or something. Anything. I was desperate, and I just wanted to know I wasn't going completely fucking insane. I wanted someone to believe me, even if it was just the apathetic ponytail guy at the gas station. But instead all he said was, "Goodnight."
Fuck. I grabbed my candy as frustrated tears formed in my eyes. Ponyboy was my last hope. I stormed past the tweaker in the pink plaid pajamas, the up-to-no-good teen boys trying to score some booze, the rich white lady looking around hesitantly, wishing she hadn't stopped by this gas station, and a probably homeless man who stunk like shit. I opened the door and looked back at Ponyboy in case he changed his mind. No cigar.
I walked to my car and got in, but I couldn't go home. I looked at my watch and sighed. It was only four-thirty. Tony was probably up and about by now. He's not his best self when he first wakes up, or ever, really. I wasn't in the mood to deal with his shit lately, so I'd been sleeping in my car. My neck hurt. I took a bite from my Snickers and began to sob.
I guess I couldn't blame my parents and friends who didn't believe me when I told them that I was living with a middle-aged, Italian, raging alcoholic man who also happened to be dead. I know it sounded crazy, attention-seeking, and stupid. I wouldn't have believed it either, especially given my life track record. Word from the wise: don't become a drug addict. No one will ever take you seriously again.
The first time I told someone about Tony was over the summer. I'd figured it needed to happen, since people were starting to take notice of my mental state: constantly jumping at nothing, the random outbursts, the crying, always looking like I hadn't showered in days. Tony agreed to take a photo with me- he loves the spotlight- which I had showed to my mom one afternoon. Much to my horror, this was when I discovered I'm the only one who can actually see him.
"Oh, that's pretty, honey. I like your lipstick," she said.
"What about him?" I asked.
"Um. That greasy man in the wifebeater standing right next to me."
"What are you talking about?" She snorted.
My mouth fell open. How could she not see him? Tony was there, smiling, giving a thumbs-up to the camera. He even put on his clean wifebeater. I put my finger on the photo, over his stupid handlebar moustache.
"You really don't see him? Are you joking?!" I asked.
My mom's smile left her face when she realized I was being serious. Her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms. Hell hath no fury like a mother's wrath.
"Mary, you're not . . . using, again, are you?" she asked.
"No, I'm not fucking using!"
"Well, whatever you're on, get off it. You're twenty-six. Start acting like it." She glared at me.
"Mom, but I'm not-"
"And don't talk to me like that." She threw the photo at me and walked away.
And that was that.
In the following weeks I showed the photo to my friends, a few co-workers, the janitor, my elderly neighbor, my hair stylist, and a homeless guy. They all said the same thing as my mom did: "What are you talking about?"
I don't know, maybe Tony was my punishment. I got one too many get-out-of-jail-free-cards -literally- so in return, life gave me a ghost. Karma works in mysterious ways.
At first I thought it'd be fun, like a Beetlejuice type of situation, where we'd live in harmony and every now and then he could make me float in the air to "Shake Senora" but no. He's was worse than Beetlejuice himself, and he's definitely no award-winning Michael Keaton.
Tony's always drunk and always breaks my shit. He demands to sleep in my bed with me, because he hates sleeping alone, and he hogs all the blankets. He eats all my food. He'll pour cold water on me when I'm in the shower as a joke. He gets mad easily and yells a lot. Never does a goddamn thing around the apartment. Earlier this week, I mentioned that he should consider picking up after himself every now and then, because I was sick of coming home to his dirty dishes and puke, especially since he wasn't paying rent. It's not like he even could. He said he couldn't help puking because of his stomach ulcer.
"Here's a thought! Maybe if you quit drinking, you wouldn't have a stomach ulcer!" I said.
Tony is not very receptive to criticism. My little comment caused him to projectile vomit all over me and tear apart my Barney stuffed animal with his teeth, because he knew it was my favorite. I called him an asshole and asked him how it felt to be a drunk loser even when he was dead and threw one of his dirty, ketchup-stained plates at him. It went right through his body, since he's dead and all. It shattered against the wall and broke into pieces. He jumped at the noise and tears streamed down his face, soaking into his stupid moustache.
"Why would you do that, Mary?" he cried.
"I fucking hate you, that's why!"
That's when I packed a bag, and told him I was leaving for a couple of days. He begged me not to go, and that he was soooo sorry, and that he could fix Barney for me, and that he'll try cleaning every now and then. I told him it didn't matter, and that I wanted him gone, and I slammed the door in his face. As I raced down the stairs and into the lobby, one of my neighbors noticed my puke-stained clothes and smiled at me.
"Newborn?" she said.
I was out of there before she could ask me a follow-up question. It really wasn't worth trying to explain.