The ceiling above my head won’t stop dripping, and ghosts hate visiting when it rains.
I’m painting my nails on a careful stack of books in the middle of my comforter, a receipt from grandma’s favorite restaurant, Jen’s All You Can Eat Buffet, draped across the top. The receipt is a last-ditch effort to keep any spills from the cover. If just one of my crisscrossed knees nudges the stack, it’s over for Jen’s, the book tower, and me, respectively. But right now, I’m kind of hoping my knee will hit it.
Jen’s. I see the glowing red sign in my mind, taking a moment to remember the details of the last time I was there. It was November 12th, 2017 (the receipt says so), and I must have gone with Grandma, because I always did. I’ll bet we sat side by side in the corner booth with the cracked cushion, foam exploding out of the seat, because Grandma was paranoid she was being watched for as long as I’ve been alive.
“It’s about the vantage points, Ruby—calculating your place in the room,” she must have told me. “I can see everything in the entire restaurant from here.”
And she probably could’ve—she had the angle right—if it weren’t for the fact that the lighting was already dim and there were usually a couple of bulbs out, too. That, combined with the fact that the mythical Jen had never gotten the memo that smoking equals bad, and I know Grandma couldn’t even see the waiters milling around until one of them was handing us the check. The air was always thick and cloudy, the haze a bitter, dirty fog that burned my eyes and nose in a way I kind of liked. It’s the closest sensation I’ve experienced to what it’s like to see a ghost. I probably commented to Grandma about it. She wouldn’t reply, not wanting to feed into what my parents called my “delusions,” but her eyes would sparkle in a way that made me know she believed me.
Grandma would start with salad, but I’d eat dessert first and work my way backwards. I can see her telling me off, but grinning all the same, her short black curls just brushing the top of her silver-framed glasses; she’d lean over, wrapping one arm around my shoulders, the other arm stealing a clandestine scoop of my brownie sundae for a brief salad intermission.
I can assume all this stuff, but I can’t really remember what happened on November 12th. What did we talk about? Why was it special? Why have I kept the receipt this whole goddamn time? And why, pray tell, do I keep seeing ghosts that have nothing to do with me when the only person who was something to me has stayed as silent as air?
The rain outside my bedroom hits the window harder. I wish I could be the sky, the rain, and the essence of wind—dispersed and whipping everywhere all at once, free and thoughtless. A drip from above lands directly on the receipt next to my outstretched fingers.
The nail polish I’m using is yellow, yellow like the lemons Grandma always warned me against eating because she said they would thin my blood. Yellow, like the dandelion wallpaper that I stared at behind Grandma’s head for hours every time we ate at the Buffet (no matter how many times she reminded me to make eye contact).
I’m trying to get a rise out of her today. All of this is just to make her mad enough to finally come keep me company.
“Please,” I whisper, finishing off my left pinky nail. “You’re the only person who ever thought about me enough to tell me texting would deform my thumbs.”
Pressure reaches down my throat and pulls a fist around my lungs. Leaning back to try and cry, I close my eyes when the nail polish wobbles. I don’t even try to stop it as it teeters over the edge, dumping entirely onto my floral comforter. Swallowing the bitterness of lemons in my throat, I hold my breath and wait.