In this month’s New Voices Revisited, we’re turning the calendar back to 2015, returning to Megan Giddings’s excellent “Double Exposure.” In the world of “Double Exposure,” landlords are required by law to disclose the presence of ghosts on the property. But strapped for cash, what are two recent college grads to do?
Anna shuffled off to bed, but I stayed up late looking up ways to ward off evil ghosts. Most took me to crackpot-style websites filled with bad grammar about using witch hazel and crucifixes and tulip bulbs hanging from windows. There were news sites about how we could hire an exorcist to walk through our home waving palms and chanting and smearing the doorway with holy water. And a few were for old men volunteering their time.
We were young and poor and the apartment was six hundred and fifty-five dollars a month with heat included. Yeah, the refrigerator and oven were small and outdated. But there was a large window made for growing plants and looking out into the park across the street when feeling wistful. I could already see myself holding a cup of hot chocolate and watching gray sky and snowfall on a January afternoon. I would have deep thoughts about light and color and be inspired.
“I do have to disclose the following as per state regulation 970,” our potential landlady said.
Anna and I exchanged a glance, wondering if the other knew what state regulation 970 was. I lifted a shoulder, made a huh face. She smirked.
“About ten years ago we had an old woman die on the grounds. She slipped on the ice and fell. It happens.” She spoke with her hands as if she were a magician trying to distract us from the true mechanics of the trick happening around us. “No one’s seen her or anything. There’s a ghost cat or two wandering the hallways. I also have to disclose the apartment below you is occupied by at least two ghosts. But they’re great tenants. And they might even offer to split internet with you.”
The landlady’s eyes were on the park. I turned. A pack of young men were throwing around a yellow Frisbee and trying to tackle the person holding it. One leapt over a black bench in an attempt to get the Frisbee. He fell and the landlady and I laughed.
“Ghosts are fresh. Very right now,” Anna said. She had the smile of someone who was considering whether her bedroom would look better with swimming pool blue or pistachio ice cream green walls.
“Are they? The ghosts. Are they?” I paused trying to think of a way to make the question reasonable, but not rude.
“Have they ever hurt anybody?” Anna blurted out. She wasn’t embarrassed by the question like I was.
“Well, honestly I don’t know. I mean the most we’ve ever heard them doing is making the cable go out or making objects float.” The landlady’s wrinkles reminded me of a colander full of spaghetti. “But I have to admit we don’t watch the news much anymore. Too depressing.”
If she had watched or read the news, the landlady would’ve known ghosts can cause someone serious harm by materializing in a person’s vital organs. She would’ve learned about how some are repulsed by the living and have moved to Antarctica to create a new ghost country. That’s why so few were actually around. And she would’ve known some ghosts are attracted to the essences of young people. The smell of fresh organs is like a perfume to them. They feel more alive than ever after contact with the young. She would’ve known scientists are still studying who gets to return and who remains dead forever.