When the season changed, the ghost gradually disappeared. It ebbed, like the pollen thinning in the autumn wind, the shape of it disintegrating into a shadow on the wall. The low odium that infected Veronica’s studio apartment fell away, replaced by a crisp scent of emptiness – of plastic and vacuumed carpet, warm curtains and the breezes that found their ways through the cracks in her insulation, smells that wrapped around things but did not invade her nostrils with mildewed malevolence.
Her cookbooks stayed upright and her pages in place. The boiling water did not freeze the spaghetti when she dropped it in the pot. She did not come home from a long day of smiles and customer service to find what little furniture she owned stacked upside down and in a pyramid and her pillows detonated like tortured chickens.
When the ghost wandered it was merely a round shimmer in her periphery. Many times she mistook it for a ray of Sunday afternoon sunlight. Its sounds were those of a settling house, not the gnashing of teeth, and a man she’d invited back to her place was actually able to sleep the whole night through, never once waking from nightmares of goats with their heads trapped in plastic bags screaming like a child.
The ghost, she wondered, must have died in the summer, hot and plagued by adversity. It would explain why it was mostly silent in the winter and increasingly rude in the spring.
It was summertime that held the worst months, the dark months of flies in her eyes and coffee that tasted like vinegar.
Whenever her friends asked her why she didn’t move, she just shrugged and said three-quarters of the year the space, for what she was paying, was adequate to her needs.
“‘Adequate?'” the man who slept once asked her. “Don’t you want to be happy?”
Veronica said she’d rather be unhappy than lonely. Men never liked to hear that.