Ghost Story

So Larry should have stopped drinking, and popping pills, and living alone. He sits – well, sat – in the cube next to mine… and, he was a pretty regular guy. Regular in the sense that he was 53 and took horrible care of himself, ate a lot of Lean Pockets – a lot of Lean Pockets – and put the minimum effort  into his work. Maybe he was a little subpar for “regular,” but I’d like to think he wasn’t too far off.

We’d have regular movie nights at his house, cardboard Lean Pocket sleeves would be everywhere. I’d ask him, “Larry, you going to get yourself a wife? Somebody to clean up all this junk?” He didn’t like that joke. He might have been gay. Kept to himself for the most part, was very private about things, even though he let me come over to his house, and all. He seemed very unhappy… so I guess he must have been.

He used to tell me, this was a while back, that in a couple of years he was going to go to Hollywood. He was going to write “screenplays”. I told him he’d be better off just getting himself a nice woman and settling down here. I mean, he has a nice job, doesn’t have to work too hard. And we got that color festival in the spring – it’s something I can always look forward to. He said “No.” He was planning on saving up for a couple of years, taking advantage of the low rent we got around here and the lack of distractions so he could focus on developing his “craft.” Crafts, in my understanding, were stuff made by old ladies.

I myself never had time to find a woman. But it’s suited me nicely, and I figure I’ll get around to it, someday. A nice lady will come into my life eventually. I go to Karaoke night from time to time; it’ll happen to it sooner or later. I’ve got time. Not in a hurry. Don’t really think about it, much.

We have windows in our cubes of a little stream outside. I’d ask Larry why he wants to go to Hollywood, a city with a lot of pollution and people. You’d miss out on the nice quiet around here, I’d tell him. And anyway, I don’t know why he needed to be a writer. Enough stuff is written already. And I was okay with watching just old movies together. He kept on insisting we see the new ones, ones that were getting awards and stuff. I don’t really need new things, but I could tell he was unhappy, and sometimes he’d get really excited and say, “Did you see how he did that? That is why I want to be a writer.” So I said it was okay if we kept watching the new stuff.

We worked in cubes next to each other for ten years. He never brought any personal stuff into the office at all, no pictures or anything, I mean. A lot of people with families would have pictures of their kids, and he didn’t have any kids. Neither do I, but I brought in old calendar photos, like of barns, and put them up on my cube walls. Shouldn’t only be family people that get to look at something makes them happy. (I look at the one from last February the most right now. Bright red peeking out from all that white snow and the trees in front of it just a bunch of black sticks.) But Larry never had anything up in there. There wasn’t really anything to clean up when he died.

I was a little happy for him when he ended up dying. He didn’t get involved with anything around here, didn’t know anybody personally, and even the two of us were barely friends. Just the two resident bachelors of the place; that’s all we had in common, really. I thought it would be a relief for him to be able to stop wanting things for himself that weren’t readily available. I felt down, then, when he kept showing up to work. It’s like his brain and his body got divorced, somehow. And even though his brain wanted to go to Hollywood for so long, and become a writer, his body just wouldn’t have any of it. None of the getting up and changing bit. I suppose his body is in the ground now, somewhere. So maybe it’s his soul that’s tied to this place. His soul that got lodged here.

I had to tell my boss, “Larry’s here.” My boss didn’t care too much. “He bothering anybody?” my boss asked. “No,” I said, “just logging orders and running reports on his computer like always.” People around here are pretty relaxed; they don’t mind Larry being a ghost. He leaves his Lean Pockets in the microwave, though, sometimes. There have been some angry post-its in the break room. My boss figures all the better if Larry’s a ghost, because he doesn’t have to pay him anymore, and training new people is always so tiresome…