My ex’s ghost begins to haunt my apartment a week after the break up. I spot him sitting inour the breakfast nook, sunlight falling like dust through his torso to the rumpled rug in front of the small table. He’s staring out the window, parts of him fading in and out of view.
“No,” I say, grabbing the counter in case my suddenly weak legs betray me. “No.”
He turns and smiles at me with the weight of the world in his eyes.
I grab my cell phone from the pocket of my sweatpants and call him. One ring. Two rings. Three.
My hand tightens around the edge of the counter until I can hear my bones scraping together. “You ass. You don’t get to do this to me. Make it go away.”
He’s silent for a long moment. Then he sighs. “My ghost?”
“Yes,” I say. “Get rid of it.”
“You know that’s not how this works,” he says.
“I’m the one who’s supposed to haunt you,” I say. “You broke up with me. That’s how this is supposed to go. So stop.”
Stop or come back.
But he doesn’t say anything else before he hangs up.
I turn to scream at his ghost but, like him, it’s gone.
“He’s one of those,” my sister says knowingly. She sounds far away and tiny over the computer’s speakers. “You better be careful. Sometimes they don’t leave.”
I consider my cup of cocoa. She’s holding a matching cup half a world away so that they’re connected. I wonder if she’s foregone her usual shot of baileys this time. “What do I do then?”
“Try to move on anyway,” she says. Behind her something peeks around the kitchen doorway and is gone before I can make out who. My sister’s been drinking for a decade and hasn’t once talked about quitting.
“Right,” I say and imagine the poor quality of the speakers hides the hollowness in my voice.
First you cry, and then you cry. You get on a metro and go where it takes you. You leave your phone behind and go around the city alone. Get on a bus and get lost in the sounds: of traffic, of music. Jump in potholes, get your shoes dirty. Walk on the sidewalk, walk with grace. Let your hair down, let the wind untangle your knots. Go get a piercing, go try some street food. Count the red cars, then count the blue: one two three, one two three; make a wish, make another. Sit in cafes, sit on rocks, take polaroids. Run, run, run till you’ve conquered every street, every raindrop, every shadow under every lamp post. Tell every corner, “I was here, I was here.”
One step, then another, you come back home. You come back slowly, you come back calm. Play some music, your hands in the air, close your eyes and dance. Then change the song, lay still on the floor.
First you cry, and then you laugh. Then you laugh, and then you laugh.
Dean pursed his lips and pulled his phone away from his ear. Three missed calls…where was Cas?
Usually, if he was not back home by this time – Dean tapped his screen. 10:47 pm – then he was at a hotel for the night. By now, Cas would have texted Dean to check in. To let him know that everything was all right. Maybe he was too tired to carry on an actual conversation. Maybe that’s why he sounded off on the phone earlier,
After a moment of staring at his phone, Dean opened it up and found the messages between himself and Cas. No reason he couldn’t text Cas first, right?
10:48 pm // Any more news about Dagon?
He stared at his screen until it went black. Sighing, Dean set his cell down on his nightstand and pulled off his flannel shirt, tossing it on the foot of his bed. He toed off his heavy boots and kicked them away before he tugged off his jeans. As he sat down, he glanced over at his phone.
Still no notification. Maybe Cas’ phone was dead?
Dean slipped under the covers and sat still for a second before reaching under and yanking off his socks. He threw them across the room and rested his arm behind his head. He stared at the ceiling for a long while, watching the shadows from the lamp creep over the popcorn ceiling.
His phone buzzed. Twice.
Dean jolted up and rubbed his eyes with one hand and grabbed his cell with the other. His shoulders sagged as he rested his phone on his knee. It was only Crowley. If he actually wanted to talk to Dean, he would call him – several times in succession until Dean picked up, judging by past experiences.
Dean unlocked his phone with a swipe of his thumb and his eyes fell to Cas’ contact picture. It was one that Dean took who know how many moths ago during a lull in a research session. In the picture, Cas was glaring over the top of Sam’s computer at Dean in response to his endless attempts to get his attention.
“Hey, Cas,” he said, clearing his throat. He glanced up at his closed bedroom door before continuing. “I…I know it’s been a while since I’ve prayed. But that’s because you’ve been here. And, well…you’re gone now.”
He frowned, tapping his phone on his knee. Yes, Dean talked to him today – just hours ago, even – but something was wrong. Sam did not seem to notice, but Dean did. “I don’t know what to do,” he said, though not necessarily to Cas.
“I need you here, man. You help me, you know? More than I’ll ever be able to say.” His eyes darted up to the ceiling and back down to the phone. “I’m over-reacting, huh?…You’re probably just tired.” Dean gave his phone a half-hearted smile, his eyes drooping in exhaustion. He really should try to sleep soon.
12:12 am, his phone read when he tapped the screen. He hesitated for only a second after unlocking it before he decided to call Cas again. Dean’s fingers tightened around his phone as he raised it to his ear. “Come on, buddy. Pick up.”
His plea was answered by the trilly dial-tone, which rang three times before there was a soft click on the other end. Dean’s breath hitched in anticipation as Cas said, This is my voicemail. Make you –
He hung up the phone and tossed it away. It bounced off the pillow next to him and onto the bed. Dean rubbed his hands over his face, sighing. “Where are you, Cas?”