They don’t know I’m a ghost. Even I forget sometimes. After years of hiding it, I’ve become quite good at obfuscating the signs. So good that I fool myself. Occasionally I let my guard down, and a hint drops free, but no one has managed to piece them together. Yet.
My line blinks red, so I press the button on my headset to answer. A woman’s whisper I don’t recognize says my name, my real name. For liability purposes, we’re not supposed to use our real names. The operator probably goofed and let it slip when transferring the call. It happens. Leaning back in my chair, I contemplate hanging up. It’s Monday, and I get the same hourly pay if I pick up or not. Plus, it’s tough going into a reading cold. When I can’t get into character first, I have trouble taking everything seriously. The whole back-and-forth feels like an elaborate prank call.
“Eric?” the woman says again, my hand hovering over my ear.
“I think you might have dialed wrong, miss. This is the Mystical Medium Hotline. There’s no Eric here.”
There’s no sudden realisation, no great epiphany. It’s just the slow creep of comprehension, like waking up from a long sleep, that brief moment when you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming.
It’s like an archaeologist placing a sheet of tracing paper on an engraving, and then rubbing it with charcoal. Slowly, with a bit of effort, a picture begins to emerge.
To say I’d become adrift in my thirties was an understatement. Imagine a small peddle-boat in the middle of a dirty pond in an abandoned theme park: that was me.
My friends and acquaintances had all acquired things like spouses, careers, and mortgages, while I remained in an arrested adolescence. I lived in a small, one-bedroom flat just around the corner from where I grew up and continued to work in the kind of minimum-wage retail jobs that I’d been working in since dropping out of university over a decade ago.