by Dash Owens
Maeve tried to make friends. After the horrific first meeting with the clerks, Maeve told Edward she had no interest in returning to the library or doing any favors for the clerks. Edward seemed unfazed. “When you have eternity, nothing is permanent,” he stated impersonally, which Maeve found chilling. Like most of her evanescent thoughts, she let it go quick.
She did learn more about Edward, and those thoughts and curiosities remained with her as they spent more time together. While she peppered Edward with questions about the nonsensical logic behind the number of physical capacities ghosts seemed to have and not to have, she discovered he held no answers.
“Think about it like you’re a superhero now. You have these powers and abilities, but they come at a cost.”
“The cost being that we’re dead?”
“Sure, and we can’t touch or interact with most people. But there’s a lot we can do and see that we never would have been able to before. Think about it like the world has opened up.”
“You’re talking as if this is the best thing that has ever happened to you. Did you have a really shitty life before all of this or something?”
“No. I loved my life. I love life. I didn’t need death to teach me that.”
“I’m…” Maeve knew she had said something wrong. The dynamics of conversation worked differently when you couldn’t feel your own pulse.
“Don’t be sorry, really. It’s a fair question. I was a writer…I was becoming a writer when I died. I wrote all kinds of things, but they were practice for the big one. I was working on a novel and I finished most of it. I just didn’t have enough time.” Before Maeve could ask how, Edward told her. “Cancer. Classic tragedy made-for-TV movie, right? It was 19 years ago. I barely remember what the book was about.”
Maeve, lacking the uncertainty which obstructed many conversations in her lifetime, asked, “But what about the clerks? If they do favors, they should be able to do something for you. You dictate and they write.” Maeve immediately saw she had asked something obvious, or perhaps Edward was strangely affected, though in the moment she couldn’t comprehend how anyone like a ghost could be affected, and his expression (though it should again be remarked that all these living, active words lack the precision to describe the beings present in this scene) darkened.
“No. It isn’t possible.” It was clear Edward was uninterested in saying anything further.
For the next couple days, Edward showed Maeve a familiar yet unexplored Brooklyn from the one she used to live in. After the library, he brought her to a movie theater on Court street previously avoided by Maeve in her other life. “It’s open almost all the time” was all Edward had to say for Maeve to understand why they were there. When she was alive, the theater seemed large, messy, and it had a well-deserved reputation for being loud. When she was alive, she would have been modestly intrigued but nevertheless disgusted by the twenty-something guy in the last row at 1:45 a.m. masturbating once an hour while watching giant robots smash into one another. When she was alive, she would have mentally added the anecdote to a well-rehearsed response to someone suggesting the theater, and she would have gleefully delivered it at the first opportunity. Would. Now, she just moved away and watched robots ripping appendages as sparks rained across the screen and semen spewed all over the twenty-something’s clamped hand. Maeve struggled to care about a lot of the things she used to care about, which was further proven when she met Junie and Belinda.
She needed only to hear the Scandinavian-influenced ehs to be reminded of the stone-rolling souls of Purgatorio, though in Maeve’s imagination they were eternally pushing shopping carts across neverending concrete sprawl dotted with JoAnn Fabrics and Walmart. “What fresh hell,” she thought when she observed Belinda’s midwestern mom mullet and Junie’s black, elevated flip flops. Maeve didn’t imagine she could provide any sort of “physical” reactions any longer, yet this assumption was quickly disproven by Belinda’s screeching gaffaws when they first met.
“Well gash honey bear, you look aboot to rahn awaiy! ” Junie said in a voice that seemed to sing through a mouth full of mayonnaise. She turned to Belinda, “Her face iz fretteen!”
Maeve had a lot to say in response.
“I’m not fretting, I’m not used to meeting ghosts. I’ve been grappling with being dead, losing any sense of continuity and time, and I find myself getting extremely angry and wretched towards other people but it doesn’t feel the way it used to feel, it doesn’t feel like anything at all. I’m in a fucking disgusting movie theater with some other dead people, but for whatever reason the dead people I’m running into are photocopies of my extended family, and it is crazy weird and clearly it showed it my face.”
“Whad she say?” asked Belinda.
The thing is, Maeve’s inability to control her voice included occasionally whispering at such low volumes that her tirades were heard as disorganized mumbles.
“She may be a bit dim, Bellie. Shash.”
They went back and forth a few times as Maeve attempted to be audible and Belinda and Junie offered conflicting interpretations. Belinda tended to think Maeve was in shock due to her brutal murder.
“Dontchya think shez sain she was killed violently. Lookater head. Betchya bashed in the head, eh?”
Eventually, they understood one another, though Maeve reduced her words to: “My name is Maeve. I’m a new ghost.”
It was during the previews of a 1:35 pm showing of the Aladdin remake when Maeve found the necessary self-regulation to ask more questions. She discovered it was easier and easier to remember things she had said and heard.
“Did everyone just wander after they…woke up?”
“Woke up? From be-en dead?” Belinda always seemed to be laughing at Maeve, who found herself staring often at the gelled spikes of her mullet forever frozen in time, undefeated against all natural elements. “I always had Junie.”
Belinda and Junie both died in 2000 while visiting Junie’s son in the city, who had just premiered in an off-broadway play. They died in an accidental shooting at a bodega in Gowanus. It seemed like the ending of a very sad movie, or the premise of an NBC comedy. Eventually, they got around to telling Maeve about their hometown of Ishpeming, which Maeve pretended to not know of.
Edward disappeared often to complete favors for the clerks or to, in Maeve’s words, redeem his coupon for a read aloud with Cassandra. They spent most of the day still in movie theatres watching whatever was running. As each showtime ended, they wandered in and out of other showings, sometimes well into the third act. Maeve, Junie, and Belinda rarely spoke. They moved in coordinated murmurations from one picture to the next. Maeve enjoyed this routine — as far as she could “enjoy” anything. It was a time when her thinking paused. Even though her memory had improved, she found it required a concentration she never experienced before. She didn’t sleep, which meant all of her time could be filled with thinking and questions, yet she may as well have been collecting water with a colander. She preferred the movies. When she watched the movies, even movies she had seen a dozen times before, she entered a comforting, predictable pattern.
In the spaces of time between screenings, Maeve’s thoughts remained with whatever she watched. Would there be a sequel? Was that character dead in a permanent or movie sort of a way? Would those characters ever kiss? The movies and these thoughts were a useful dam to separate the thoughts and questions Maeve didn’t want. Sometimes, in the early mornings when nothing was playing, the dam cracked and the rivers of her mind flowed.
Did her family still think of her? Could she “ghost” herself onto an airplane to go see them? Why hadn’t she…no, some questions were not worth asking.
She entered the late morning matinee and relinquished what remained of her mind to Melissa McCarthy. Soon, it was August.