16th and Fine

I feel like I’m burning, in the hot and scorching sun. I feel like I am bleeding from a million small, deep cuts.

Jane sat in the grass at the corner of 16th and Fine. The sky was dark and the air was chilled. A breeze played across her face. Her phone lit up the darkness. She stared deep into the screen, scrolling through pictures, trying to decide which ones to use.

“Congratulations!” Jane wrote. Her friend’s face was bright and cheery. They had just welcomed a new baby boy into their life. And of course, he was just perfect.

Jane attached the first picture. It was of her and her husband, smiling at each other with their baby boy in hand. She stopped and stared at that photo, shaking her head at the Taylor Swift bangs she had tried to give herself. Scrolling once again, she tried to decide on the next one to attach. She scrolled through so many memories, she actually felt lost in time. When she was done, there were 5 or 6 photos collaged to the congratulations, with the hashtag #babiesareblessings. As she looked at the post, she felt uneasy. Was it too much? Maybe she shouldn’t post it….

Second guessing herself, she looked up to see a smiling Asian man walking up to her. His clothes looked worn and old, almost as if they were from a different time. Vintage. His pale yellow tunic swayed softly in the wind as he walked. His path was straight and deliberate. Jane knew he was coming to talk to her and knew she wanted to leave before a conversation began. The street light was about to change and a group of people were waiting to walk across. Jane stuffed her phone into her pocket, gave the man a nice nod and walked past him, shuffling in with the crowd and into the crosswalk. When she crossed the street she looked back and the man was standing where she used to be standing, staring at her. He was no longer smiling. The do not cross sign started to blink.

“Wait – Wait” the orange hand warned. “Do not cross 16th. Wait – Wait”. Cars started moving, blocking their view of each other. In between the passing cars, the man seemed to disappear. Relief crashed through her as Jane parted with the crowd and walked further down the darkened road.

Residential houses lined this area. It was just a short walk to her home. Jane kept her head down and pulled out her phone again. It was almost 2am. Her husband might be mad she was getting back so late. A young man ran up from behind.

“Hey!” He said. “I’ve got a deal for you.” Jane thought she saw him wink. “A pack of premium pre rolls, only $75. You want in?”

Jane smiled. “No – thank you.” She replied as she kept walking past him down the street.

Jane looked up as the young man ran away to find his next hustle. Her house was just a little farther up the road. Upon reaching her destination, Jane stopped to take it in. It’s orange brick and maroon trim stood out, and she could see lights twinkling inside the large front window.

As Jane stood at the bottom of her driveway, she hesitated. Maybe she shouldn’t be here. Maybe she should come back later…

A woman approached her this time.

“Excuse me, is this your house?”

Jane looked up to see a slender brunette with short chopped hair. She was wearing a tight white, long sleeved shirt with thick brown horizontal stripes and a pair of dark blue denim jeans.

Jane didn’t respond.

“I’m sorry, I know it’s weird, but…” the woman paused and moved closer. Her voice lowered as she leaned in, “there are ghosts that talk to me from this house.”

Jane looked away and walked up the driveway, pulling her keys out of her pockets. The keys jangled as they dangled from her hands. She was slightly intrigued by the ghost talk, but didn’t want to bring some strange girl into the house.

“Can I please just come in for a second?”

Damn, she is persistent. Jane thought.

“I won’t bother anything, they just keep reaching out to me and it’s hard to really hear them from outside…don’t you want to know why ghosts are haunting you? Haunting your house?”

Jane squinted at the woman, eyeing her up and down again. She seemed harmless, but still….
“Alright, you can come in,” Jane whispered, “but please, be quiet.”

The woman gave an excited jump of victory and waited patiently behind Jane on the porch.

Jane put the silver house key in the lock. Lefty Lucy, she thought as she turned it and slowly pushed the door open.

Standing in the living room, next to the twinkling Christmas tree, were her two boys. Seven and five. The seven year old was tall and slender. He was wearing robot pajamas, his yellow blond hair messy upon his head. The five year old wore grey pajamas with red lining on the collar and cuffs. His hair was a dirty blond, his eyes were brown and piercing. Both stood nervously and quietly, neither one moving as Jane entered the house.

“Oh Sam! Jane smiled, holding her arms out, craving an embrace. She wasn’t expecting to see them waiting for her, but she was elated they were there. Her smile faltered a little as Sam crossed his arms and looked down at the floor. With a furrowed brow, Jane turned her attention to the five your old. “My Honey Bunny, come to Mommy.”

He smiled at her and seemed like he wanted to hug her, but didn’t move.

Jane’s legs started to wobble and her knees started to buckle. She found herself kneeling on the ground, arms outreached, searching the room for….there he was. Her husband. He stood in the corner, his arms crossed as well. The red and green Christmas lights danced across his face. The air felt stuck in Jane’s chest. She couldn’t breathe…..she started to feel dizzy, light headed…she was going to pass out.

Then, someone placed a hand on her shoulder. The woman who had come in with her…

“You see ghosts too?” she whispered timidly.

Jane could do nothing but sob.