She pointed to the bronze and wooden statuettes. The fact that she didn’t think the ghost was my husband, interested me while at the same time, I was happy he wasn’t messing with her mind. His own mind occupied a world of special relationships, mathematical probabilities especially about chess, an analytical cast inherited from his royal Russian forebears as well as the winter snow blowing across the taiga, a cutting sarcasm. But the fact that Woody was still rattling around in the basement saddened me. I was sorry he had been unable to find peace. Or maybe the ghost wasn’t one particular individual, but a collective history putrefying in a basement divided into a catacomb of dirt cells. We’d covered the largest section of the floor with cement. Smaller areas were repurposed into a writing room, an area used for my son’s hobbies, a storage area that on occasion became a Haunted House, and the rest, a place for lazy cats to do their business.
After my husband died of congestive heart failure, I sold the house, moved away, and raised my daughter. I met Jenning years later through a dating service. Casual dating had allowed me to reclaim my social self. I wasn’t expecting a great romance. But when I met him at the movie theater, he hugged me warmly. It felt easy and natural. He was a self-described “boy from the South,” new to the area and wanting to be introduced to the sights and sounds of San Francisco. I was a single mom proofreading essays for my daughter’s college applications. We watched Spiderman3, touted by critics as one of the best in the series, great special effects and acting. When the evening was over, he opened my car door and closed it softly. For our second date, we went to a pinball arcade. I watched him work the flippers, his moves. And as we got to know each other, I looked forward to his phone calls, our dates in the car driving anywhere, listening to music, laughter, eating at our favorite pizza joint, taking walks along Leona Canyon, being together in bed. But after seven years, our relationship fell apart.
I left Louisiana in the early morning. It was still dark. My boxes were packed along the back wall of the garage waiting for a trucking company to pick them up at a later time. It rained all the way through Texas. I stopped for breakfast in Canton outside of Dallas at a restaurant that was half “World Famous Hamburgers” serving beef, duck and elk burgers, and half a “World Famous Dairy Palace” serving 32 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. I was glad they also served breakfast and poured coffee. Both were excellent. At the cash register they gave out emery boards imprinted with the restaurant’s name. Plastic poinsettias were stuck inside boxes of plastic philodendrons. I’d been driving for hours and sat in a red-padded booth. Seating areas were packed close. In front of me sat a couple; a woman faced me, her hair carefully coiffed. She looked to be all about business. “What do you do on the weekend? What kind of chores do you do?”
The man answered without hesitation. He was prepared. “Oh, I like to relax, not do much. Sit around and listen to music. Putter. Fix things. Sunday I go shopping, laundry. Things like that. Like to pour myself a beer. I watch football, but I’m not an addict.”
Satisfied, she volleyed with, “Are you a thrower? Are you jealous?” He discussed his relationship style, no, he preferred to talk things out rather than hurl plates through the air, “I’m a communicator,” and while he was capable of jealously and hated to see someone he had loved go out with another man, he tried not to be a total asshole. They both seemed satisfied. From there, the conversation drifted to real estate and politics. At first I thought this woman was a real loser; I’d never heard of anyone interviewing a prospective lover about relationship style. But after I thought about it, her approach made perfect sense. Maybe they were considering moving in together. Maybe she wanted to know what to expect. He didn’t ask her any questions. At least not right then.