A 100% True Totally Not Fictional Ghost Story
He follows me everywhere: work, gym, drive-thru, home. No one else
sees him—not my brightest students, or the woman on the treadmill
next to me, or the man who gives me my veggie burger. Not even the
dog sees him when she wags her tail right through his torso, but I know
he is there. Always, I feel him; I can never forget the feel of him now.
One day I ask him, this ghost of mine: “Please, won’t you just
I could go, he says. But I’ve been alone for so long, and you are
so very beautiful, he says.
I feel broken, he says.
I feel more than hear myself say, “If I can fix you, I’d be very
Over time, I come to enjoy his company, like the imaginary friends my
kindergartners bring to school. And the longer he stays, the more often
he smiles, and I find myself smiling too, watching him in a front-row
desk while I teach phonics, floating in the passenger seat on the way to
the grocery store. I smile to make him smile. I want my joy to be
contagious. But as the weeks become months, I begin to grow tired. My
cheeks hurt, my eyes too. The more he smiles, the less I do, his ethereal
pearly whites make me crazy. It’s fucking exhausting to try to be happy
all the time. I feel not chosen but haunted.
I hear you now, thinking, “If he’s smiling, how bad can he be?”
But his smile—after a while, it’s not enough. Soon your love for his
upturned mouth will cause you to long for a kiss. But you can’t kiss a
ghost. No matter how persistently he lingers. And suddenly that smile
you can never share with him becomes the saddest thing in the entire
“Stop,” I say, one summer evening. The sun stays late in the sky
and I don’t see a single human of flesh and bone, just his foggy presence
behind me as I kneel in the garden. “I’d rather you haunt me like a ghoul
than a friend,” I beg. “Hide between the wrapping paper tubes under
the bed and creep behind the cracked bathroom mirror, move my keys
around the house and close the back door when there’s no breeze—
terrify me, frighten me! Just stop smiling at me like I’m something
He raises a hand like a cloud and rests it against my cheek. It
passes right through. You have made me feel so good, he says, an
apology and a thank you all in one.
I’ve gone out on a date only once since having my ghost, just to try it,
with a boy who looked at me like I was a star in the sky. I’d hoped that
just by being near him some of that affection would pass on to me. But
in the Outback parking lot after dinner, I saw my smiling ghost over my
date’s shoulder. I let the boy with stars in his eyes kiss me; I leaned way
back when his lips touched mine, like dipping in dance. My date likely
thought it was romantic but I knew it was my body trying to get away
from him even as I was slipping my tongue in his mouth, pressing my
fingers against his cheeks.
My ghost was still there when I opened my eyes and he
followed me home like he had followed me there. I think I hate him
but I know I love him, and so I do not call the star-struck boy back. (I
hope he finds a girl who thinks the world of him and leans into his
The day comes when I can’t get out of bed. I call off work, turn
to him, sigh. “This can’t keep happening.” I raise my hand to wave him
away, like you do with smoke or a bad smell. Then I notice my arm has
taken on the same wispy composition as his. The triangular black and
white pattern of my bedspread is visible through my skin.
I leap out of bed and check my reflection in the mirror, and
yes, there I am—solid still, except my right arm. My ghost is fluttering
about me. He has no idea what’s happening, but I do. I reach out with
my ghost hand to touch him as I have done hundreds of times, expecting
to feel air and disappointment, but when my palm feels his cheek—
clean-shaven, but scratchy still—I begin to laugh. He brings his right
hand up and lays it on top of mine, but it passes through my fingers and
then through his face. I drop my ghost limb, stunned. His right hand is
as solid as mine used to be.
He stares at his hand without satisfaction or a hint of deceit. He
did not know this would happen.
I am not sorry, standing here with my hand on his cheek. Finally,
this love that has been building inside me like a storm has found a way
to do something. I thought at times I’d drown in that love before it ever
had the chance to rain on him, but here it is. Touching him, I have never
loved him more.
My transformation is complete by sundown. With every part I
lose, his solidifies. I only wish we did not have to be mirrors of each
other, that we could exist together on the same plane.
He stands before me, a man again.
“I am happy to do this for you,” I say, and I don’t know if I mean
it but I think I probably do, and that’s the worst.
He smiles once more, and then he leaves. I hear he falls in love
with a woman tall and blond, and maybe one day he’ll marry her.
This selection comes from the book, Pretty to Think So, available from Selcouth Station Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.
Samatha Edmonds am the Fiction Editor for Doubleback Review, a new lit journal in the Sundress Publications family, as well as the new Assistant Fiction Editor for Sundress Publications. My work appears in Ninth Letter, The Rumpus, Black Warrior Review, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. I currently live in Columbia MO, where I’m a PhD student in fiction at the University of Missouri.Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin House, The Washington Post, Pacific Standard, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
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