Around the block, up the street, sometimes she caught a bus
sometimes she took a cab.
She never said hello, she never scowled, she never brushed by us impatiently, she never
really seemed to know or to care that we were there.
I used to call her Shadow Girl.
Shadow Girl drifted through the crosswalks, down alley ways and around busy corners like a mylar balloon with ” Happy Birthday ” or Congratulations bumping along the ground because it didn’t have enough helium to carry up into the sky.
Her hair was dark, I know that for sure and maybe her eyes were too but I honestly don’t know because no matter how hard I tried, I never really saw her.
One day me and two of my friends from work went for pizza and we sat out under lawn umbrellas on little plastic chairs.
Shadow Girl popped up and sailed by us, her guitar was slung over her back, it was funny I had never noticed that before. Maybe it was new.
One of my co-workers ( Janet ) watched Shadow Girl with interest. ‘ Look at that. That odd girl we always see at the bus stop. She has a baby. I never saw her pushing a stroller before.”
Val looked confused. ” I didn’t see her pushing a stroller. How could she? She was carrying an armful of books.”
Each one of us probably thought the other was having a senior moment- after all we were headed in that direction and in a few years we would be there- and those Senior moments would simply became ” the way it is “.
We politely ignored each other’s embarrassing slip with reality, but as I picked up my slice of pizza I didn’t see Shadow Girl sailing down the street with purpose with her guitar on her back.
Clear as day, I saw myself with my hair trapped under the collar of my jacket heavy black jacket with my guitar slung over my shoulder. I saw myself not looking from left to right. I was looking straight ahead. I was going somewhere. I was sure of it.
I put my pizza down and picked up a napkin and pretended to wipe my mouth so that no one could see me cry.
Mia and Gerty were sitting on a park bench just across the street from the Lander House watching the camera crews and the ghost hunters and the famous Medium, Mr Newport doing whatever it was one does to get ready to tape a tv show.
” I think Mr Newport is so debonair.” Mia sighed. ” I wish I lived in a haunted house. I would love to have him sit across from me and take my hand in his and help me bring light to the dark places that haunt us all”
” The where? Are you serious here Mia? He’s a ghost hunter. Tell me. What does one do with a ghost they’ve hunted down?”
” How should I know?”
” Well. You’re such a fan. So take a stab at it. Do they cut their heads off and nail them to a wall? Turn them into rugs or belts or umbrella stands? All hunters take trophies Mia. It’s the nature of the beast.”
” You have no Soul Gerty . None. You could travel around the world and end up sitting on this park bench across the street from that awful building and still wonder if Becks still makes strawberry milkshakes with fresh strawberries and not frozen.”
” Becks makes the best strawberry milkshakes Mia.”
” Well. I don’t care what you say. Mr Newport is my favorite TV star. I think he really believes in what he’s doing and he helps people Gerty . What’s wrong with that? Look. It’s not like he’s actually hurting anyone. I mean. Seriously. He can’t, can he now?”
” He certainly cannot.”
” I’m glad you agree with me.”
” I’m not agreeing with you, I’m stating a fact. ” Gerty told Mia.
” I just don’t understand why you hate him so.”
” I hate him, ” Gerty said for the hundredth time that month, ” because he’s vain and stupid and that accent of his has got to be fake. That’s the worst. That stupid accent. I mean, he doesn’t even try to be convincing. He has got to be the worst actor on the face of the earth and he must have a million fans. How does something like that happen?”
Mia shrugged and looked away from Gerty .
” Mia. This guy is so bad. Look over there. The Lander House. The Infamous Hospital where the story says the staff disappeared and the patients were all found murdered in their beds and instead of taking all those dead people to a cemetery they buried them on the grounds behind the hospital because there was so little left of the bodies to bury. Why Mia did he chose the Lander House to look for ghosts?”
” Because it was the scene of a terrible tragedy and sometimes tragic events imprint themselves onto things in the physical world and they get replayed over and over again.”
” You got that from the tv show, didn’t you?”
” So the Lander House wasn’t the hospital, The Prefontaine Hotel-” Akela pointed to a large brick building behind them ” was the hospital where the staff did disappear and twenty patients died and they were buried on the grounds because the Prefontaine was a charity hospital and in the old days that’s what they did to people who died there. The only weird thing was them turning it into a Hotel. Still. Do you know who gets that history wrong? Historians and Ghost Hunters- and do you know who duped them into looking at the wrong building? The Developers that turned the Hospital into a hotel.”
” Well. I’m sure there are ghosts at the Lander”
” Mia, there isn’t a single one. It’s just a building with a bunch of junk in the halls and paint peeling off of the walls. That’s it.”
” Well. I think Mr. Newport’s heart is in the right place. I think he really does want to understand the next world. I can see it in his eyes.”
” Oh Geeze.”
” Mia, I don’t care that he’s never actually seen a real ghost or been to a real haunted house or that he’s got a silly accent. He wants to find those things. He’s a true romantic.”
“Well. He’s not going to find them over there. That’s for sure. And if you and me went over there right now and told them that boring brick building across the street was the…”
” Hotbed of paranormal activity.”
Gerty took a deep breath and ignored that last comment from her friend. ” real scene a terrible tragedy and mystery they wouldn’t care because that…” she pointed to the Lander House ” looks better on film than that…” she said waving her hand at the Prefontaine.
” He could be sensing something at the Lander.”
” No, he isn’t and you can bet he won’t be sensing anything at the Prefontaine either.”
” Poor Mr. Newport.” Mia said.
” I wonder what his real name is.” Gerty asked.
Before Mia could answer they saw a woman from the Ghost Hunter crew pointing towards them and then she waved at them and crossed the street to where they were.
” Hi, nice afternoon isn’t it?” the young woman held her hand out and said ” my name is Adelle Peterman, I’m with the crew. I love your outfits. Especially your little hats. I didn’t think anyone wore those anymore. They’re very cool. Retro. Really. They’re awesome. “
Gerty kept her arms folded across her chest and Mia said:
” I love your show.” Mia making sure to smile and look not directly into ‘s eyes, but a little to the right. She reached out and rested her hand, softy on Adelle’s forearm and then she lifted her hand gently away.
“Wow. Thank you. We appreciate that. I was wondering if you ladies would like to be in one of our interview segments.”
Gerty told Adelle Peterman, ” there aren’t any ghosts over there you know.”
“I think there are. ” Mia added.
” Well, if you know any background about the Lander- we’d love to hear your stories.”
Gerty looked at Mia.
” Okay. Sure. Why not ” Gerty said. ” We’ve got the time.”
Mia stood up first and smoothed her white Nurses Uniform with her pale hands and as Gerty did the same Mia whispered into Gerty’s ear ” take it back. You know I’m right.”
” Cool it Mia.There aren’t any ghosts at the Lander….yet.”