Here’s another ghost story for you, dear Readers. The following scene, narrated by the main character, Morgan, was cut early on in the drafting of Man Whore. It reveals Charlie much more than the final manuscript does. But don’t worry if you haven’t read the book yet, because this won’t give away any spoilers.
It’s not true what they say, that ghosts are tethered to the spot where they died. I know because I met the ghost of Custard in a gay coffee house in Seattle. He told me the barista wanted a piece of my ass. I glanced over my shoulder to catch said coffee boy eyeing me. He winked; I left him my number on the way out.
Custard thought I needed more advice after that and became quite the pain in the ass. I hitchhiked down to San Francisco just to ditch him. Besides Seattle isn’t all they say it is. Except the rain. Fuck all that rain.
In the gay capital of the country, I shared an apartment with what had been literally a starving artist. It was this one that convinced me that ghosts were real and not just a figment of my alcohol-addled brains. Her name had been Charlie. Not Charlene, she insisted, but Charlie. She offered to show me her birth certificate, but then walked through the wall leading me to wherever she thought it was.
Charlie taught me new techniques. She may have never sold enough paintings to survive, but she had talent. So did I, even back then, but she helped me improve it. She taught me. She opened my eyes to the beauty only found in natural light. I never painted under light bulbs again once I learned to paint with Charlie in front of big, uncurtained windows, in the San Francisco sun.
That’s how I ended up in the dive of an apartment in Boston. It had huge windows that caught most of the day’s sun. Tucked in the corner of the building, I got east and north sunlight from morning through late afternoon. I didn’t return to Boston willingly though. That, too, was Charlie.
“You’re more than this,” she said one day.
I had crawled into a bottle one dreary morning. Rain clouds filtered light through fractured emo rainbows in shades of grey.
“More than what?” That day I had decided my frequent drinking had fucked up enough brain cells and she wasn’t really there. Sober, I knew she was real. Drunk, I doubted, and that felt normal.
“More than getting drunk off your ass, foolish boy.”
Today she had a short bob instead of her usual ponytail. She wore overalls and a button up shirt that was four sizes too bid for her. She was splattered with paint even though we hadn’t had decent sunshine for two days.
“Oh no,” I said waving the bottle at her before filling up my glass. “I will not fall for that crap. One man does not save the world. Look at Jesus. He just gave the world reasons to hate each other more when he really wanted everyone to be good and happy.”
She had this smile. I can’t really describe it. Her face was translucent and so was her smile, but her intent could never be clearer. I didn’t get it and she did.
“Being a ghost are you… I dunno, in with God or something?”
She laughed and it was musical and genuine. She wouldn’t mock me no matter how crazy my questions got.
“I’m in between,” she said. “I’m not there, but I’m not really here.”
“So you’re just trying to convince me to get my head out of my ass.”
“No, Morgan. I see things. You have this aura…”
I rolled my eyes at her.
“I mean it. Like when I told you to tone down the streaky little horsehair strokes.”
“Whatever. That was my idea.”
“Anyway, Morgan, you’re a fabulous painter, but there’s something else in store for you. You should go home.”
“Nah, I like it here. I have a girlfriend who never bitches about roses and chocolates and dinners out on busy, hallmark created holidays.”
She laughed and I knew if she had blood, she’d be blushing too. She and I both knew this “girlfriend” was just a fuck-buddy and Charlie didn’t care. I adored her; it was true. I knew she wasn’t real, but she and I had the realest conversations I’d ever had.
“I have to go,” Charlie said.
She never said things like that. She would be there one moment and the next I’d be alone. She’d show up the next day and continue our conversation as if she’d never left.
“I’ll be here.”
“I won’t. Morgan, go. This isn’t your place.”
“Funny, my name is on the lease.”
“Please,” she said.
That was the last I saw her. I waited around for three weeks, sometimes painting, often times drinking. She kept her promise; she didn’t return. When I returned to Boston, she’d already picked out another trashy apartment with big windows.