The ghost who lives in the hallway used to be quieter. When we first moved in, I’d see him only occasionally, on nights where fog was thick or the moon full. He’d just float there, bowler hat on, side of his face melted and slipping off, and watch me. As far as ghosts go, he was pretty harmless, which is why I never screamed. Never even told Ted about him. I’d just pass by him in the hallway, nod politely, and go about my business.
I think he liked being seen. I understood. The longer we lived there, the more he’d come out. Soon he wandered out of the hallway. He’d hover near the kitchen table and watch me do the dishes. Sometimes in the mornings, after Ted had left for work, I’d pour an extra mug of coffee and leave it on the table. I always made too much anyway.
He’d give me my privacy when I needed it. He was polite that way. Never spied on me as I changed, only came in our bedroom when the door was open, and always quietly disappeared when I attempted to do yoga or sit ups or some other exercise subscription service I’d cancel after the free trial period.
Sometimes he’d do the stuff ghosts are supposed to do. He’d knock books off the shelves, move a chair, scare the cat. Once he wrote me a message in lipstick on our bathroom mirror. I think he meant to be cute.
“That stuff is expensive,” I told him. He never did it again.
Only once did I try asking him how he died.
“Did it happen here?” I pushed when he didn’t answer.
He didn’t get mad, really, but stronger, almost. Less transparent, and the air buzzed. He didn’t like the question. I think, maybe, because he couldn’t remember the answer anymore. After all, could I remember being born?
“Doesn’t matter,” I reassured him. We were learning each other’s boundaries.
He was never around when Ted was. I think he was jealous of him.
“You’d like him,” I tried to convince him. But we both knew the truth.
He’d scowl at the messes Ted left. The dishes in the sink, the unmade bed, the overflowing trash he never once took out. After all, he lived here too.
My mom used to tell me that relationships are full of compromises. She’d say this as she ironed my dad’s clothes, did the grocery shopping, mopped the floors, did the laundry. I never told her that it seemed like she was the only one who compromised.
I tried asking Ted nicely.
“I worked all day,” he replied. “So excuse me for not taking the fucking garbage out the second I get home.”
The ghost got mad then. The lights surged. Flickered. A bulb broke. A door slammed. All very cliché, but I wasn’t going to tell him so. He’d done this before, I could tell; scared some past tenants away with it all, I’m sure. It probably made him proud.
“What the fuck was that?”
“What was what?” I asked.
He wanted him gone; so did I. In the end, Ted brought it on himself. Left behind a pair underwear, not mine. I found the ghost hovering over them when I got home from a weekend at my parents.
We were happier without Ted anyway. Even if the ghost never took out the trash or did the fucking dishes.
Hannah Gordon is a Detroit-based writer, coffee addict, and amateur baker. She is the assistant editor of CHEAP POP. Her work can be found in Burrow Press Review, WhiskeyPaper, Synaesthesia Magazine, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her cat and watching cooking competitions or vampire TV shows. You can follow her on Twitter at @_hannahnicole.