I talked with my sister’s ghost last night. We met in my grandparents’ kitchen as it stood before the house flippers renovated it into a room of stainless steel appliances and corian countertops. My grandfather was there too, disgruntled because the new gadgetry hadn’t migrated into the ghost house. He was annoyed with my sister and I, too, because, even with one of us dead, we couldn’t manage mutual civility.
“Sam’s nothing like you, really,” I told Amye.
She shrugged. She stared over my head, out the window behind the sink.
“For instance, he gives a shit about other people.”
Again the shrug.
“I used to only perceive you. When he kicked in the door, I saw your feet coming through the hole. When he blew the power and destroyed the ceiling fan, I smelled you in the burned out wires. When he screamed endlessly, I heard your voice louder than my own.”
Still she wouldn’t speak to me. Silence was always one of her favorite pissy tricks. I looked over my shoulder out the window, searching for the house next door. But, like the new appliances, it not transferred into the world of the dead. The light in the room was cast by a full moon hanging huge and low. Except for that moon, the world did not extend past my grandparents’ driveway.
I averted my gaze. “What happens when you go outside?”
She had come from somewhere, after all. I had arrived in a dream, but I didn’t know from which direction. I had walked in and seated myself at the incongruous picnic table that hulked in the middle of the room, making passage on either side impossible (Except other people, strangers, kept walking past anyway, brushing through me in cold bursts that blurred my vision.) . Amye had come not long after, easing in languidly from the back porch like she had always been there, though I knew she had not.
“Not much. You go somewhere else. We provide our own space here. Keeps things from getting crowded.”
Poppa glowered at the fridge and drummed his fingers. “I’m going to have to go out to the garage,” he grumbled. “I’ll come in again when I find the beer.” He stumped off and vanished behind a slamming door. The back porch went with him, replaced a moment later by my mother’s living room, as it had looked before she redid the floors. Like the shiny new things in the kitchen, the new wood had failed to convey.
I went to the doorway. The green chairs we had given away when I was twelve sat at their stations on either side of the buck stove. “Can I go in there?”
I started forward but then looked back. Amye was watching me avidly. She wanted me to cross that threshold. “I’d better not.”
If she was dismayed, she didn’t show it.
Dad wandered in, transitioning from one dream to the next. “Did you know,” he asked us, “that in Maine, there used to be a competition for builders? They’d hold a wooden nail between the fingers of one hand and drive it into a board with the opposite fist. You ought to see them some time.”
He climbed up over the table on his way to the living room but shook his head at the boundary. “Nope, better use the other door,” he advised himself. When he returned, he passed straight through the table as the others had done.
“I guess he comes here a lot? He seems to know where to find things.”
Amy rolled her eyes and sneered. “He sleeps deeper. He didn’t even see you. He was talking to me.”
“Whatever.” I felt I ought to be telling her something about Kaylee or Caroline, offering up some grain of friendship, but I had no words.
“Anyway, I have to go.” She brushed past me and into the living room.
“Wait! I miss you sometimes. I wonder who you’d have been. But all I see is imaginary. Every future you I create you is false.”
She shook her head, either because I’d said the wrong thing or because I’d stated the obvious. She walked around the corner and opened another door, one that ought to have led upstairs, but instead showed my grandparents’ furnace room, dingy with fifty year old coal soot, crowded with broken toys and yard sale junk.
“What are you doing? Why are you going in there?”
As she pulled the door shut behind her, she said, “I miss you, too.” But I knew it was a lie, a tease meant to make me come back again. She needn’t have bothered. I’ll be back.
We carry our own ghosts with us. It saves on the travel. But it means they’re always hovering, waiting to ease in past an unguarded periphery, one that was supposed to be an invitation to someone else.