After sobbing for a couple of hours in the gas station parking lot, which had become one of my new pastimes, I guess I drove to the beach. I don't remember getting there, or being there. I must have gone swimming, because the next morning I woke up to wet clothes and chattering teeth. Chocolate was smeared on my face. I was grateful that I ended up in my car with all of the doors locked. Even through my complete dissociation, at least I considered personal safety.
I wanted a hot shower, so I drove home. I wasn't the least bit surprised when I walked through the door and saw Tony sitting casually in the armchair, drink in hand, with no pants on.
"What happened to you?" he said.
I ignored him and went straight to the bathroom. "I'm taking a shower, don't bother me." I said before slamming the door.
For once, Tony let me shower in peace. Maybe he could tell I was finally at the end of my rope. Maybe he felt bad. So bad that he left for good, and I could go back to having a clean apartment, or not cry every hour. I let the hot water burn my skin until I turned into a lobster.
I got out of the shower and put on my pink fuzzy robe. I opened the bathroom door as the hot steam rolled around me as if I were an evil villain entering from the depths of hell. I turned the corner and jumped. He was still there. I'll never get used to seeing a grown man sitting in a dark corner, lounging in his underwear.
"So, I listened to your answering machine while you were out of town. Your boss called," he said.
"I told you not to do that anymore." I glared.
"I can't help it, Mary. The messages play automatically!"
"Plug your fucking ears, then!"
"Where's the fun in that?" He chuckled.
Anxiety jolted through me like a tranquilizer. Oh yeah, that's right, I have a job at the local radio station. I totally forgot. And I'm expected to be at this job five days out of the week with written material: public service announcements, pop-culture segments, sports commentaries, what have you. The station was small and run-down enough to where I had to write everything myself, because my boss couldn't afford to hire anyone else, although the tech-guys helped me every now and then.
I didn't even know what day it was. I sank into my bed. Barney was propped up on my pillow, good as new. How'd Tony get his hands on a sewing kit?
"What did he say?" I asked softly.
Tony handed me his drink. A whiskey sour. I took a sip. I couldn't understand where he got his alcohol in the first place, since I never bought any for him.
"Hmm, well, he said if you don't show up tomorrow, you're fired."
"Cool. Anything else?"
Tony nodded and ran his fingers through his hair. He looked at me gently and smiled. A tear ran down his face. Why was he acting like a dad from an after school special?
"He said you're one of the best writers on the team, and he doesn't know why you're throwing that away."
"It's all your fault, that's why. I'm going insane because of you," I said.
"I know. I'm sorry, Mary, I really am."
He got up from the armchair and made me a drink of my own. I don't think he realized that as a former addict, alcohol wasn't really the best thing for me to have. But I appreciated the gesture. I took it, since everything else was going to shit. He sat back down and beamed at me.
"I have an idea, Mary," he said.
I scoffed. "You have an idea?"
"Yep. And I think it's a pretty damn good one, if I do say so myself." He took a sip of his drink and blotted his moustache. I waited. He took a deep breath and exhaled.
"So, you're failing at your job. That's okay, we've all been there." He laughed.
"And, I like to think I'm a pretty interesting guy. Charming, you could even say . . ." He stirred the drink in his hand. I watched as the brown liquid and ice clinked against the glass. "Charming" wouldn't exactly be the word I would describe him as, but I let it go for the time being.
"Okay, so?" I said.
"Don't you see?!" he exclaimed. I shook my head no.
"Mary! Write a segment on me!!!" He shot up from the chair and paced across the room, his hands flying every which way.
"You can talk about what it's like living with a ghost, such as myself. I really do put ya through the ringer, huh? You can interview me. Hell, we could even have our own radio show!" He clapped his hands together. I sat in silence. He looked down at our puke-stained carpet and twiddled his thumbs.
"I thought too, ya know, it'd be something we could do together. Something fun. It'd sure beat goin' at each other's throats all the time, don't ya think?" He smiled again.
I mulled his idea over in my head. The thought of presenting this to my boss made me want to throw-up. "Yeah, hey Bill, sorry I haven't come to work in I don't know how many days. I got this cool idea though, about this dead guy living in my apartment I could interview. He's pretty charming!"
And how would this work, even? It's not like Tony could come to the office with me. Or . . . could he? He'd never mentioned anything about leaving the apartment. But then again, where were all his booze coming from?
I took another sip of my drink and tried to picture doing a show with him; what that would even look like. It would be funny, probably. He had his moments. It could be philosophical, too, if he wanted to talk about what dying was like and what happens to you after the fact. Scientists and psychic mediums everywhere would eat this shit up.
Holy shit. Maybe Tony was onto something. This drunk lunatic could actually help me out. This could potentially be the perfect scenario. Doing a radio show with an actual dead person? It would be groundbreaking! It would be the talk of the town or the entire world, even. What if I made money from this? What if everyone who's ever doubted me would finally believe me? MethHead Mary was telling the truth after all! I'm not crazy!!!
A smile formed on my face.
"Okay, fine," I said.
Tony leaped in the air from excitement, giggling like a schoolgirl. The whole apartment shook. He started pacing again and muttering to himself. I'd never seen a purer side of him before. It was almost cute.
I guess I was helping him, too, in a way. I didn't know what it was like to die or be dead. I'd never asked him. It was probably lonely. Maybe that's why he drank all the time. Maybe having a platform to talk about it was something he'd wanted.
"Cheers to that!" he said.
We clinked our drinks together. He downed his in one gulp and made another, then downed that one, too. I went in the kitchen to grab some notepads and pens, and brought them out to the living room. I sipped my drink. We sat cross-legged on the floor and bounced ideas into the wee hours of the morning.
The sun eventually rose and I got ready for work, which meant pulling my hair up and putting on pants that were not flannel pajamas. Tony was passed out on the floor, snoring. I smiled. I put a blanket over my dead friend and walked out the door, hoping to God that I still had a job.