Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
There are moments in one’s life, when you stop in the middle of everything and say to yourself, “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.” Holding Lori to me and dancing across the gym floor, breathing in her hair and the scent of her skin, would have been one of those moments. But the truth was the rest of our life had already ended and we were now just two wraiths discovering the true affection of another that was denied us in life. Still, the moment was eternal, seemingly endless, and I hoped beyond all hopes, that if I could take one memory with me when our ghost life was over, this would be it.
The DJ, having reclaimed his turntables, spun the perfect songs for young lovers. Cutting Crew’s “I’ve Been In Love Before,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, and my personal pop favorite, “Purple Rain.” It was during that song, we finally came up for air and dared to say a word.
“Wow,” Lori breathed.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Wow.”
She looked around at all the other kids. “I wish they all could see us.”
“I guess we are still nobodies.”
“That’s alright,” I said. “I kind of like it that way.”
She raised her face to me again. “Yes, so do I.”
“Why did I wait so long to kiss you?”
She smiled slyly. “Because any earlier and I would have kicked your ass.”
I grinned. “True.” Then I kissed her again, not worrying if I had butt kicking coming or not.
The song changed mid kiss, and the sounds of excited kids applauding and cheering us on made me smile. But pulling away from Lori, I realized it wasn’t us they were clapping for, it was the song the DJ selected. Michael Jackson. Thriller.
Lori laughed, and it was the most joyous sound I ever heard. She grabbed my hand and said, “Come on,” as she led me over to where a large group of students were doing the signature dance from the popular video. Thankfully, the only living dead in the room were us. Still trying to avoid “bumping” into other students, we joined in the best we could, though neither of us knew what we were doing. Brian and Kelly were better at it, except they didn’t care if they passed through the other students or not. They were having just as much of a blast as anyone else. The same could be said of Donald, as he randomly danced beside other students, mocking their moves with great exaggeration. I got the feeling his silliness was for our benefit. If you’d stood us all next to each other, you would have thought we were all friends. That for years we’d been close companions through and through. Seeing us at the dance, it would be hard to believe that just days ago most of us spent the majority of our school life trying to avoid the others. For three of us anyway, we just wanted to be invisible. And now we were.
“You want to get some fresh air?”
Lori smiled. “I wish we could.”
“Okay, let me rephrase that. Want to get out of here?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I think I’m done with my Molly Ringwald at the prom moment.”
“Pretty In Pink wasn’t that bad.”
“Oh no, it wasn’t. I loved it actually. Though it pissed me off. Ducky should have got the girl.”
We left the dancers to the gym floor, making our way for the exit. The rest of the Dead Kids Rule gang were lost in their own evening that they didn’t notice we were escaping the scene.
“I wish we could have seen it together,” I said, as we passed through the wall and into the night.
“It would have been a nice first date,” she agreed. “And it would have given us a year together instead of a few days.”
I didn’t want to get depressed, and certainly not over a movie that had come out last year. “I like the first date we were given,” I said, reaching for her hand. She curled her fingers around mine.
“Oh, you think this is a date?”
“You didn’t even buy me dinner, shame on you. You dance with me, kiss me, and now you want to take me home already. Am I that bad a kisser?”
I looked at her a moment, trying to gauge if she was being serious or not. She wasn’t. But I was. “You’re the best, Lori,” I said, and pulled her close, enveloping her spectral form into my arms. “And you make me feel the best, too.” My lips found hers waiting, and our mouths softly collided as the stars blinked overhead in the October sky.
“You guys are starting to remind me of the face sucker in Alien,” Donald said from behind us minutes later.
We stopped kissing and nearly laughed in each others mouth. “Donald,” I said. “You would interrupt Madonna losing her virginity.”
He laughed this time. “Like I’m that old.”
“Is the dance winding down?” Lori asked him.
“Nah, it’s just boring when no one can see you making fun of them.”
“I can imagine.”
“And you know the party is winding down when they start playing oldies,” added Brian, who had also arrived with a flushed Kelly in tow.
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What are they playing?”
“Don’t You Forget About Me.”
“Dude, that was only two years ago.”
“Like I said, oldies.”
“So, what’s next, guys?” Kelly asked. “I’m tired of being the bride.” She closed her eyes, and like Tabitha on the old Bewitched TV show, nodded her head with a wrinkle of her nose and changed back to the clothes she was most comfortable in. “There that’s better.” She put her hands to her hair, teasing it with her fingers. “I like my hair big, but not that big.”
Brian decided he didn’t want to be Frankenstein any longer, as well, and changed back into his usual kind of lumbering idiot. “It is Friday night, everybody.” He looked at me. “Headbanger’s Ball,” he said with a grin.
I didn’t take him for one who watched the popular MTV show, even though for me it was like watching the Bible reveal itself to sinners. “So?” I asked, with a noncommittal shrug.
“So, everyone should be watching it, dummy. And I do mean everyone.” His mischievous grin told me he was back to being the king of pranks.
“Yeah!” Kelly whooped.
“Oh god,” Lori mumbled. “Now it’s Bon Jovi for everyone.”
We left the dance behind, but not its memories, and hours later we were going house to house, turning on televisions and tuning them to MTV, cranking the volume as loud as it could go. For those Television sets that were already on, it was fun to walk by them and watch the channel change, enraging unsuspecting viewers. Some nearly jumped out of their seats, when the volume went up and Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ assaulted their sensibilities. Just the visuals alone was enough to send them into cardiac.
We’d gone through about a dozen houses, when Lori and I started stumbling on the secrets. I had never really thought about the lives that other people lead. I’d always just known what went on in my house, and didn’t really care about what my neighbor was doing. As far as I was concerned, everyone had their own lives, and whatever they did with theirs was on them. But being a ghost gave you a different view of things. You were able to move among people in their own homes virtually undetectable. All the things they didn’t want you to see, you saw. All their private moments could be exposed to you if that’s what you wanted. It is not the way I intended things to be. Ive always been respectful of one’s own space and privacy, but the crying baby changed all that.
Lori and I had split away from the others, choosing to move as a pair through the houses on our hair raising Headbanger’s Ball adventure, when we entered a house who’s quiet was being shattered not by heavy metal on the TV, but a baby squalling like somebody stole his milk and blanket. We quickly followed the headache inducing sound to a small room set up as a nursery.
The room was your typical baby friendly place. Done up in pink with My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite as its motif, it should have been a calm and peaceful place. But it wasn’t. A Bay was screaming its head off in the crib, desperately trying to get someone’s attention. When Lori leaned over the crib and opened her mouth to “shhh” the baby, I didn’t think anything would happen. After all, we were ghosts, and only one other living person had even seen one of us in this state. Infant babies were different though. Uncluttered with all the emotional, rational minded baggage of age, they obviously could see us.
The screaming infant girl saw Lori leaning over the railing. It was clear right away she could see the teenager who had come to her cry. She stopped screaming, yet still awash in sobs, and cooed at Lori.
“Hush,” Lori said quietly. “It’s okay, baby girl. Mama Lori is here.”
I stood there in shock, wondering if the baby could both see and hear her, and when I too leaned over the crib, the infants eyes turned to me and widened in joyous surprise. Now there were two friendly faces come to comfort.
“It’s alright, little one, “ I whispered. “There’s no need to cry.”
As if fate were attempting to prove me wrong, the baby’s door banged open, the knob striking the wall as it came to rest against it. Into the room walked a woman, clearly out of her mind and removed from her senses. A rubber tube was wrapped loosely around her arm and in one hand she held an empty syringe. Her eyes were wild and crazy, but not nearly as bad as Lori’s in this moment. It was the easiest thing in the world to know what was going on. This mother, if you really wanted to call her that, had left the baby to shoot up. For her, the drugs were more important than the well being of her child. This may seem like a harsh assessment, but the fact the baby had been crying for so long, showed where the mother’s concern lied.
“What the shit is going on here?” The woman slurred, her damp unkempt hair sticking to her sweaty face. “You shut up just as soon as I get here?! Are you just trying to punish me, you little whiny bitch?”
“No, I am,” Lori said, picking up a small metal trash can that sat beside the crib. She hurled it at the woman, who was too slow to react. The metal clanged against her head, and dirty diapers spilled out of the can to land on the woman, now sprawled out on the floor. I would have laughed at the scene, or called out Karma, but in her drug addled state and armed with a syringe , the woman clambered to her feet, looking for her assailant. Any normal person would probably have freaked out and ran in terror from the room, But she wasn’t normal or freaking out, at all. In fact, she was charging right at Lori.
Even though she had nothing to fear, natural instinct and surprise made Lori back pedal to get away. The woman passed right through Lori and hit the floor with a thud. “Damn you, “ she snarled. “What the hell are you? Get out of my house!”
She got back up, and shook her head, as if trying to make sense of it all. She could clearly see Lori, and turning in my direction she saw me too. Perhaps the drugs had opened the doors of perception, allowing her to see all states of reality. We were as real to her as the crying baby itself.
“Get away from my baby!” She screamed, suddenly acting like any normal mother would, protective and angry. She lifted the syringe as if it were a weapon. “What do you people want from me?!”
Lori swung. Her open hand smacked the syringe right out of the woman’s grip. It went scattering across the floor, and stopped at my feet. I lifted my foot and crushed it under my heel. “We want you to be a mom, “ I said.
Tears welled up in the woman’s eyes. The wildness seemed to dissipate replaced with anguish. At first, I thought her sorrow was over the crushed syringe, but she took the rubber tubing from her arm and flung it in the corner, letting out a wail born of guilt and regret. She sank to her knees on the floor, with her head in her hands. “Oh god, I’m sorry, “ she cried. “Please, don’t take my baby.”
I don’t know what she thought we were. She knew we weren’t human agents from welfare or the Police. Perhaps in her drug altered mind we were avenging angels or demons of justice sent to punish her for the life she lived.
Lori took a step towards her. “My mother was selfish too, “ she said. “And now it has cost her her family. Step up or let somebody else raise her.”
The woman was shaking. If Lori could, she would have smacked the drugs clear out of her bloodstream. Instead, she turned from the woman and walked back to the crib. She looked down at the child , who had started crying again. “Shhh, it’s okay, little one, “ she said. “Mommy has been gone from your life awhile. But she’s coming back.” She turned her gaze back on the woman. “Aren’t you?”
The woman hung her head in shame. “Yes,” she said quietly.
“And what kind of mother are you going to be?” I asked.
She dared to look up at me. “A good one,” she promised.
I instantly regretted I ever smoked weed. Though I wasn’t a regular user by any means, I thought to myself that if I had lived, I too could have progressed to this stage eventually. For this woman, drugs had taken her over and become her life, her happiness, her very reason for being, when it should have been the baby she brought into this world that provided those things.
Lori, having successfully quieted the baby, stepped aside, as the woman got to her feet and approached the crib. “I’m so sorry, Bethany. I..” she sobbed in her tears and she picked up the baby and held her to her chest. She lay the side of her cheek against her daughter’s head.
“Don’t make us come back,” Lori said. She walked across the room to where I waited.
“I won’t,” the woman said. “Thank you.”
“Thank yourself. We’re all in your mind. You woke yourself up.”
We both passed through the wall and left the room. “You want me to find her drugs and dispose of them?” I asked.
“No, “ she replied. “She has to do that on her own.”
We left the woman’s house, trusting her to do the right thing, and start life over as the mother she should have been all along had the drugs not taken hold of her. Lori sat down at the curb and began to cry. “Donald’s right. I don’t want to know everyone’s secrets.”