The Blood and the Smoke

Piano UnsplashBoone

“There’s a ghost living in my apartment,” Rivi says. “I woke up last night and she was in bed with me.”

We are having lunch in Chinatown, dumplings and roasted duck. Tina was supposed to join us, but she texted us to say she was on a mission and wouldn’t make it. She didn’t say what her mission was.

“She was curled up like a dog on my feet,” Rivi continues. “She had smoke where her eyes were supposed to be.”

“You were having a dream,” I say. I pick up a dumpling with my chopsticks and take a bite of it.

“Maybe,” she says. “But all my dresser drawers were open when I got up this morning, and my underwear was all over the floor.”

“You have a ghost with a lingerie fetish.”

“And I heard piano music all night long. Not very loud. I thought it was the neighbors, but now I’m not sure.”

“Now you’re just creeping me out,” I say.

“It was absolutely creepy,” Rivi says. “I haven’t seen a ghost since I was a little girl. He was Chinese. He had a red scarf on, and bloody fingers.”

“Jesus, Rivi. Were you living over an ancient burial ground or something?”

“Don’t joke about it,” she says. “There are ghosts all over the place. You just don’t know they’re ghosts, because they look like regular people, just walking around.”

“Eat your dumplings,” I say. “Before they get cold.”

“Look out the window,” she says, pointing with her chopsticks. “See that woman there? In the red dress? Why couldn’t she be a ghost? Nobody is looking at her except us. She could just disappear right in front of us, just like smoke blowing away.”

“That’s a weird logic to live by. So anybody who isn’t interacting with other people on the street could be a ghost? What if there are two people interacting? Maybe they’re both ghosts.”

She nods. “Could totally be. I don’t see why ghosts can’t have friends.” She eats a piece of duck, chewing thoughtfully for a few moments. “The ghost in my room was very pretty. Curly hair, a young face. Really creepy eyes though.”

“I still say you were dreaming.”

“I’m going to sleep with my camera tonight,” she says. “Maybe I can get a picture of her. I wonder if she’d even show up in it.”

“That’s vampires. Vampires don’t show up on film.”

“It’s a digital camera. Do you think that makes a difference?”

I have a sip of our hot tea. “No idea. Take her picture and we’ll see what comes out.”

“You don’t do a very good job of sounding like you believe me,” she says.

“Only ghosts I’ve ever seen are in the movies. Even if you got a picture of one, I’d think it was just a problem with your camera.”

She picks up a dumpling. “So the only way you’ll believe me is if you see one for yourself?”

“Probably,” I say, nodding. “Best odds are for that, yes.”

“Okay then,” she says. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“Wait, what?”

“Obviously you’re going to have to spend the night. Bring your jammies and be at my place by eleven. Maybe she’ll come back and sleep on your feet instead of mine.”

“I wasn’t really…”

“Do you have any other plans for tonight?” she asks.

“Well, no,” I say.

“Perfect. It’s a date.”

I look out the window again, trying to find the woman in red, but she has vanished. Like smoke, I think. To Rivi, I say, “Going to be the weirdest date I’ve ever been on.”

She smiles. “Stick with me. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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