HAUNTING by Edee James

A ghost is a boy who always comes back to you.

We were kissing in his car, which he’d initially parked by the side of the road so we could volley insults at each other responsibly. With his breath sweet and warm on my neck, and his tongue darting in and out of my ear, it was easy to momentarily forget why we were fighting.

It was about another girl.

I grew up learning that a man will stray. You shouldn’t kill yourself just because your man is a community penis, my aunt said. All I had to do was pray he didn’t gift me something incurable. My position in his heart was solid if he had a string of female names on his phone, but it was ‘code red’ if he was focusing on one specific girl.

There was one specific girl.

The boy said it was either me or her whenever he was ready for marriage. The fight wasn’t about the fact that he had options. It was because he wouldn’t spell out my position in his list of eligible women. I told him to go and fix his limp dick, and he told me they were selling oils for my receding hairline. Then we were giggling and kissing, mouths and hands everywhere, stray moans escaping throats, goosebumps like we’d been submerged in ice. An army van screeched to a stop in front of us, tires spraying gravel and sand. Three soldiers leaped out with guns slung over their shoulders to buy roasted corn from a roadside seller. It was then I lost control of my bladder.

There was a pool of urine on my seat when the boy dropped me off.

We didn’t talk about me peeing myself. We didn’t talk about the fact that it wasn’t really about the soldiers–my dad was in the army, so I was quite familiar with officers. We didn’t talk at all.

It was about their guns. 

The boy dropped me off without a word. We had been on and off for five years. It was clear we were off again. Inside my house, I stepped out of my soiled skirt and flung my bra and wig against the wall. I shivered under the spray of cold water in the shower, but it was alright because it helped dilute my warm tears.

Right then, I knew two things:

1. The boy and I, currently off, would be on again in about a year
2. He was never going to marry me

I knew.

I have always known things. My cousin calls me before he bets on football games. My friend won lots of money after I blurted out winning numbers. When I was younger, my mother took me to a prophet because she couldn’t understand it all. A girl working in my mom’s beauty salon noticed how I always turned up right before my mom started eating lunch on her break. No one believed the girl, so she decided to set a trap for me. She bought ice cream and said my mom couldn’t eat it until a certain time. I appeared as my mother swallowed the first scoop.

A ghost is a dearly departed soul who doesn’t know how to return home.

I was drying plates in the kitchen the first time I saw the ghost. It was running up and down, restive. I told it to stop, then wondered if my insomnia was finally catching up with me. The next day it was back, a figure in white floating around the periphery of my vision. Annoyed, I told it I wasn’t responsible for its death.

I was there the day the ghost died. I had swept his skull fragments into a dustpan with my hands after the kidnappers emptied a clip into his head and spilled his brain. He had come to cut my uncle’s hair at home but stuck around because he wanted to help me clean the house. He owned a barbershop in town, and my uncle was one of his VIP clients. That Sunday, he finished his job and got paid, but he insisted on dusting the furniture before leaving. I pried the cleaning rag out of his grip after the police came and took my statement and his body. An officer scribbled something indecipherable as I recounted the event:

a. I was frying plantains when the kidnappers came
b. They took everyone to my uncle’s bedroom
c. They asked us all to lie facedown
d. They asked for a pen and a piece of paper
e. One of them asked if I was the maid, and I said yes because of the way his greedy eyes X-rayed my body
f. They wrote down the number we had to call to pay the ransom
g. They killed the barber on their way out because he recognized someone in the gang
h. No, they didn’t wear masks
i. They kidnapped my uncle

I told my aunt about the restless ghost, and she looked at me funny and asked me how I knew. Apparently, some prophet had told her the same thing. We brought people to pray and bless the house. 

A ghost is the first love you will never forget.

The boy came back. He glossed over the urine incident now that a year had passed, telling me how I had squirted and almost ruined his car just because of a little kiss on the neck. He suggested therapy when I told him about the dead barber and the kidnappers and the guns.

The boy and I started sexting back and forth until we had chapters of erotica. I’d wake up to the wicked things he was planning to do to me, and I’d reply, threatening something even more delicious. We threatened each other with ice cubes and whips, fire and handcuffs, lace and blindfold. Yet I knew that everything we wrote and did would only help his sex life when he married his specific girl. I was only helping him build a library.


Edee James is a Nigerian MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. She has been published in The Rumpus, Jalada, Munyori, and other places.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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