Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 34

that the house was haunted. It wasn't. Then.

My natural assumption was that these ghosts had lived in the house, or had some other history with it. But none of them were connected at all to the families who had lived here, or to me. Why did they occupy their time with my company? Just because I was there? Why did I let them, rather than moving forward with my life, pushing those casual hangouts into friendships, the quick smiles by women into flirtations, relationships?

I stagnated. I ate dinner with dead girls. They didn't need to sleep, obviously, but they could lie down next to me in bed. They were reasonable facsimiles for real relationships.

Miko was the first I dared to ask about Esme by name. It had seemed too taboo at first, especially when any sort of logistical question made them flee. Maybe they were jealous. But I tried to be crafty. “This house is so old,” I said to Miko, who was watching me wash dishes. “I think there must be so many ghosts in it."

“Do you think?” She was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen table. (Esme and I had driven out to Reston to buy that table. At first we talked and listened to music on the 66, but car rides were like NyQuil to her, and it was warm because of how sunny it was outside. She quickly fell asleep and remained that way for half an hour, holding my hand while I drove with the other. I remember looking over at her, her head bowed, lashes dark against her cheek.)

“All of the people who lived here before. Do you ever bump into them?” I asked the question casually, but barreled ahead before she ever got a chance to answer it. “Someone must have died here―back in the day, even a servant, maybe. You must have seen Esme.” I said it casually, as if it were obvious.

"Esme?" Miko asked.

"My ex," I said, not turning around from the sink. "You know how it is,

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