“You seem a little blue today,” the Actual Ghost says to me, because I guess he must have died in a time before irony, or because maybe he has no idea that he is, in fact, entirely blue. “What is it?” he asks. “The two-hour delay?”
After a vaguely disappointing turn hosting the Golden Globes, the Poehler Vortex has returned with a vengeance, so rather than let him freeze to life in the car, I’d brought the Actual Ghost In The Car into the JCC with me, to run on the indoor track.
The track, surrounded by a metal railing that is intermittently interrupted by supporting posts, rises high above a gymnasium that is filled on one side with the daycare program’s brawling toddlers, and on the other with a handful of smelly, two-hour-delayed teenagers playing basketball. The track’s two lanes are just wide enough for two people to occupy at once, side by side, except you’re not supposed to: one lane is clearly marked “walk”; the other, optimistically, “run.”
The Actual Ghost and I, like many of the people who normally use the track, are breaking the rules and jogging two abreast. Unlike many of the people who normally use the track, however, one of us is discernibly not dead.
“No, I’m used to the delays by now,” I tell him. I stop and pretend to tie my shoe, which is a thing I do when I’m winded. (It’s a genius move; feel free to borrow it. But remember not to overdo it: more than twice during a lap and people start to wonder, especially if your shoes, like mine, have Velcro fastenings.) “It’s just that I’ve been thinking lately that I made a mistake. Maybe I should have gone to David’s Bridal and bought an actual wedding gown.”
“I see,” says the Actual Ghost. But you just know he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t even have eyes. Just these black holes in what looks to be a glowing blue sheet. And of course he doesn’t get winded, because: no breath. But he stops anyway, and waits for me. “Wasn’t the wedding like, half a year ago or something?”
I am not gonna lie: I am hurt that he doesn’t remember. Because he was in my wedding.
That’s the last time I’m letting a ghost hold the chuppah, I decide.
(Even though, technically, you could have like fifteen ghosts holding the chuppah, and you might not know. You could have all the ghosts holding the chuppah and you might not know, plus, you wouldn’t have to hurt the feelings of at least four of your friends because there was no longer a chuppah-holding spot available in your wedding party.)
(Not that there will be another chuppah-holding occasion for me.)
“It hasn’t even been five months,” I hiss. I finish “tying” my shoe and abruptly break into a sprint, since surprise is the only way I ever manage to leave the Actual Ghost behind.
But it’s a dick move, for two reasons: 1) I’m in the “walk” lane; and 2) unbeknownst to me, a young idiot mother has brought her toddler up to the track, so that she can “exercise” by pulling him out of the way of runners (or, in the case of most of us, shufflers), or by keeping him from slipping through the many toddler-sized gaps the supporting posts leave in the railing.
I veer out of the way just in time, only to nearly take out a couple of nonagenarians inexplicably occupying the lane marked “run.”
“Oy!” we all say, because this is the JCC. Then one of the oldsters turns to the other and grumbles something in what is probably Russian.
This fills me with rage, because I took Russian for two semesters thirty years ago, and I have no idea what it is they’re saying.
“I’m sorry!” I say, because I’m sort of from Iowa, and this is what we say when we mean fuck you.
“Zshuzetzhustinka?” the other oldster maybe says. If I remember rightly, and I’d like to think that I do (even though I know for a fact that I don’t), this means: What on Earth could be troubling you so that you don’t even watch where you’re going?
The Actual Ghost pats my back in a warning sort of way. “We’re okay here,” he says. “Nothing to see, folks. Let’s move it along.”
Which would be very helpful, except that what it sounds like to most living people is “Whooo-whooo. Whooo-whooo.”
“I’m upset,” I tell the oldsters. “I’m upset because my new husband acted just like my old husband last night. It’s like he never even read my blog!”
The male nonagenarian, who looks a little like Bono because of his huge, tinted, wraparound glasses, raises his arms and then lowers them, nodding. But the female nonagenarian, who is wearing a purple velour jacket over what appears to be a life vest, looks confused.
“The one about how maybe the thing that makes for a good marriage isn’t the outfit you choose, but the husband?” I remind her.
“Yah yah,” she says, gesturing at the track. Clearly, she wants me to go on.
But the Actual Ghost has other ideas. “Girlfriend,” he says, “why don’t we let these nice people get their exercise while we go and get a cup of coffee or something?”
“I’m sorry!” I shout at him. Then, just in case he doesn’t speak Iowish, I tell him about what my friend “Many” (which is her real name, but you’re pronouncing it wrong, so her privacy is still way protected) said the other day: that she thinks he’s the ghost of a wise old woman. “But I don’t,” I say. “I think you’re just another stupid guy.”
“Two things,” the Actual Ghost says. “One: I miss being in the car. And two: why don’t you tell me exactly what it is your new husband did, so we can figure out how you should feel about it?”
Somehow, we’ve started jogging again, two abreast. We pass the idiot mom and her toddler, but rather than veering out of the way, the Actual Ghost just whooshes right through them like a blue-sheeted and empty-eye-holed puff of wind.
“Fine, you want to know what he did?” I say. “What he did is he got mad at himself, and then he took it out on me. EXACTLY LIKE MY EX.”
The Actual Ghost skids to a stop, throwing out a sheeted arm. “Hold up,” he says. “You mean, exactly like your ex?”
“Exactly, yes,” I say. I see the idiot mom staring, so I lean against the railing, pretending to be looking at the ballgame below. Luckily, the railing is waist-high only if you’re tallish, which, as we’ve established, I am notish, so I’m not terribly likely to pitch myself over it.
At least, not unintentionally.
The gym floor is polished to such a high gloss that you can practically see the reflection of the teenagers’ body odor wafting along.
“Which is also,” says the Actual Ghost, “exactly like every other living human being.”
He grabs me by the shoulders (which is creepy, because he has no hands), and points me back toward the track. “Plus us dead ones,” he adds.
“Zhoutnaya!” say the Russians, moving out of our way, and if memory serves anything besides soft drinks, this means: Plus you.