ch-ch-ch-chia

 

You don’t have a lot of time to choose your haunting place. There’s always a long line, and they’re shuffling you along quickly, and the number of souls behind you is literally ever-increasing. I’ve never been good at keeping people waiting, or at thinking under pressure; plus, I was still processing my death when I got to the kiosk, which basically looked like passport control at the airport. It happened just as I’d always feared: slipping in the shower, slick with too much conditioner, with my roommate out of town for the weekend. I wasn’t clear on the time delay – they’d brought me into the waiting room and sorted me into “unsettled,” as opposed to “settled,” which should surprise nobody, and which meant ghosthood. But how long had that taken? Was my gashed head still bleeding onto our dirty, under-grouted shower tiles? Or had Rachel already come home and found me and screamed and called someone? God, she must have been pissed, I know she had a big presentation on Tuesday.

 

“Where to?” asked the… I don’t know exactly what they were, but they stamped your papers to grant passage back to Earth. This one seemed bored, and the soul behind me was weeping loudly – not great for focus. For some reason, I thought of my Chia Pet, the one I convinced my mom to get me when I was a kid; no one else I knew still had theirs, but I never threw anything out. I had the ram (I’d asked for the dog, of course, but it was sold out at the store and Mom drew the line at “a second Chia Pet outing”), and a week before I died, I bought more seeds for it for the first time in years. As they sprouted and the greenery crept up around Chia Ram’s neck like a collar, she took on the appearance of an elegant older women swathed in furs, and with it, a strange dignity. She lived on the back of our toilet, and I suddenly remembered that I’d had the impression, while shaving my armpits, that she was watching me, and I’d started singing the jingle from the commercial in the shower. Was I staring at Chia Ram when I died? 

 

“Ch-ch-ch-chia,” I hummed absently, which returned me to the present (could I call it that anymore?) The customs-official-equivalent wore a tiny smirk, or maybe I imagined it. “Suit yourself,” they said, and abruptly I was peering out at my shower curtain through two twin holes as Rachel brushed her teeth. At once, I understood, and my heart sank into my stomach, or whatever version of that expression applies to those who no longer take physical form. I somehow doubted that there was a review process for eternal spooking grounds. So… this was it. Forever. 

 

“Fuck,” I said. Rachel paused mid-spit, turned over her shoulder, and I realized she could hear me. Well, if I was doomed to these confines, I would have to find some way to enjoy life – or afterlife, I guess.

 

I waited until Rachel had moved on to the hair straightener before I exhaled, breathy and so quiet that she’d think she’d imagined it:

 

“Ch-ch-ch-chia.”