I brought Rocco his brown bag lunch, like I did every day.
The Strand theater was dark and closed; inside they were getting ready for their next production. I handed over his lunch with a quick kiss and a pat on the bum, and left. The Strand is old, its ghosts noisy; I had a hard time shutting them out even when it wasn’t this close to Halloween. The big glass doors closed behind me, the musty carpet smell still in my nose. I breathed deep the autumn air, taking in burning leaves and the bright edge of winter.
Hauntings are like scents. I get a whiff of something and it either passes me by or leads me. The dead break me into pieces. I need to help them, but it makes me damn dreary company. Rocco, who loves opera, calls me his Camille then and takes good care of me.
I should tell him I love him.
After this Halloween, when the thresholds can’t be so easily crossed, I promised myself. My nerves tingled like hot wires. On the sidewalk, body on autopilot, I turned for home.
I stopped dead at the sound of my name.
WumpaWumpaWumpaWump. A lush syncopated bass line floated by me as if anxious to cross the busy street.
…someone left the cake out in the rain… echoed in my ear, then abruptly shut off. A distant sound of cheers and applause followed.
“Do you need help?”
Feminine sobs answered me.
The song was important or the singer? Donna Summer or Richard Harris? Or was the clue Summer, as in the season? Or the song, MacArthur Park? For all I knew there was a pun or a name hidden there.
I needed more from her. My deeper mind, soul, or subconscious acted as a mirror. The more information, the clearer the picture.
Of course, the closer to Halloween, the easier to send the unquiet spirits onward. The spirit had drawn me into her circle, so her walking into my dreams that night didn’t surprise me.
Stage lights. A gun goes off three times. Three people, shadows on a stage. Two men and a woman. A love triangle?
Three more shots. Look harder.
I see….Donna Summer? A glitter ball slowly revolves above her on the stage.
She wears a spangled halter, black skirt, and high heels. Ebony curls fall to her shoulders, and ruby lipstick highlights her smile against her brown skin. I smile back in the darkness of my dream.
She throws back her head and laughs. I almost see why she finds this funny. She pulls on a bright white feather boa, but then drops it and drags it along the floor, back and forth, a little agitated. Her ankles are thick and the high heels appear larger than I expect.
When I woke up in the morning, I understood her impatience with me. My ghost was a man in Donna Summer drag.
Rocco told me over late breakfast that the Strand had been a cabaret-type venue once with live bands and drag performances in the 90s. We were too young then to have gone to any of those shows.
We did a little bump and grind in my kitchen, singing (badly) the chorus of “Bad Girls.” Then Rocco kissed me breathless, pinning me against the wall next to the broom closet.
When I went to the library, I found my ghost.
Halloween night at the Strand, I said goodbye to Rocco and settled in for the real performance with dread and anticipation. I sat front row center, and fell asleep, moving easily into the deep inner space of vision.
When I opened my eyes, she was there on the stage in her glitter and heels, smiling at me.
“I didn’t think I’d see you again.” There was a throb of hurt in her voice. The statement was not directed at me. The play had begun. “Jesus, these things are killing me.” She kicked off the heels, and removed the wig, laying it on a chair. He winked at me.
“I was going to leave, Mark, but I want you to come with me,” The second spirit said behind me.
“Baby, you know I can’t. This is a good gig.” The singer’s voice was smooth, and deeper with the wig and shoes off.
I turned to the man Mark addressed; another black man wavered in my sight, their voices an echo that had yet to fade.
My dread increased. They’d been dead for almost twenty years; the pain still raw and permeating the space we inhabited.
Aaron’s fear for Mark grabbed me as he passed. He jumped up on stage to stand with Mark. They stared into each other’s eyes, their expressions potent with love and sorrow. They fell into each other’s arms as hot tears ran down my cheeks.
“You don’t want me to leave?”
“I don’t, I don’t,” Mark sobbed.
“I know it.” Aaron soothed, ghostly arms holding Mark tight.
“But, if I leave with you, Sam will follow us. I’m afraid he’ll hurt you.”
“If you stay, I know he’ll hurt you,” Aaron said.
As if summoned, a shadow moved through the stage curtains.
Sam, the newspaper had told me in lurid terms, had been Mark’s lover. His possessive rages had provoked Mark into leaving him for Aaron. Sam throbbed with danger the color of newly spilled blood; his jealous anger righteous and sharp as a knife ready to strike.
Yet a tiny light shone near Sam’s heart. In the darkness of his soul, since the twenty years since their deaths, this light had come to life. It hit me like a sledgehammer. Love. Despair. Regret.
I cried out a warning anyway. Sam shot them twice and both bullets pierced them through. Arms still entwined, they fell to the floor, and their blood spread across the stage.
The third bullet was, of course, for Sam.
For me to see and hear them so vividly, the veil between the worlds of life and death was indeed thin on this night. The lover’s, I sensed, were anxious to go, but Sam kept them here. His thirst for revenge fought with the soul’s yearning for forgiveness.
“Let them go, Sam,” I said. “It’s not your time.”
Sam reappeared stage right with head down and empty hands out. The only thing that lit him now was the tiny flame of hope. Mark and Aaron had been so angry and afraid of him for so long, they couldn’t see the way out, further trapping them on this plane. The lovers stood with their arms around each other again.
Aaron, who had been ready to go when the play started, turned as gossamer curtains blew out, inviting the spirits to walk through. I knew that the star-dappled corridor led to the Light, but not what lay beyond it.
Holding onto Aaron’s hand, Mark smiled and twiddled his fingers at me as the pair passed through the curtains.
Tell your man you love him, Joey.
Overcome, I put my head in my hands and sobbed. I knew him by his cologne. Rocco sat beside me and pulled me into his arms so I could weep on his shoulder. I’d never been given advice by my spirits before and managed to whisper, “I love you, Rocco.”
Great stories for our blog hop this week:
October 31: Kate W., Skye, and Heloise (Jan)