Lunch with Ghosts

cooked rice and curry food served on white plate
Photo by Buenosia Carol on

“You wouldn’t have known me a year ago.”

“Could that be because I don’t know you now?”

“A smart one. I like it. I’m Doug. Douglas Tippen.”



“And your name is, too.”

“Ugh! Really? We were on the verge of a moment – and you killed it.”


“It’s gone.”

“I think you’re pretty and that kills the moment?”

“No. You said I was pretty. That’s what killed the moment. You can think what you want, I wouldn’t know.”

“A guy can’t call a girl pretty?”

“Not if he doesn’t know her and talks to her on a public bus – no.”

“Is that a hard and fast rule?”



“Because it’s creepy. Like all you want to do is hit a hot girl or something.”

“That’s stupid. I just think you’re pretty, end of story. If I wanted to talk to a ‘hot girl’, I would have approached the woman back there.”

“Back where?”

“The woman in the pink cardigan. Third to last row.”

“I don’t see a pink cardigan.”

“She’s right there. The seat closest to the door.”

“Keep your voice down!”

“I was just trying to help. Find her yet?”

“No, I don’t see a woman in a pink cardigan but I see a woman in a shrimp cardigan. The one with brown hair?”

“I thought it was black.”

“No. Hair brown, sweater shrimp.”

“What makes the sweater shrimp?”

“There an orangey tinge to it.”

“Hm. Learned something new.”

“Good for you. So she’s prettier than me, huh? Why don’t you talk to her?”

“I didn’t say she was pretty. I said she was hot.”

“There’s a difference?”


“And what’s that difference.”

“One has to do with the body, the other one has to do with the soul.”

“Is that it?”

“It’s the best I can do under the circumstances.”

“And what circumstances are those?”

“Talking to a woman on the bus who could decide to kick me out of this seat any moment now.”

“Oooh, a smart one. I like it.”

“You like me?”

“I didn’t say that. And which do you prefer- hot or pretty?”

“I thought that would have been apparent as well.”


“I try.”

“So why wouldn’t I have known you a year ago?”

“I had my head up my ass.”

“Sounds painful.”

“It was. My wife had died the year before and I was angry. Sad and angry.”


“I said my wife died the year-“

“Yeah, yeah. I heard that. What I mean… are you serious?”


“Why would you tell me that?”

“You asked me.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t have to answer or you could have lied.”

“Well, that’s not a good way to start a relationship.”

“What? I don’t know you. How can we have a relationship?”

“We’re getting to know each other now. Besides, I mean a ‘relationship’ as in relating. People relate to each other all the time and in that second, minute, hour or year those people are in a relationship. Mmm, makes me wonder what’s on your mind.”

“What’s on my mind is the fact you have very poor social skills.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, I do. The way you say things… really turns people off.”

“Well, you’re obviously not one of them. You’re still talking to me.”

“I just don’t think you should’ve said that about your wife.”

“Why? It’s the truth.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I’m trying to.”

“I don’t know you.”

“You’re starting to.”

“All I know for sure is that you’re odd.”

“Is that a good odd or a bad odd?”

“So what changed a year ago?”

“I saw her ghost.”


“My wife was killed by a car about two years ago. The guy who did it, had been working for 24 hours straight. He nodded off as he was driving home…. He hit her as she was crossing an intersection.”

“If what you say is true… I’m sorry. That’s so sad. What about the guy?”

“What about him?”

“I don’t mean- I mean… Well, the situation seems tragic… all around.”

“You’re right. I agree with you – now. There was a time I wouldn’t have. My wife encouraged me to see him.”

“Your wife… the ghost.”

“Yes. He and I have been corresponding. He gets out in a few months.”

“This sounds like quite the story.”

“It is.”

“Tell me more.”

“I can’t. My stop is coming up.”

“Huh? Oh, my god. You’re right! I mean… we went past my stop.”

“Sorry, Annalise.  What? Why are you looking at me that way?”

“I don’t know if I should be intrigued or run away”

“Would you like to decide over lunch? There’s a café a few blocks from my stop. It’s nice and open, on a busy street, lots of people.”


“Because I can touch my nose to my tongue. See?”

“You’re silly. Not that ‘why’.”

“Oh! That. You remind me of my wife. She was pretty, too.”

“What? You talk to me on a bus and ask me to lunch because I look like your wife?”

“No. Do you not listen when I speak? I said you remind me of my wife.”

“I think I feel a headache coming on.”

“Oh, don’t be like that. Here is my stop. You comin’?”

“Where is this place?”

“It’s two blocks up and to your left. See the yellow sign? It’s right there. You’ll be safe. I promise.”

“I’m either crazy or I’m dreaming.”

“There’s a sport!”

“Or a nutcase.”

“One can be a sport – watch your step – and a nutcase.”

“I should get back on the bus.”

“No, no, no. Come on now, we’re almost there.”

“Where are we?”

“Poets’ Ridge”

“Cute spot.”

“Yeah, I like the vibe.”

“I can see that. It’s… quirky. Like you.”

“You think it’s like me… and you think it’s cute…. So therefore-“

“Don’t even.”

“Okay. But I have to chalk one up for my poor social skills.”

“You’re terrible.”


“So… does this always win with the ladies? Your approach never fails?”

“To answer your question, I’ve never done anything like this before – except with my wife.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Yes, it is. Table for two, please.”

“You were saying I remind you of your wife.”

“That’s right.”

“But I don’t look like your wife?”

“Not at all.”

“Then how do I remind you of her? She had brown hair? African-American?”

“No. She was a blue-eyed blond. 5’10” and was very in shape. Obsessed with exercise.”

“I’ll have iced tea, please. So, she was the opposite of me in every way.”

“Not in every way, otherwise you wouldn’t have reminded me of her.”

“We’re both pretty.”

“Very pretty.”

“Shouldn’t you be telling me a ghost story about now?”

“Changing the subject. I hit a nerve. I like it.”

“You promised me a story.”

“My wife’s name is Zoe. After she died, I didn’t sleep very well. I had weird dreams I couldn’t remember, except one.”


“It was Zoe. She came to me… we would talk. That’s what the dreams were, just us talking. But I was too… angry. I couldn’t appreciate it, so I forgot about all but one.”

“What changed?”

“I don’t know. Time? Anyway, Zoe talked to me. Told me she loved me but she was scared of me, scared for me. She told me I had to ‘go see’.”

“Go see what?”

“I didn’t know at the time. I just woke up with a sudden urge to go to Walgreens.”
“Did you have the munchies? Are you on drugs? It would explain a lot.”

“No and no.”

“Sorry. That was out of line. Please continue. I get bitchy when I’m nervous.”

“I wouldn’t say that. Anyway, I went. I figured I might as well get toothpaste while I was there. I was running low. I stand in line and in front of me is a woman with two small children and a baby. She was buying baby stuff and two toys for the kids but she didn’t have enough money. Since it didn’t come to a lot, I paid for her stuff and my toothpaste. The woman waited outside, to thank me. She said things had been hard since her husband had been sent away-“

“Oh, my god! It was the wife of the man who hit your wife?”


“Then what happened?”

“Well, the whole thing spilled out.  I wanted to walk away at that point. Seeing the woman and the children… and how she spoke of her husband… made the man seem…”

“Knowing the man who killed your wife was a father and husband who worked to provide for his family made him seem less than the monster you built up in your head.”

“Exactly. Have some experience with this?”

“Some. Go on.”

“Anyway, I did walk away that night. But I ran into her again the next week at the supermarket. I had an urge to see a silly movie and I saw her again. She was with some friends. No matter where I went- there she was.”

“She was at all the places where you had a sudden urge to go?”

“Mmm hmm”

“Your wife?”

“Mmm hmm”

“Go on.”

“Finally, I got the hint – no. I have to back that up. I got the hint, alright, but I didn’t want to do it.


“Mm-hmm. I took the hint and went to see the man in prison. I wanted to shove that hint up his ass.”

“What happened then?”

“He walked toward the visitor booth then froze. He looked terrified of me, of what I might say and do. I’ve never had anyone look at me that way, Annalise, and I never want it to happen again. I can’t imagine anyone going through life with that much fear and me being the cause of it. Crazy, right? There I was facing the man who killed my wife and all I could think of was the pain and terror he was in – why are you smiling?”

“Oh. Sorry… I think… it was… good of you to… think of another person.”

“We talked a little while and I left, no yelling or cursing. I came back two days later and two days after that. After about a month I told him that I forgave him. It was an accident. And while I would always miss Zoe and I had no idea how I was going to deal with the hole in my soul… I wanted him to forgive himself because the answer to pain isn’t more pain.”

“Here. Take these napkins.”

“I guess I’m breaking the rule of no crying on the first date.”

“Is that a rule? Besides, I think ‘date’ is too strong of a word right now. Please go on.”

“Something inside me broke and something inside him broke. All the anger and rage and pain-“


“No, but it eased a bit.  George, the man in prison, didn’t know how to react until two weeks later and he had his breakdown or whatever.  We just held each other and cried. What? No jokes about that?”

“Not at all.”

“You’re different than most others.”

“So are you. Anyway, stop stalling. I want to hear more.”


“Among other things.”

“Okay, okay. Anyway, I started visiting George on a regular basis and it helped him a lot. He was on several suicide watches and his wife was worried. But my visits helped him… and me, too. The hole began to fill but I didn’t feel like my old self. I felt like someone new. George told me Zoe came to him in a dream. He told me things only she would know. I knew it was real. With her guidance, he started an emotional healing program for other inmates. It’s only been a couple of months, but it’s going well. And he told me he’s writing a book.”


“You looked shocked.”

“That’s because I am. What are you doing witht his experience? Are you writing a book as well? Would you collaborate with George?”

“No, that’s his path. My path is art. I painted as a hobby while I worked as an engineer. Now I do it full-time and I do alright. As for Zoe, she’s still with me. She guides me to this day. I had an overwhelming need to take the bus home and ended up having a pleasant lunch companion.”


“What are you thinking?”

“Do you think your wife is like an angel now?”

“Like an angel, but not an angel. That’s a completely separate thing.”

“Yes, angels are like the threads of the Universe connecting things because it’s their purpose. Zoe… is just being nice. Well… she’s just not being nice, she’s-“

“I get the picture… and it’s pretty cool. Thought a lot about angels, have you?”

“No, not a lot. I mean not more than the other things I think about.”

“Like ghosts?”


“Oh, come on! You gotta give me something.”

“Well, there are a lot of ghosts on my block.”

“Do you see them?”

“No… I hear them.”

“Ah, clairaudient.”

“Mmmm, hmmm”

“And what do they tell you?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I mean I acknowledge their presence but that’s about it. Otherwise, I treat them like most people- I leave them alone.”


“I’m sure most are cool but I know there are some that are….not. I’d rather not open that can of worms.”

“Now it’s your turn to tell me a ghost story.”

“Not right now, I have to go soon. I have to get my hair done.”

“Your hair looks fine to me.”

“But I remind you of your dead wife. So you’ll have to excuse my lack of faith in your perception.”

“You know why, right?”

“Your wife was open-minded, too?”

“Among other things… like you. You’ll tell me the story next time?”


“Good. It’s a date.”

“It’s a date.”

“May I-“

“Here’s my number- call me.”

“Thanks. Now, what were you saying about my poor social skills?”

“That they need improvement.”

“Hahaha. I can give you a lift. My place is just down the street. I have a car.”

“Do you really expect me to take you up on that?”

“No, but I wanted to offer nonetheless.”

“I appreciate it.”

“These things take time.”

“Indeed they do. How much is my part of the bill?”


“Here’s $10. That includes the tip. Putting the number in your phone already?”

“I take a lot of chances in life, but losing your phone number isn’t one of them.”

“Call me so I’ll have your number.”


“Got it. Thanks.”

“Until next time, Annalise.”

“Next time, Doug.”

© 2018 Genine Tyson

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