Chapter 18


“I have a favor to ask you,” Alina says to Tracey. They’re in Tracey’s room, lounging in underwear on her double bed. It’s daytime, but the blinds are down, so only a sliver of light trickles in. “What is it, baby?” Tracey asks back, lost in Alina’s gaze. After a charged pause, Alina says sternly: “I want you to be me. Make the book your own. Make Helene your girlfriend, because you love me and because it’s what I want. I want you to have everything I had. I want to give it to you. Will you let me give all of that to you?” Tracey looks like she’s just won the lottery; she can’t find any words, much less catch her breath. She nods her head as a tear falls down her face. Alina smiles back.


Loud riot grrrl music blares in Tracey’s room. She’s grinding against the dresser, as Alina rocks out behind her on a guitar. (Apparently, ghosts can manifest guitars.) They kiss, they jump, they dance, they peel off their shirts and do it all again in just their bras. There’s a banging on the door. We hear it, but Tracey doesn’t. It persists, and finally the door bursts open. A hipster Korean man is there—he must be Tracey’s roommate—and he’s pissed. Tracey still doesn’t notice him, and we see from his POV that she is dancing alone, singing to some imaginary person in the room. He locates her computer and cuts the music. Now, we’re back in Tracey’s POV, and we see Alina again. “What the hell, dude?” Alina says. Tracey repeats it: “What the hell, dude?” He looks back at her, unphased: “Four hours ago, when you started playing your noise, it was midnight. I’m going to sleep.” Tracey is not cool with this: “GEEEEEET OUUUUUUT!” She looks unleashed. He’s scared now, and hustles away. Tracey resumes the music, and their party-girl smiles instantly return. The dancing continues.


The two women shop for eyewear. Tracey tries on different frames as Alina stands by for a second opinion. The store staff is befuddled at the sight of Tracey interacting with… nobody. “Which ones are your style?” Tracey asks. “You’ll know when you find them,” Alina responds. // “We’ve tried everything here, though.” // “So let’s go to the next store.” // “We’ll find them, I know it,” Tracey says. Now they’re in a new store. A clerk approaches Tracey and offers his help. Tracey starts describing the frames she’s looking for. She’s studying Alina’s glasses as she speaks. Just like the others, this clerk can’t figure out what’s going on, given that Tracey seems to be interacting with something that isn’t there. “Oh, I have a photo of them,” she recalls. She takes out her phone and scrolls a ways up, to a photo of her and Alina together. She shows the clerk: “I want the frames she is wearing. Do you sell those?” // “No, that’s not our brand, sorry. I can’t tell which brand they are, either.” Tracey is dejected as they leave the store. “Maybe the ones I have are close enough? I bought those based on your style anyway, when I was trying to mimic you.” // “No,” Alina says defiantly. “You need to find the ones I’m wearing.” // “Can’t you just check the brand? You’re wearing them now.” // “I don’t have that memory. Sorry.” Tracey’s gait folds into a pouting slouch.


Now they’re at a coffee shop. Tracey punches away at some work, while Alina sits besides her on the couch and stares into the text on screen. She makes little suggestions here and there, reacting to the words as Tracey types. “I love your writing,” Alina whispers. “I learned from you,” Tracey responds. Alina buries her head onto Tracey’s shoulder, as Tracey closes her eyes and absorbs the warmth. Suddenly, a man sits down on the couch beside Tracey. She opens her eyes and Alina is gone. “Excuse me, sir. This seat is taken,” she says to him. “It is now,” he replies. “I’ve been here an hour; there ain’t nobody sitting here.” Tracey searches the room for Alina—there she is, by the exit. She summons Tracey to pack up and leave. Tracey does exactly that.


They’re in bed again, cuddling, laughing, flirting. “I’m gonna go wash up, baby,” Tracey says seductively to Alina. She slips out and goes into the bathroom. There, she disrobes, and catches her own reflection. She draws closer to the mirror, studying every wrinkle on her own face, from various angles. She pulls on her curly hair at the ends, to flatten it out up top as she examines how it looks. She smiles that familiar deranged smile, and chuckles to herself. Then, she starts twirling and dancing—no music or anything—giddy with herself, just smiling and chuckling. She keeps the dance moves going as she opens her toiletries and fishes out a ziplock bag. She has to dig past a few pill bottles to find it. Now, she’s dancing with her own reflection, smiling at herself as she pulls a large knotted ball of black hair from the baggy. She rips some strands from the it, and eats them. She gnaws on the hairs, smiling that deranged smile, ever pleased with her luck.

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