This Is How We Are Ghosts

This Is How We Are Ghosts
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Max and Tilsey broke up on Halloween. It happened over email. Tilsey wrote about why she was unhappy in the relationship. She ended with the message “I love you but I can’t keep feeling this way.” The response that Max sent back was one word: “Fine.”

They went to separate Halloween parties – Tilsey with her girlfriends, Max with the girls Tilsey felt uncomfortable about. Neither Max nor Tilsey wore a costume.

Tilsey went to Open Mic Night at a neighbourhood bar. All the singers were dressed as dead musicians. As Pretend Patsy Cline sang ‘I Fall to Pieces’, the spotlight cast shadow-slats across the cowboys, the nurses, and the deep-sea divers in the costumed crowd. Save for the leko light roving the murk and the blue, the room was otherwise still and Tilsey was unnerved by this solitude amidst so many bodies. Pretend Ricky Nelson was next.Goin’ down, lonesome town,” crooned the backup singer in the Princess Leia costume.

Max tagged along to a house party in a condemned duplex. The walls had already started falling down. He ate mushrooms and watched skateboarders wearing gorilla masks rip apart the drywall and smash out the windows. Their shrieks bounced off the walls and made the house seem smaller than it was. They sounded more hyena than human, Max decided, and he watched them smoke joints through the mouth holes in their masks. The walls pulsed from the DJ spinning in the bathroom. Max wanted to belong in all of it but the more he tried – the louder he laughed, the faster he danced, the ruder people seemed to get with him. The smell of gasoline cut through the room and Max was vaguely alarmed but no one else seemed to notice or care. The guys in gorilla masks hollered and shoved each other in a way that seemed too real.

At the bar, Tilsey got hit on by Satan, a bald guy in red face paint and horns. She wondered if he’d take off the make-up before fucking her, if things came to that. Satan offered to buy her a drink and Tilsey said no.

Max hit on a girl dressed as a flapper. The flapper asked Max why he wasn’t wearing a costume. Then she said she wouldn’t make out with him and that no, there was zero correlation between those two sentences.

Tilsey walked home alone. “Hey baby, where you going, wait up,” drunk guys called from across the street. Tilsey looked down at the sidewalk, with its soggy papier-maché skin of dead leaves that she scraped away with her shoe, as if doing so would help the sidewalk breathe. The air was cold and too sharp.

Max staggered out of the house to the abandoned lot next door. He sat on a big dirt pile, unable to tell if the site was in the stages of something being put together or torn apart. He collected a pile of pebbles and whipped them one by one into an overturned wheelbarrow. His eyes blinked involuntarily as each pebble hit. He tried to keep from blinking but that only made it worse, so he squished his eyeballs shut. Above Max and above Tilsey, the moon glowed. A picked scab.

When Tilsey got back to her apartment she deleted the email exchange, as if by deleting the emails she could pretend they had never been sent. When Max got back to his apartment, he microwaved a frozen burrito and downloaded some porn. He started to masturbate, but couldn’t come.

Tilsey’s arms and hands began to tingle. Her nose was cold. The smell of ethanol was all around her, nebulous at first and then more defined, brusquely crowding out all the other smells in the room. The longer she sat, her chair felt like it was cupping her buttocks and the small of her back more and more. She began to worry that the molecules of her body would somehow meld with the molecules of the flimsy plastic chair. The chair would become a breathing organism of flesh and veins and cartilage, indiscernible from her. She frowned. Her chair squirmed beneath her.

Max’s phone dinged with a text. It said where r u. Sender unknown. He tried to respond but none of the buttons on his phone were working. He mashed the buttons until his fingers turned purple, but it was as if his hands had turned to sponge. He dropped the phone. He was dizzy.

Max and Tilsey sat at their computers, the night a compendium of unanswered text messages, frozen burritos, and ass-cupping chairs. Stoned gorillas, horny devils, singing dead people. Words like it’s over were repeated by Max and Tilsey again and again, like they were the first people to ever arrange those words side-by-side, like they were each the reluctant Magellan of break-ups.

By five a.m., night had begun to evaporate into an expanse of cool and sallow gray.

Staring at their monitors, their faces were bathed in the same blue moon glow.

Kate Millar

About Kate Millar

Kate Millar's work has appeared in Paper Darts, Masque & Spectacle, Event, Imminent Quarterly, and The Danforth Review. In 2012, she was the recipient of Canada's Western Magazine Award (fiction category). A native of Atlantic Canada, she lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Kate Millar's work has appeared in Paper Darts, Masque & Spectacle, Event, Imminent Quarterly, and The Danforth Review. In 2012, she was the recipient of Canada's Western Magazine Award (fiction category). A native of Atlantic Canada, she lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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