THE FRIENDLY GHOST
They were eighteen. She asked him for a horse. If she'd wanted a baby, she didn't know it. A horse. He never understood that meant take me from the city. Instead, he settled on a monkey. She called him Joey. Sitting on her head, Joey loved her, brushed back her blond hair, wouldn't leave her. He told me how he tried to give her a break from the monkey, buckled Joey into the car's front seat, carted him to work—a construction site—and played classical music to keep the beast calm. Back home, Joey tore the stuffing from the sofa and then, when he was quarantined to the bathroom—a kind of makeshift cage—he shredded the shower curtain, rug, and walls. He shaved his own belly. Squeezed out the toothpaste. She begged to have him returned to the exotic pet store. What she really wanted was a horse. I packed for the country and we drove to Virginia. Easy to see how someone might fall for this story, a romance. Imagining her not knowing what she wanted. Imagining her wanting a horse. Imagining him wanting to make up for what she could not have. The woman asks for too much. And the man, straining to understand, offers her all the wrong things.