Andrew was walking back home. He carried a bag of groceries in his left arm leaving his right free to tap nervously on his leg. It had been hard to go back home the past few days, and not for the reasons anyone would think.
He entered his apartment ogled by doorman's sympathizing eyes. What was he to do instead of putting his own down and keep walking. Thankfully the elevator was there so he didn't have to stand that pity shower for long. As he went up he remembered how simple thing were a week ago. He and Joshua would spend their days chatting about work, videogames, that hot neighbor who smelled weirdly of cabbages. Shit, life was easy then.
Andrew stepped up to his door, fondled his keys, hesitated for a bit, but entered with a sigh. Joshua was in the couch playing videogames, not an unusual sight, but Andrew was uncomfortable nonetheless.
"Hey man, how was it today? that jackass of a boss fired you yet?" said Joshua. "Not yet, but i'll try harder tomorrow" Andrew responded with a forced smile. Having put away all the groceries, Andrew began to make for his bedroom. "C'mon man, im joking. Sit down, let's play some smash bros."
Andrew never responded, he just slumped in the couch, his mind bubbling with activity. How could he just sit there and pretend nothing is happening. Does Joshua even know? He must! How could he not? what does it even mean if he didn't? He grabbed his controller and started playing.
"You're going as Yoshi? it's your funeral" said Joshua. There was a time Andrew would have laughed at that, but that particular circumstance he found no humor in it.
After an absolute massacre by Joshua he pushed Andrew playfully with his shoulder, which made him stand and rush to the kitchen.
"What's the matter? sore loser."
"I-im just going to make some tea"
"Could you grab me one? Oh! And keep na ear out for the doorbell, I ordered pizza."
No reply was given.
He put the kettle on and stared at it, trying to will a solution for this particular conundrum, as Joshua played loudly against Donkey Kong. Andrew thought about the many difficult conversations he had with Joshua throughout the years, but nothing could have prepared him for this. The kettle started rattling, sign of the boiling pressure inside it. Andrew felt much empathy for it at that moment, he too felt the pressure boiling.
“c’mon Kirby you’re better than this!” he heard Joshua say loudly.
The whistling of the kettle rummaged in his mind echoing the all-consuming thoughts he wrestled with least he go insane. The idea grew in his mind. Maybe I’m crazy, it’s the most logical solution and would save me from having to deal with this crap. I mean, there was no way this could be true, how could this be real, I mean… the man is dead!
“Fuck!” Joshua yelled, as one of the cups Andrew had laid down burst into many fragments.
A shiver crawled up Andrew’s spine. “What happened?” he heard Joshua from the other room. “Nothing, I just dropped a cup” he said hastily, cleaning the room of shards, grabbing another cup and filling both with hot, and probably un-soothing tea.
He stood on the doorframe, watching the apparition demolish Bowser. “Do I stink or something? – Joshua said smelling his clothes – get over here.” Andrew moved in a robot-like fashion and sat at the far end of the couch, almost falling off. Joshua eyed him curiously. “What’s going on man? You seem different.” Andrew couldn’t help but give a slight chuckle, yeah, I’m the one who seems different. “I… I just feel like we haven’t talked in a while, what happened to you this week?” This is good, Andrew thought, maybe he’ll figure it out on his own, that might save me from whatever could happen when he realized what he was.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”
He put away the controller and stared at him. It was uncanny how you could almost forget at times that those eyes were dead, the mannerisms, the voice, everything, if he weren’t slightly translucent it could be easy to think of him as just another guy.
“Well, let me think. Hmm, I talked to that guy in the comic book store, you know, the one that kind of looks like Elvis – Come on, you know what I want you to talk about, you have to know! I need to talk about this! Andrew thought as Joshua continued – …Anyway after he kicked me out I headed to the park where I- I..” A dark fear crept up on Andrew’s back. This is it, he thought in horror and relief. When a sudden buzzing came from the door. “Pizza!” shouted Joshua as his roommate blinked dumbly.
The specter went for the door, opening in a quick motion. The pizza delivery guy was looking down with heavy eyelids at the order “Large peperoni and..” he stared for a second, his eyes and mind trying to make sense of the gelatin-like figure in front of him, but in the end he just dropped the pizza on the ground and ran franticly down the hall.
Joshua watched him go, puzzled, he grabbed the pizza from the ground, looked back at Andrew and said with a smile. “Man! Either I really do stink or these delivery guys are truly losing their marbles. Either way, free pizza!”.
This clearly isn’t working, Andrew considered calling someone, but who? We all know the song but unfortunately Ghostbusters aren’t real and I don’t think Bill Murray can handle this. The Police perhaps? No, he would be laughed at. The Feds maybe? Or even the CIA? But as much as he wanted to be done with this, films taught him that one way or another that call ends with a probe up someone’s butt. Also, what if they do experiments on him, he was afraid but he never lost sight that the gooey gelatin man struggling to open the pizza box was his friend, his best friend. He bit his lips and tapped nervously on his leg.
Could it really fall to him to break the news of his friends death to himself? How was he qualified for that? He took a semester of psychology in collage but he didn’t even need it to tell this would leave a scar on a man’s mind. How was he qualified for this? He worked retail! What a spectacular step-up, from dealing with whiny costumers to being front and center in a paranormal confrontation.
He suddenly saw the room as if looking from above, what a great mess, here I am, about to have dinner with a goddamn ghost all because I’m too much of a wimp to say anything! This realization brought forth a searing feeling of affirmation, this is it. It has to be now.
“Josh” - he said as the “man” grabbed hold of a fat slice of pie.
“What?” he grunted taking a big bite of peperoni.
“Josh, I need to talk to you”
“Ok, let me just...”
“Now!” he said with ferocious intent.
The undead placed his slice back with a look of concern and a little annoyance. Andrew lead him with his eyes until they were both sitting in the couch. He drew in a sharp breath, mustard his wits, look dead center in the, well, dead eyes of his friend, and said:
“Listen man, how long have we known each other?”
“Too long” Said Joshua, wandering what this was about.
“Yes, and you know I love you right?” his voice starting to quiver.
“I know man, I love you too, what’s going on?” the specter actually looked concerned.
“You know exactly what is going on! You must! I mean how could you not?” Andrew said standing up and pacing around the room.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Josh said with a puzzled look stamped in his face.
Much like the water in a broken dam, the following words came upon in a flood.
“You don’t know! Oh my god! What does that mean? – looking with the upmost confusion at Joshua, who returned an equally confused look – This is insane!”
Andrew stared at Joshua. “You’re D.. Hmm” he grunted.
“Dude, you’re starting to freak me out, what is it?”
For a moment Andrew pondered the situation. He felt an intense need to talk about this, but at the same time he worried that he would leave. A little less than a week ago he buried his best friend, he had never felt such pain, he thought of all the things they would never do again, all the things he left unsaid, and now he was here, translucent and dead, but here. The unnerve of seeing him, apparently clueless of his present circumstance, weighed on his heart. Would telling him mean be the end of this unnatural stay? He wanted more time.
“umm, it nothing” Andrew spat.
“Nothing my ass, I know you. What’s going on?” Joshua said, resolved.
“I want to tell you, but I don’t know if I should!”
“Oh! Now you got to tell me! C’mon spill this tea.” He perked up.
That first thing got the living man thinking. Is he obligated to tell him? By not telling him could he be trapping his friend on this mortal plane? He didn’t understand the rules, but the only person who could possibly tell him was the same person he couldn’t possibly tell. In the end he figured that if there was a single chance that he didn’t want to be here, or that he didn’t belong, he would have to tell him.
“.. Listen, I want you to tell me about what happened after the comic book store.”
This caught Joshua by surprise, what did that have to do with anything?
“I told you, I went to the park.”
“Think about it. Did you go to the park?”
“Yes... I mean, I think I did. - A look of strange reflection flowed through his ethereal face. – I left the comic book store stopped in a deli to grab some food. Then I… turned to cross the street and, no, I went to the corner to…”
“I grabbed a newspaper.”
“I don’t know, what is this?” Frustration filled him.
“You’re doing great, keep going!”
“I went to cross the street… the light was green… I think, no.”
Andrew’s anticipation was palpable in his eyes.
“I went to cross the street – He said reaffirming it – And… I think…
They both stood there, staring at each other, scared to break the stillness, as if to do so was to break oneself. Finally, Andrew gathered his courage and spoke.
“So… Y- You really didn’t know?”
“No, I mean yes… maybe? I didn’t “know” know, but… I think I felt it. Somehow.”
“What does it mean?”
“What does?” Joshua said looking down, and with a tone as if the question was inconsequential.
“Now that you know, does it mean you have to leave? Go to heaven or something?” – The thought brought tears to Andrew’s eyes.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to.” he looked up to meet his friend’s watery eyes.
Andrew moved in to hug him, but stopped himself and looked down. He felt a cold but comforting weight on his shoulder. They stood there.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Joshua said with a slight smile.
They both stood a bit, until it became awkward, he might be dead but this was never their relationship.
“Now – said Joshua trying to regain normality in his voice – Smash Bros?”
Andrew giggled at that, wiping the tears from his face.
“Sure, but don’t think I’ll go easy just cause you’re dead.”
“Too soon! – said Josh, which made Andrew look at him apprehensively – I’m kidding!”
They spent that night playing games, talking about the obvious subject, but also reminiscing about other days, other times. They were content with this bizarre new relationship. They laughed, cried. And more importantly, they never paid for pizza again.