“Invisible Man” by Jose Fonticoba

It turns out life is pretty boring when you’re dead.

No one ever told me I died, but I figured it out pretty quickly. I was never going to graduate summa cum laude or anything, but I’m also not stupid. I figured out something was royally off when I woke up in a house I didn’t recognize and realized something was even more off when I walked up the basement steps, into the kitchen, then tried to leave. I was able to open the back door, but I couldn’t exit. Something held me back, and I know that in real life, magic force fields aren’t real.  That was my first clue.

The second thing that was off was that I had none of my personal effects. I didn’t have my phone (although I’m pretty sure I’d left that at the bar earlier that day). I didn’t have my charger (I think I also think might have left that at the bar?)  I didn’t have my keys, or my wallet, and while at first I thought maybe I’d been robbed, I also didn’t have the pocketful of change I always seems to accumulate on a day out drinking, or my Chapstick…or Altoids. A robber wouldn’t take those. I also couldn’t get my watch off.

The third thing that was off, and really the only upside to ghost life I could think of, is that I all of a sudden had 20/20 vision. This probably isn’t going to seem like a huge deal to those of you blessed enough to float through life without the assistance of glasses or contacts, but as someone who hasn’t been able to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without slipping on a pair of glasses for a good 90% of my life, this felt like a minor miracle, even more than whatever force field was keeping me in this house. I think I actually figured it out before I figured out the force field, because I’d only made it out of the basement and into the kitchen, and I remember reaching up for my glasses, realizing they weren’t there, and then being like, “Holy shit, I can see. What kind of magic is this?” Then I tried to go outside.

There are a few other perks to being a ghost I guess, besides the perfect vision. I don’t have to worry about money. I don’t have to worry about my weight, what I look like, or what I want to be when I grow up. It’s pretty carefree, and for someone as anxious as I am, that’s a bit of a blessing. This laissez-faire attitude has its downsides though. I try to worry about my family: my dad, my mom, my younger brother, my sister, about how they’re doing, how they’re coping, hoping they themselves are okay, but all I feel is apathy. Like, I want to care. I want to stress. I just can’t. I can’t even explain it other than that. The kernels of thoughts are there. I think of my dad, and I’m sure I miss him, but I don’t really miss him, not like how I used to really miss people, or love people, or get sad, or mad, or pissed off. Being a ghost is a little bit like always being on Xanax, which probably sounds like a selling point to some of you, definitely to the bulk of the mothers who live in my parents’ neighbourhood, but not me. I like feeling. I like emotion. Back when it was something I had to deal with, I’d rather work through something, even if it were a little bit hard, than just be numb all the time, and that’s how I feel now. Comfortably numb. Don’t let Pink Floyd fool you. It’s not glamorous.  

I don’t remember how I died. I surmised that I fell down the basement staircase in a drunken stupor. My death remains unsolved. I read about it online.

Let’s back up though.

I really knew something was up when the girls who live in this house came home. I’d been sitting around for a week or so, knowing something was really off, because I sat around for a week, trapped in a house I’d never been in, and never got hungry, never got thirsty, couldn’t remove my watch, saw perfectly, and never had to use the bathroom. I didn’t panic either, which was weird. I just kind of went with it. Being a ghost has made me very mellow. I just sit and I read a lot. They have a surprisingly good bookshelf for a college house. They scared the living crap out of me when they finally came back. Jacki, the girl who lives on the third floor, came home first. I was sitting in the living room reading some book I’ve already forgotten by Jodi Picoult, and all of a sudden she barges through the front door, her arms full of groceries, and right down the hallway, right past where I was sitting, to the kitchen to throw them all over the floor.

I screamed, I think. And I tried to make myself small. I didn’t want her to see me, and even though I had surmised by now that I was dead, my mind first went to “Oh shit, she’s going to call the cops,” and I don’t need that kind of hassle, ya know? But she just walked past back out to the car, and she carried in a bunch of laundry, and then a case of wine, and then her suitcase, and then more paper towels than anyone has a right to own, and then finally, she came in with a couple of shopping bags full of snacks, walked right into the living room, put those on the floor, and sat down next to me. She looked directly through me, grabbed the remote, flipped on the TV, and proceeded to watch America’s Next Top Model for like three hours, while I was frozen with fear right next to her. I dropped the book I’d been reading when she scared me initially, but after three hours of watching a bunch of girls named Lauren compete to be “the fiercest,” I figured that for whatever reason she couldn’t see me, and picked it back up to read.  That’s when I 100% realized I’m invisible, because Jacki slowly turned, looked directly at me, blinked a couple times, turned back to the television, then looked over again, and then just let out this blood curdling scream, the likes of which I’d truly never heard in person, and definitely never been privy to from just three feet away.

I threw the book across the room. It hit the wall right above the TV and fell behind it like it should, and instead of looking at me, Jacki then just watched the wall, just where it hit, and then looked back through me, and then got up and went outside. She left the door open, so I crept to it (but couldn’t exit, natch) and listened to her conversation. She was asking someone on the other end how long pot brownies stay in your system. I laughed. I’ve done my very best to not pick anything up in front of any of them since. I forget every now and then, but it’s crazy how unobservant people are. I ran into Lauren – not one of the ones on TV competing to be the fiercest but the one who lives on the second floor – in the hallway one time in the middle of the night when she was using the bathroom. I’d actually just been in there, because that’s where they kept the newer magazines. I was reading one while I walked back downstairs and didn’t even hear her coming down the hall.  She whacked her head off the open magazine and didn’t even flinch. I know she was aware of it, because she said ouch, but otherwise, she didn’t acknowledge that she just hit her head off of a floating magazine, or what I’m assuming appears to be a floating magazine. I didn’t see what it looked like from her angle, obviously.

You know what else I don’t see? My reflection. It’s frustrating because I really want to know if I’ve aged, or if whatever injuries I’ve sustained are still there or have miraculously healed themselves like my vision. I thought that was a vampire’s shtick, but I guess it applies to us ghosts too.

I feel like we’re kind of fed a lot of BS about ghosts, which makes sense since no one’s really able to live as a ghost and report back to the masses, but like, I think the whole concept was oversold to me, even though I don’t remember actively ever wishing to be, or even thinking about what it’d be like to be a ghost back when I was one of you living folks. It’s just that I feel like on paper it seems kind of cool. You get to float. You get to walk through walls. You get to pop out and scare people when you want to. You could gain vengeance on those who made you a ghost, or those who wronged you in life. You’re immortal in a sense. I mean, not really, because you are dead, but you’re existing in some kind of plane without aging or worrying about death. All of that seems great. The problem is that most of what we’re told about being a ghost isn’t true, and what is true isn’t all that great.

I’ve never floated. Not once. Maybe I can, but like, I don’t even know how to try. I tried jumping off the staircase and I just fell down it. It didn’t hurt, which is kind of nice, but really, why not just take the stairs? Is there a way I can launch myself? Is there something I can do to make myself buoyant? I guess I’ll never know, unless I meet another ghost, which doesn’t seem likely because I’m stuck in this house, and as far as I’m aware, I’m the only one here.

I could walk through walls occasionally. Sometimes. Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to which walls allow it and which ones don’t, or how sometimes I can pass through the bathroom door and other times I can’t. That’s frustrating, but also, when you walk through the walls, you get the smells that comes with passing through old wood or rotten insulation, and that’s no fun. That’s another complaint actually, that because I don’t have a sense of taste or touch anymore, my hearing and smell have magnified. Smells come in strong, and when they cook or party or have sex, I cannot escape the smells. When it gets really bad, I’m forced to just sit in the bathroom and sniff the shampoo…unless they just went to the bathroom. Then I take the shampoo to the attic, but the attic creeps me out. Things I never realized have smells have smells, like the outside of the refrigerator, the wall, a god-damn clock. You know what’s the worst? Sitting on the couch after a party. I smell every single spill.

I used to love scaring people. I got that from my mom. My stepmom really, but she raised me so that’s who I call my mom. My real mother died in a train accident when I was young enough that I hardly remember her. That’s another thing. I thought maybe we’d be reunited in the afterlife. I thought maybe I’d get answers to how she died, or a little insight into her life. She died with her boss. My dad thought she’d gone to a conference in Chicago. Their train derailed somewhere in Alabama. Was she having an affair? That’s something I’d always wondered as a kid, as a teen, and as a very young adult, and something I still wonder now, as a dead young adult, but I’m not getting any insight. There’s all the other stuff I wanted to know that goes unanswered too. Is the Bermuda Triangle real? What happened to the colonists at Roanoke? Who killed JFK? Why did no one watch Friday Night Lights? The only question that was answered was, “Are ghosts real?” Yes, Virginia, I’m right fucking here.

Anyhow, my step mom and I used to delight in scaring one another. My dad hated it. But now, maybe because of general Xanax-haze-like apathy, I just don’t care. It’s fun to scare people when you could laugh about it with them afterwards, but like, just watching Jacki lose her mind and then blame it on a weed brownie she had three weeks earlier that “must still be in her system”? It’s a letdown, man. It’s just not that fun. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just with a boring group. Maybe a new group of girls would invigorate the need to scare buried deep inside me, but I don’t think so. I think it’s just going to end up being like how skydiving was for me. People said it was a rush. I was like, I just fell…

I thought maybe I’d learn all the secrets of the world. I mean, all I could do is just observe people. I just watch and listen. All. Day. Long. Maybe for someone really into voyeurism being a ghost would be a big-ole-jackpot, but honestly? People are boring. Life’s banal. It’s been a year and a half now of just watching and listening, and all I’ve learned is that are just as good and just as shitty as you’d imagine. There have been no watershed moments. No big ah-ha’s. People shit talk each other a lot. They masturbate more than many of you would think, but remember that I died when I was a 21-year old guy, so for me? I wasn’t surprised. That’d been my reality for the past eight years, although some do it so quietly it’s truly unnerving. What else? I can’t even think. Everybody poops. Everybody looks embarrassed while they’re doing it too. People talk to themselves a lot or else don’t talk to themselves at all. Almost everyone googles stuff that could be considered perverse.

That’s the most banal part of this whole story. You know how I learned how I died, or more accurately, got the official confirmation that I had in fact died, because by the time I read it, I’d put the pieces together?

I googled it. I logged onto Jacki’s computer one day when she was in class, and searched Evan Sullivan, and that’s when I learned that my body had been found at the bottom of an embankment about a mile from this house. I broke my neck. Popular theories are that I died at a college party and then whoever found me didn’t want to get in trouble. Or they went all frat-style and just watched me die and didn’t call for help. I don’t have any recollection of my death or how my body got there, but I must’ve died here, because I have no other connection to this house and these girls, and it’s just…you’d hope for a more exciting death or maybe at least a more pronounced one, but from what I’m able to deduce, I got drunk and fell down a staircase? And now I’m just trapped here, mainly being bored out of my mind and mainly not even caring how bored out of my mind I am because I don’t care about anything anymore. It’s boring, and the boredom has made me whiny as hell, and then that’s the one part that makes me smile and laugh a little bit, how being dead has essentially turned me into an emo-teen, which just, I mean, that tracks doesn’t it?

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