When Marnie stopped talking to me for absolutely no reason, I thought my life had ended. We’d been friends since childhood, done everything together, two peas in a pod, the yin to the other’s yang. I had believed that we would be friends forever. Obviously, she didn’t feel the same way.
I remember waking up on Monday, was it last week, the week before? Well, it was a Monday because I was headed to the gym before work, and we always meet up on a Monday for our weekly training session. No, it’s not a perve session, we do not check out the insanely tight buns and glistening pectorals on display in the weights room, most certainly not! We are committed to improving our own cardiovascular health with a Manic Monday workout to set us on the right path. Ok, workout might be pushing the boundaries of the definition here. We usually huddled together at the back of the class and angled ourselves for the best line of sight into the adjoining weights room. Just looking was enough to get our heart rate up, and as Trina, the incredibly fit, hyper-flexible, toned, tanned and terrific instructor repeatedly told us, the key to getting fit and losing those love handles was to increase our heart rates. Win, win, I say.
Anyway, Marnie just didn’t show up. Not like her at all. I had to ogle all that sweaty man flesh on my own, with no one to share the oohs and ahhs with. On the way to work, as I chugged down my habitual triple strength caramel-swirl iced coffee with extra cream (it’s important to stay hydrated after a workout, don’t judge!) I tried ringing Marnie. She didn’t answer, totally unlike her. She’s usually glued to her phone, even when we’re exercising, she has her Apple Watch connected to her phone and would take a call or send a text, much to the annoyance of those around her.
Over the next few days, I called, dropped by her house, texted, stopped by her work, emailed, showed up at her AA meeting, but to no avail. It was like she had dropped off the face of the earth. Either that or she was ghosting me. After nearly twenty-five years in each-other’s pocket, I was, admittedly, at a loss to understand the change in our dynamic. I racked my brain to think of what I had done to cause the rift in our relationship.
Maybe she was pissed because I had laughed when she told me she wanted to be a vegetarian. As far as I knew, Marnie only ate three vegetables, potatoes, beans and carrots and even then, only if they were steamed to within an inch of their lives. She turned her nose up at any other vegetable, gagged on broccoli, rejected pumpkin and manoeuvred peas to the opposite side of her plate rather than into her mouth. Surely even she could see that vegetarianism was probably not the most viable diet for her lifestyle.
I wondered if she had found a boyfriend. I had heard that a new relationship could interfere with friendships of long standing. We’d never had to test that theory before. Although each of us had dated over the last few years, none of the relationships ever reached that stage where choices needed to be made. Things usually fizzled out long before the newness of someone else could impact our friendship. I racked my brains trying to think who she could have met, where she could have met them. If it was a boy keeping her away, surely, she would ring me, and we’d at least squeal with childish glee as she shared all the juicy tidbits. We were never afraid of living vicariously through one another.
I was confused, saddened, angry and a little concerned, all of which were awkward emotions that festered uncomfortably in my stomach, each one fighting for supremacy at any given moment.
“Morning Janice,” I looked up as I heard my name called.
“Hey, Roger, how are you? Long time no see!” Roger Campton was the doorman of our building, but I thought he retired ages ago. It was good to see him back at his job and looking quite sprightly for a man who was surely in his late seventies.
“Good to see you too, love. You know how it is, can’t keep a good dog down.”
“You haven’t seen Marnie about, have you?” He’d always had a soft spot for her, said she reminded him of his granddaughter who had moved to the East Coast years ago.
“Can’t say as I have,” Roger said as he scratched his grey beard thoughtfully. “I don’t think she’s here, but if I see her, I’ll let you know.”
Roger really was a sweetheart, a good man with old-fashioned values. He made it his business to know what was going on, looked out for those of us he considered to be under his care, and ensured that everyone living in the building felt safe. That was his job, and he did it well.
That’s why, when I opened my door, it was such a shock to hear someone in my apartment. Roger must be slipping if he hadn’t noticed someone coming and going, or thought to ask me if I was expecting anyone. I could hear rustling coming from the bedroom. Someone was rifling through my stuff! Living alone, you get good at protective planning and I kept a baseball bat behind the sofa. I tiptoed across the room and slipped the bat from its concealment. With its comforting weight in hand, I sidled to the door and peered carefully around the frame. Best to see what I was up against before running in like a freaking god of vengeance.
“Marnie! What the hell?” Marnie was here, after ignoring all my messages, and she was emptying the contents of my dresser into a box, one item at a time. She was also still ignoring me. I put the baseball bat down, leaning it against the wall, where it promptly fell to the floor with a clatter. Marnie turned, her expression like a startled rabbit. Perhaps she had her earbuds in and was listening to music loudly and hadn’t heard me enter the apartment. Her face was worn and haggard, eyes red and hair noticeably unkempt. That was odd, Marnie never left home without a full face of makeup, even when she went to the gym. Something was not right. The fleeting thought crossed my mind: was Marnie in trouble? Was she doing drugs?
“What’s wrong? What are you doing here?” I asked her again. She didn’t reply, just groaned as she picked up the heavy box and carried it towards me as I stood in the doorway. Carried it towards me without stopping. Carried it towards me and, holy, flipping, fudge! She carried that box RIGHT THROUGH ME!
The sensation of Marnie’s body passing through mine was the most uncomfortable thing that I had ever experienced. Her every breath, thought and feeling slid past mine, and rubbed me the wrong way. As she stepped through me, I could feel every cell protest the invasion and my stomach threatened to heave as the implications hit me. There was a reason Marnie had not returned any of my calls, there was a reason Roger had not seen her enter the building, there was a reason she could just step straight through me. Marnie was dead, and this was her ghost haunting my apartment. I did what any sane woman would do when confronted with the phantom presence of their best friend, I screamed.
My terrified pulse galloped like a wild beast in my chest, hammering against the walls trying to get free. I forced air into my lungs with ragged breaths as I gasped, lightheaded, my vision spiraled and my stomach threatened to let loose its contents from both ends.
Through my panicked haze, I saw Marnie continue with her task. She rummaged through my cupboards and drawers and placed everything in boxes, but completely ignored me. I was rigid with fear as I watched her work, it was like seeing a movie with no sound. Even in death, Marnie had her phone with her and she answered an unheard call, speaking into the handset with voiceless words. When she hung up, she seemed to sigh and look around the apartment. She picked up a box in one hand, gathered her things in the other and walked out of the apartment.
Finally free from the terror, I was able to stagger to the kitchen table and collapse into a chair, my limbs still trembling. I needed a drink, a strong drink. There was nothing in my place, I’m not usually a big drinker and since Marnie had an issue with alcohol, I tended not to keep it around. Coffee, that was my addiction, but coffee wouldn’t steady these shattered nerves. I gathered my keys and headed out.
“You off again?” Roger smiled as he saw me coming, before his face creased in concern. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I gasped, and Roger chuckled at my reaction. “I have seen a ghost,” I told him. “How did you know?”
“Lucky guess,” he said, and gave in to a full bellied laugh as if he was sharing a joke and this was the punchline.
“I’m serious. I just saw Marnie in my apartment, and she walked right through me! She’s a spirit or something.” I listened to myself rambling and wondered if I should just commit myself to a mental institution now. I sounded crazy even to my own ears.
“No, I don’t think Marnie’s a spirit too. Not her time.”
“I’m telling you, I saw her and she walked right through me.”
“Oh, Janice.” Roger suddenly stopped chucking and stared at me with intense scrutiny. There was something in his gaze, something uncomfortable that I didn’t want to see. “Oh Janice, honey. You don’t know?”
“What? What don’t I know?” There was a cold chill and it was dripping down my spine, an ominous leak of blind terror that I couldn’t quite understand. Something within me rebelled and I didn’t want to understand either.
“Marnie’s not dead, she’s not a ghost,” he said kindly, gently with infinite compassion and sadness. “We are.”