I don’t even bother to pull myself together, I just wait and watch. They come in the living room and I see it is a young couple. They are tan and blonde and attractive and are carrying boxes. They have pink skin and breath and are food for the flies. I hate them on sight.
They leave and come back more times, with things of all sizes and many more boxes. They leave and are gone overnight. I look at their things – the outside of their boxes, their couch and their chair. I can glean nothing about them. I know when they come back I will be waiting by the door so I can leave.
In the morning only he comes back.
I stay, and I watch.
He works in silence all day, putting together a bed and a desk and a bookshelf. He does not unpack a stereo or television. No iPod or computer. His cell phone sits on the kitchen counter not making a sound for what seems like three whole days. I start to think I have lost all concept of time since I died because he does not eat or rest for what seems an eternity. Keeping in mind how I’ve spent the majority of my afterlife, this is a bold statement.
Finally, I can no longer take the silence. “What is wrong with you,” I say. “Where did your girlfriend go? Are you ever going to eat? Do you have a job? Do you have a TV?”
He does not answer me, because he cannot hear me and it is infuriating.
I follow him into the bedroom. He is hanging his clothes in my closet. I want to jump on his bed and empty his drawers. I want to mess with his clock and dump his books. I do none of these things, because I am incapable. Instead I watch as he hangs up his things. He hangs dress shirts and pants and sweaters. He hangs t-shirts. And from the bottom of the last box marked BEDROOM he pulls out a Letterman jacket – from my school.
If I could breathe, this would take my breath away. “I went to that school,” I say. “I went to that school. HEY! I WENT TO THAT SCHOOL!” I am pulled together so tight and hard, I can see my hand clear as life – I reach into the closet and yank the Letterman jacket right off the hanger and hold it for a second – a nanosecond. I am present, triumphant! Then it drops to the floor.
He sighs in annoyance at the jacket – the sound of it stings me. He snatches it off the floor and hangs it up, zipping the front to secure it.
If I was a breather, I would describe my expansion as a deep exhaled breath. A breath that spreads my awareness throughout an unlimited space – I have no edges. No hard shell. I am a cloud of nothing and everything permeating the space around me. I am dry vapor. I am excited, exhausted. I cannot hold myself together, so I relax into the air and let him finish settling in.
When he leaves the next day, I follow.
We take the bus. He stands alone at the back though the bus is only half full. I hover nearby and watch him. He looks out the window and does not smile. He speaks to no one. Near the University we get off the bus.
We go to classes: history, then math, then an environmental engineering class, then art. We go to the cafeteria and he cannot decide what to eat. I watch the line grow behind him. I listen to the grumbling. He takes a sandwich, an apple, a carton of milk. I watch him eat, then one more class, then the bus home.
I could have left that day – I was free to float on, but that day my afterlife did not feel solitary – it was new again and I liked it. And it was only after an entire day of floating around him and near him I noticed his light did not hurt my eyes – it was dim. It was after an entire day of being his invisible shadow that I finally learned his name: Scotland Yard. (Three professors, “I assume you go by Scott?” Nods head in response.)
He does not leave the apartment the next day. I watch him move around the space without really thinking about what he is doing. He puts things away. He makes macaroni. He eats the macaroni. He washes his dishes. He sits in a chair. He stares into space, out the window.
I watch as night falls and he sits in the dark. His cell phone beeps a warning before its battery dies and he does not look up at the sound, does not move to charge it. I let myself spread out thin around the room and watch as he sits and stares.
In the morning he goes to the bathroom and closes the door – keeping me out. I don’t mind. I need the time away from him – to figure him out.
Time to think.
I stand by the window and watch the world wake. Cars file past the complex, moving too fast, heedless of danger. People talk on cell phones and put on mascara and take the corner at top speed and drink their coffee and yell at their kids; staring at them in the review mirror while accelerating forward. I imagine them going on with their days and want to know at once where my mother is.
And I want to know how long it has been since I died.
And I wonder if any of those drivers who do more than drive in their cars will end up like me today, and who will cry at their graves.
My thoughts hurt.
As I stared out the window, thinking these thoughts, he made his escape.
I hear the door close and it is too late. I am alone again in what is no longer my apartment.
I start to worry about myself. Is this the end of Dead Darby? I have not had feelings for months – maybe years. Now I am having feelings and I cannot think a straight line. My perceptions are shot. I am less aware than ever. I did not hear him get ready and gather his things. I missed it completely.
I look around the apartment for some clue to where he went, who he is, when he would return. His school bag sits where he left it, beside the door. The bedroom door is closed – locking me out.
I cannot blame him for leaving me. He does not know I am there. I understand now – I am the interloper and it is time for me to go. I will wait by the door for him to return. I will forget his name and move out of my building and find a way to cease to be. Resolved to this, I pull in tight and assume my position by the door. Then I spot a difference in the room: a paper on the counter where no paper was before.
No one ever passed a note to me in school. I never saw one passed. I never heard anything about secrets or lies or declarations of love or hate. I never got a letter in the mail. No party invitations, no postcards from family traveling around the country: Greetings from Jackson Mississippi, The city of Grace & Benevolence; Viva Las Vegas, Wish you were here!
No one wished I was anywhere…until today.
There it was: a note on the counter, under the corner of the dead cell phone. It was for me. It said, “I know you are here, if you can – please leave.”