I saw a ghost in a hallway, and it was hardly my fault. My particular quirks of how I handle phantasms from my past is not something I go out of my way to conceal. And, quite objectively, given my location along a major east-west route through the mountains, it was merely a matter of time.
The first time I saw her was in a vampire den, years and lifetimes ago. A rockabilly punk-rocker dancing to My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult's Sex on Wheels, her mohawk was quiet impressive to behold. She was interesting, but we didn't speak, and the passing glance may have been my own monkey watching gaze. A subject with interesting plumage, nothing more.
Two years later, my grandmother was dying and I was getting down and dirty with aspects of self-destruction through the effigy of a whiskey bottle. She was quite sweet on Lee, and, aside from that luminous, if not misguided, crush, her grandfather died just a few months before. It was then we started talking. Even though I tried to help her get to know my womanizing tattooing friend a little better, we found ourselves becoming friends as well.
We'd go dancing. To coffee. She was invited into my home for a dinner party once and painted the thankga for the Tibetan Wheel of Life on my graveyard jacket, something I'd wear with pride. For a couple of years, we were pretty tight.
The last time I saw her was shortly after my birthday, years ago. Things had gone down between the jewel-eyed girl and I that involved shards of broken glass, and sobriety was something of a novelty to me. We hung out and gave our respective hugs goodnight. Our acquaintance faded into the odd correspondence, disappearing into that nameless void where friendships go when they die.
It had been a day of telling people where to go and suggest what to do when they got there. Nothing horrifically remarkable. No new tales to tell. But there was garbage to empty and warped closet door of which to argue with. It was after said argument I found myself turning into familiar rockabilly gait from a particular punk-rocker I once saw dancing in a vampire den.
As in many a ghost story, I froze; my mind struggling to come to grips with what the eyes were seeing. Trying to comprehend how real the moment was. As in all those ancient tales of macabre, I found myself unable to react.
"Whoa," she said. "Of all the places in all the world..."
I was still more than a little mute. My head cocked to the side inquisitively. Somewhere, my intellect was staggering through the quicksand and molasses of shock, trying to get its bearings.
"What are you doing here?" She asked.
"Getting ready to pull the trash," not the quickest of answers, even in the best of times, but I'd at least regained the use of my tongue and vocal cords.
And, from that bit of awkward flippancy, we started to play ketchup from the years and lifetimes since we'd spoken. She told me of having a four and a half year old daughter and was shocked to hear mine was nearly eighteen. Once upon a time, I was the rarity, being a parent. Nowadays, the shock comes in the reminding that my whelp is at least ten years older than oldest of many of my friend's offspring.
We hugged, verified numbers, and made the necessary noises of keeping in touch. From there, we went our separate ways. She was roadtripping to Viva! Las Vegas! and I had trash to pull before I went to tell a few other travelers where to go and suggest what they did when they got there.
So it goes...
Much later, I question our sincerity. Not that either of us maliciously during that unintended seance of memory deceived the other. In the moment, I think we both meant to try to stay in touch, and maybe mean it still. But, as our encounter fades into either, I wonder if the courage of conviction will remain, or, like the memories, will wander off to that void where friendships go when they die.