They headed back to Alison’s place together. Greg followed her into the house, talking casually about random things. Alison was grateful for the change in pace. She liked his uncanny ability to distract her when she needed it the most.
Alison made her way into the kitchen as he spoke, pulling out her coffee pot. She placed it under the sink faucet, filling it to the top with water. “Where was it you said you were born?” she asked.
“Massachusetts. It’s where my parents met. We didn’t live there for very long though so I don’t really remember it. I think it was about five when we came here.”
“I wonder what made them decide to move.”
“Work mostly. My dad was transferred so they didn’t have a choice.”
“Oh,” she said. She moved to the stove thoughtfully, placing the pot on the burner and turning up the heat. “I think I already told you I moved here from Philadelphia, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, I remember. You said your parents are still down there.”
She glanced back at him, resting her elbow against the counter by her stove. Greg was floating an inch above the couch cushion, his legs crossed Indian-style in front of him. “I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “I had to get away from there. Too many bad memories.”
If there was one thing she hated most, it was talking about her past and she knew that Greg knew that already. Still, that somehow didn’t deter her from confiding in him every now and then. That was the thing with Greg. She felt comfortable around him. “Especially with my dad. He still doesn’t believe me about seeing the dead. He tells the family his daughter’s gone crazy. It makes me so mad. The only one that ever believed me at all was my mom.”
He nodded. “I’m glad she was there for you.”
“Thank God. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself.”
“I know how people are. I can only imagine how hard it was on you,” he agreed. “When I was alive, I never believed in spirits either. I was one of those rationalists you hate so much. I always thought superstition and Ouija boards were for people that didn’t know any better. Or gothic kids, you know? Now that I’m dead, everything’s just been one big surprise after another. I bet your dad’s the exact same way.”
“I feel like I’m talking to an idiot when he’s around.”
Greg said, “You shouldn’t be so hard on the guy. It’s different when you don’t have the kind of ability you do. You see, you have proof. You see it with your own two eyes. Most people don’t have that kind of luxury. Even if they do decide to accept it, they have to rely completely on blind faith.”
“Oh, please,” Alison groaned, putting a hand to her head. “Don’t stand up for him now. That’s the last thing I need.”
“Sorry, sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to stand up for your dad. There was no excuse for the way he treated you.”
“No, I know what you were trying to say. It’s not like it never crossed my mind before. I just wish things hadn’t gone as awful as they did. You have no idea how hard it was to know you’re sane and have everyone accuse you every day of lying, of being delusional, of being schizophrenic. People call you crazy and you know you’re not. It hurts. It hurts your head and it hurts your heart. You feel so alone. There’s no proof so it’s just your word against theirs.”
“I wish I had known you back then.”
“So I could’ve been there for you.”
Alison laughed out loud at the comment. She didn’t mean to but it was funny to her. The water had begun boiling, making the pot whistle loudly in response. “I’m sure you really would’ve been there for me, Mr. Rationalist. I’m sure you would’ve helped tie the straight jacket around me too.” She grasped a coffee cup and a tin can of instant coffee from the cupboard. Throwing spoonfuls of the dark granules into her cup, she lifted the hot water and poured the liquid over the powder.
Normally, she didn’t like instant too much, but unfortunately, she had run out of ground coffee beans the other day and hadn’t gotten the chance to get to the store and buy more yet. After filling the cup to the top, she began rummaging through a drawer for a clean spoon.
“I’d never think you were crazy,” Greg reassured her. “I would’ve been there for you. Honestly. I mean that.”
Alison rolled her eyes, stirring the cup in her hand. What a goofball. Was that supposed to be some kind of deranged pick-up line? Hey babe, you’ll always be sane in my eyes. “Whatever,” she said. “I appreciate the thought.” She brought he cup to her lips, taking a sip. If she could, she would’ve mixed 2% milk into her drink but she was out of that too. Black instant coffee may not be the greatest tasting stuff in the world but it would have to do. She was still cold from standing out in the rain and her hair was still wet. “Anyway, the past is the past. I plan on keeping it that way for as long as possible.”
Greg looked melancholy when she said it. “The past is the past, huh. I kinda like that. I wish I could think that way too.”
He shrugged. “It’s different when you’re dead. I don’t have much to look forward too anymore. I can either stay mad about the way I died and stay here, or I can forgive and forget and move on to the other side. Either way, I’m not happy. It doesn’t change what happened.”
“And what did happen?”
“Nothing, as far as you know.”
“That’s real nice,” she said sarcastically. “‘As far as I know.’ You’re such a jerk.” She had moved from the kitchen to the couch. Taking a seat beside him, she arranged herself on the cushion so that she was facing him. “Speaking of. As far as I know, you died drowning in your own puke. That means you have no one to blame but you.”
“And if that were true, I’d totally agree with you,” he replied. “But, then again, if that were the case, which it’s not, I doubt I’d still be here right now.”
“Your ‘unfinished business’, right?”
“I bet it feels cool in your head making yourself sound so important.”
“I’m always cool,” he reminded her.
“Bah, anyway. You do what you want.” She sipped her coffee. Such a nice distraction. Only Greg could provide it for her. Thankfully, he hadn’t mentioned the mirror or the figure of Death or anything else from the drive home. He was considerate enough to take her feelings into account, despite his curiosity over the situation’s possible connection to his own death. It was sweet of him. She felt that it was his way of putting her own needs before his. Not that she was into that kind of thing, putting the woman’s needs before the man’s or visa versa. She simply felt flattered that he acknowledged her feelings and had left her alone about it.
It must’ve been hard for him, when all he must’ve wanted to do was ask questions and questions and questions and badger her about it until she went deaf from it. Even if she didn’t say it, she appreciated the generous gesture. It was one of things she liked about Greg most. His ability to be generous when the odds were against him.
They spent the rest of their night together like that, talking about nothing in particular or of any specific importance or relevance. Her eighth cup of coffee was sitting in her hands when she fell asleep on the couch like that.