I am a ghost that follows Stephen Colbert. He cannot see me, but his lover Jon can, and isn’t afraid. He’s tried to communicate with me. Stephen has become reconciled to my presence, though he doesn’t understand it. He was there when I died, knows who I am, and calls me The Scientist. I can create noises and move things in his home, but I don’t. I just keep vigil. He tried to save my life; I try to save his; though forces much stronger than me are plotting to end it.
I have never loved before; Stephen is the first. It started when he turned his back to a vampire to pray over my corpse. He was weeping. I watched the tears form in his eyes and hang for a moment on his dark lower lashes before dropping to his cheeks. he never tried to wipe them away. I thought I had never seen such beautiful grief, and for a stranger, an unfeeling scientist performing a test. At that moment I ceased to be a woman of stone.
When he finally turned back to the creature, now appearing human, he said only, “Why?” The man said, “You can run . . . but you can’t hide. You’re free to go.” We walked out into the light, down the sidewalks of Manhattan, Colbert stunned and silent as we made our way to the high-rise apartment he shares with a cat. It was hours before he was rearrested (leaving the scene of a crime) — he spent two weeks in an in-patient facility being treated for various conditions consequent to his imprisonment in London.
Colbert didn’t attend my funeral, but he probably wouldn’t have; was already being questioned about my death, the second homicide he was suspected of.
That’s the back story. Now I spend most of my time with him, at home and at work. Unbeknownst to Stephen, Minnalousche can see me and puts up with me, as can the dog at his studio. (Most animals can.) There is also a lunch delivery boy who can. I have learned from the reactions of him and of Jon (especially Jon’s first reaction, the night Stephen learned I was there) that the ability to see ghosts is not that unusual but merely something that such people don’t talk about much.
So here is what happened today:
When I emerged from the door at the top of the stairs, following one of the security men, Jon was at the bottom with a woman. She was dressed in Kenyan garments and was looking directly at me. Jon bantered with the guard and sent him on his way. (“I’ll take care of him from here.”) Then he smiled at me, as to a friend, looked at her, and said, “Okay, Regina?”
“Okay,” said the woman.
I sat down on the steps.
I wish I could do phoenetic justice to the woman’s thick honeyed drawl and Negrospeak. “Baby, what you doin’? Mista Stewa’t say you followin’ his boyfrien’ like you got a mission.” The “baby” was pure Southern; she spoke with authority.
“I do, ” I said. “Vampires are setting him up to take the fall for crimes he didn’t commit. I can help him.”
“How you gone do that. Cause you can’t be hauntin’ de man fo’evah.”
Haunting. I had never thought of it like that. I thought haunting was when you did scary things and ran people out of houses.
Stephen wasn’t paying attention to her; he was smiling at Jon. “Hey, what’s up? To what do I owe a visit from the boss?” He loped down and shook Jon’s hand, then turned to Regina, apparently taking her for a fan who had waited. The urge to run my fingers through his freshly-shampooed and ungelled hair, to touch the laugh lines around his eyes, was almost overwhelming.
Jon put his hand on the other woman’s shoulder and said, “Regina here is a medium.”
“Oh, really? Is this about The Scientist?”
“Well, she thinks she’s protecting you.” Jon glanced at me.
Stephen followed his gaze and looked directly at my shoulder, not seeing it. “Maybe she is. Protecting me. I didn’t realize there was an issue with her.”
“They’s a issue wid a ghos’ bein’ in New Yo’k City.” I cannot do her accent justice. ” Wid any ob de ghos’ in de city. Dey’s hundreds.” Regina was rather astonishingly beautiful with the aura of royalty and skin as black as a Dinka’s, and she was stout; she held her head high and made eye contact with Stephen, which he met with obvious admiration.
He raised an eyebrow and asked, “South Carolina?”
I cleared my throat and she looked at me. I asked, “What’s on the agenda? Are you going to exorcise me?”