Shilo Niziolek

Seeking Soul Mate at the Granada Theater

The Granada Theater opened its doors in 1948, and I have been haunting the place for almost as long. I always thought that ghosts would look like they did on the day they died, but it turns out Beetlejuice almost got it right. I float through the building in what is the equivalent of a white sheet with holes cut in the eyes. I can’t remember what I used to look like. It’s been far too long, but at the bottom of the sheet a pair of black and white oxford’s poke out, so I imagine I must have been something to see, bold enough to pull off shoes like that. The theater is filled with mirrors and I spend a lot of time standing in front of them. Sometimes the girl with the violet hair notices me as I pass by, usually mistaking me for a customer only to discover the lobby empty. I don’t think she can truly see me when she is looking straight at me.

There is a stairway from the basement that they closed off, replaced the wall and doorway with a floor to ceiling mirror. I hear talk, apparently, this is where I died, but I don’t really remember when or how or why. Language doesn’t leave you when you die. My mind is a functioning machine, but who I was and how I died left me long ago. I sometimes stand at the top of the stairs and watch the customers. Small children often see me, see the stairwell behind the mirror, and run smack dab into the glass. This makes me chuckle a little, though I know it must hurt; when you’re a ghost you also forget what pain feels like. If I want to pass through a wall or a mirror I do so without a second thought. The girl with the violet hair likes to keep the stairwell mirror very clean. I think she knows I’m in there. Sometimes she stands in front of the mirror staring in. I raise one of my sheeted hands and she does the same, a mirror image. I raise the other; again, she mimics my movements.

The manager of the theater doesn’t believe in me. I can tell by the way his eyebrows raise whenever one of the employees claims that something spooky is afoot. It’s me, I want to say, It’s my spooky feet. I can’t speak to any of them. Language may not be gone, but my ability to talk is. I try to communicate with them in other ways. I just want to be seen. At night, when the shift leads are upstairs counting the money, I sometimes whistle and they sometimes hear me. Only the one with the blonde hair and black dresses can feel me. She wears a cross next to her heart and I think she might be a bit closer to hollowed grounds because of it. I once passed through her body; she trembled, and goose pimples raised on her skin. I flew out of the room, my sheet trailing behind me, laughing all the way to the storage space I’ve heard them call “The Murder Room”, though I think that’s a bit insensitive to the dead, but whatever. The irony is, I love that room. I can hear the whir of the projectors rolling and when the spiders build their webs around the boxes I like to sit and watch them. My only true friends.

They use an area of the upstairs room to throw children’s parties, and the kiddies giggle and scream when I dance on the table, dipping my toes into their sodas and cake. It’s the only time I really feel alive, but then the kids leave. They go down to their movies, and then, one by one, out the door. When they are gone no one can see me and I kick at the back of old ladies’ seats while they cry at the sad indie films and documentaries that no one else watches. After one birthday party, themed after a bright yellow sponge, the parents forgot a sponge-shaped balloon upstairs. The theater workers brought it downstairs to their break room. After a time, it lost some of its air and began floating at face level, so I took it from them and for a while we were inseparable. We had a brief courtship, double featuring horror movies, bobbing along, our feet never touching the ground. It was magic. Until one day I found that she had deflated overnight. The worker with the tall legs and dark brown hair threw her in the trash, and for that, he will never be forgiven. Whenever he works, I climb inside the popcorn machine, rubbing my sheets all over the popping corn, bathing in the coconut oil. Once, I even kicked hard enough to pop off the popcorn machine door and it went clattering to the ground, split into three pieces.

I’ve been waiting a very long time for someone to die. There is an old man who comes in, grabs a list of the movies showing, then promptly falls asleep in one of them. I sway in front of him, crouch down and check if he is still breathing, and each time, at the end of the movie, he is shaken awake by an employee and I head to the women’s bathroom where I flush the toilets while people are sitting on them and have a good cry. That’s something that doesn’t change when you die. Bathrooms are still the best place for weeping. The violet-haired girl says Moaning Myrtle haunts the toilets. I tried to tell her that it was just me, but I lost my name long ago, and anyways, she only pretends to want to listen. I see how fast she cleans the toilets at night when she knows I’m in there. I’m beginning to think that she really doesn’t see me at all. I once tried to push her down the stairs, thought she might look nice in an ivory sheet, her coral high-top tennis shoes poking out underneath, but I was only successful in making her stumble a little. She laughed all the way down the stairs, as if we were playing a funny game. As if I was nothing but a big joke.

I’ve been waiting so long for someone to spend time with. Then it happened. I was standing beside the violet-haired girl at the counter. I kept tapping her shoe with mine, but she didn’t even notice. A man ran up to the counter. “Someone’s fallen,” he said. She ran out from behind the counter toward the lobby and I floated in her wake. There, on the floor, was an elderly woman, her hair an ashen white. The violet-haired girl bent to her, dipped her head down close to see if the woman was breathing, pressed her hand tentatively to her neck before jumping back, startled at the lack of beating. Behind the woman crumpled on the floor stood a white sheet, black Velcro tennis shoes poking out of the bottom.

I wanted to tell her thank you, thank you for coming here to die, but instead we linked the edges of our sheets where our hands would be and danced a little jig on the patterned carpet. Now, when I stand at the top of the stairs looking out of the mirror there is someone beside me. Each day the violet-haired girl cleans the mirror. I lift one sheet sleeve, then the other, she mimics my moves. My companion tries to copy me, so each day I push her down the stairs. When I sit with the spiders in the murder room there she is. When I haunt the bathroom toilet, she haunts the large handicap stall. She lurks behind me when I dance on the table at the kid’s birthday parties.

I’m beginning to wish she hadn’t come here to die.

~~~

Shilo Niziolek is an Oregon based writer. Her work has appeared in Porter House Review, Broad River Review and SLAB, among others, and is forthcoming in HerStry, Feed, and BARNHOUSE. She has twice been awarded artist residencies with the Spring Creek Trillium Project.