María Alejandra Barrios Vélez
María Alejandra Barrios Vélez is a writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has an MA in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester and currently lives in Brooklyn. She was the 2020 SmokeLong Flash Fiction Fellow and her stories have been published in places such as Hobart Pulp, Reservoir Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Shenandoah Literary, Vol.1 Brooklyn, El Malpensante, Moon City Review, Fractured Lit, SmokeLong Quarterly and The Offing. Her first novel, THE WOMEN OF CAMINITO, is forthcoming Spring 2024 by Lake Union Publishing. Find more of her work at www.mariaalejandrabarrios.com.
Of course, it was haunted. She knew and yet, when her fiancé told her that he would not go–he couldn’t keep doing the laundry all by himself, she tried to put a front. “I’m not scared,” Julieta told him. “I’m not scared,” she repeated, carrying the hamper with all the dirty clothes down the stairs, contemplating if she really wanted to spend her whole life with a man who couldn’t take on such a small challenge. Doing laundry by himself, for all eternity—or as long as they lived in that old, dusty Brooklyn building. Their whole life was crawling with ghosts. Ghosts of their exes, the restaurants that they had been to as a younger couple and no longer existed, the ghosts of their younger selves—versions of themselves that they have had to shed in order to be together. Stay together.
Julieta breathed in and descended the stairs slowly, it creaked creaked creaked as she knew it would, and she muttered a “fuck,” under her breath. She didn’t want to wake whoever was there. Her fiancé said that it was nothing, ghosts didn’t exist. But she had a sensibility for these things, she had felt the cold wind when they first saw the building and the apartment. She had heard a whisper—someone talking to her.
“Julieta. Julieta Julieta.” And she knew then. Because she knew that all things from the devil come in uneven numbers. Just as she knew she couldn’t stay with that man if she kept not believing her.
She turned on the light in the basement and saw the washing machine. Everyone said that they were so lucky—most buildings didn’t have one but Julieta didn’t feel lucky. The machine felt far away. She took a step towards it, and the floor seemed to stretch in front of her. As she walked, a couple of socks and some underwear fell to the floor. I’ll pick it up later, she told herself. Only because she couldn’t look back. She felt as if someone was following her, watching her.
She stood in front of the machine, with the pink, plastic hamper in her hands as if she were making an offering.
“Ok,” she said out loud. “It’s all in my head. There’s nothing here.” She was bent over to put the clothes in the machine when she heard a voice.
“Julieta.” She felt every individual hair on her head stand up. I won’t turn back. I won’t turn back, she told herself, but it was impossible not to.
“Julieta. Julieta-” the voice said again, and she turned this time. To a face she had seen before, a voice that seemed calm and sweet. Comforting. A voice, she felt, she was predestined to hear.
She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing would come out.
“You?” she asked finally, her heartbeat accelerating.
And he nodded slowly because he wasn’t going anywhere. He couldn’t.
Leaving her clothes on the floor of the basement, Julieta ran up the stairs as fast as she could. She had left the clothes in the basement, unattended. She searched for her keys in her pocket but realized she had forgotten them.
She knocked on the door as hard as she could, using her whole arms. “Ray, Ray, Ray! Open up. RAAYYYYY!” She yelled until she ran out of breath.
“What’s going on?” he came to the door, without a shirt and short of breath. “Are you okay?”
She wondered if he had been in the bathroom, about to take a shower. But she didn’t have time to wonder what in the world her fiancé was doing in those rare moments of solitude. Julieta felt weak, ready to collapse. “Hmm,” she said and threw her arms around him, holding him so close. Closer than she had held him in a long time. His smell of mint and soap calmed her. It always did. He never smelled like anything else.
“What’s going on?” he asked, not releasing the embrace. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she uttered under her breath. “Nothing.”
Julieta tossed and turned that night because she was scared that the ghost in the basement would manifest in their room. Ray was sleeping soundly, too soundly, the snores were getting louder and louder, which meant he was descending into a deeper sleep.
Fuck him, Julieta thought. He was so blissfully unaware of the mess that was going on downstairs and yet, she couldn’t shake him awake and show him because he didn’t believe in ghosts. ¨What did Ray believe in?¨ she wondered as she turned around and pulled the heavy comforter to her side.
Or rather, the question seemed to be the opposite. What had he stopped believing in after all these years?
“So I couldn’t get you to do laundry before and now it’s all you do,” Ray said, holding his head as if it would fall and roll down if he didn’t. “See,” he said, brushing her arm. They were standing in the kitchen just before he headed off to work. “Maybe it wasn’t so scary after all.”
She shook her head, distracted. She tapped her feet, waiting for water to boil so she could make herself a cup of mint tea and go back to the basement.
“So what are you up to today?” Ray said, taking a last sip of coffee before running out the door to his office.
“Oh, I’m just working on a proposal…” she chewed her nails, not wanting to answer the question. “Not sure. Feeling like working on the couch for the day.’
“I get that,” he said, with that warm smile of his that made his dark eyes light up. He kissed her on the cheek; his lips were moist against her skin.
“I love when your hair falls on your cheek like that,” he said, and she picked up a strand of hair and pushed it behind her ear.
“Thanks,” she said, turning off the stove. “Thank you.”
It had been days since she had seen the ghost. Not quite a week, but almost, and now she felt her life had taken a turn in an unexpected direction. Weird. Life those days felt like a calm sea. Pleasant.
The basement ghost had given her something she hadn’t felt in a while, perhaps ever since meeting Ray. As she poured hot water on the loose tea leaves, she felt a tingling in her fingers—this burning feeling of setting everything on fire, just because she could. And what would happen if she did? Where would she land?
She threw on an emerald green sweater and did nothing to her hair as she observed her flyaways in the mirror floating around her like a halo. Julieta put cinnamon lipstick on and then wiped it off slightly, just so it didn’t look like she had tried too hard.
Having a ghost in the basement that you were attracted to had its perks. She had never had so many clean clothes. She had caught up on her laundry backlog that she had accumulated over months. She was spending less money. No more coffees in the middle of the day or expensive salads in the café. Whatever time she had, she spent in the basement. With him.
She performed her normal ritual. With a mug in hand and her computer in a tote bag, she turned on the light even though it was daytime. Then she turned it right off again. Julieta wasn’t sure it did much but it made him appear faster.
“Morning,” she said, peeking her head slightly down the steps. “You here?”
“Yes,” he said, sitting on a raggedy chair that was missing a leg right next to the washing machine. If he were alive the chair would collapse from his weight. But his figure was translucent, weightless. “I was hoping you would come today.”
“Here I am,” she said, moving her lips in a weird way so he couldn’t see her smiling.
“No laundry today?”
“Oh shit,” she touched her tote bag. “Oh shit, I forgot it upstairs. But I’ll just hang with you for a bit,” she said. “While I catch up on emails.” She sat on the steps, facing him, and opened her laptop to look at emails that she didn’t pay much attention to, anyway, but they paid the rent. She scrolled down, distracted, wondering where she should start. She took a sip of her tea; it was sweeter than usual.
“Did you sleep well?” he asked, legs crossed, a smile plastered across his face.
Julieta shrugged. She had never been a heavy sleeper but ever since he appeared, she was even less so. She was anxious about seeing him, about not seeing him. Of course, she was fearful of being crazy. Of imagining things. But how could she be imagining him? if every time she went down to the basement, he was there.
“No, I think I need to change jobs. I was lying awake at night thinking about it.” She hovered over the cursor, and a glasses promotion appeared in her inbox.
“Not interested in being an artist anymore?”
Julieta closed the computer shut. “Wait,” she said. He hadn’t been here these last few years. Rent in Brooklyn, inflation, more things to spend on while simultaneously, things accumulated in the back of her closet that she needed to throw out. Adulthood was hitting Julieta like a train. Of course. Of course she wanted to be an artist. But these days, she didn’t seem to find the time.
She looked straight at him and nodded. His beard was catching the reflection of the light turning it the color of acorns, almost like the cinnamon rouge of her lips.
“Wait. You don’t know what it’s been like. Of course I want to be an artist. I just have to be a project manager. For a little while.” She sighed, and opened her computer again. “Ding!” The perfect sound of what was waiting for her: the avalanche of the scheduled emails that would start arriving at exactly nine am.
“What does a project manager do, anyway?” He said, standing up and walking around the room as if he needed the steps. Despite being a ghost he didn’t float; he moved around the space as if he still had legs.
Did she know? Did she know what she did with her days?
She put a hand on her chest and felt it tightening, closing on her like it did when pressed too much. She tried to concentrate on the screen, on the avalanche of emails about schedules, and re-schedules, and things of the most minimal importance, written as if the future depended on them.
“Emails,” she said, without looking up. He was standing next to the shelf with detergents. Each of them was labeled with the name and apartment number of their owners. Julieta’s detergent was there too, an organic brand that she’d bought to match the rest.
“What are you interested in these days?”
He turned to her and batted his ghostly eyelashes. They seemed longer than they did many years ago.
“Can’t do much,” he said, looking around. “It seems like you’ll have to do enough for both of us.”
“Ha,” she smiled, and just when she was about to tell him that she couldn’t even do enough for herself, she heard a voice, steps descending the stairs.
“Neighbor,” the tall woman from the apartment above her said. She had told Julieta her name countless times and yet, she couldn’t memorize it. She didn’t care. “Were you talking to someone?¨ she said, a hamper on her right hand as she stood behind her.
“Oh, to myself,” she said, and her heart made a pirouette because she could still see him standing by the detergents, not moving. Julieta held her breath and her heart started beating fast, so loud she could hear it.
“Wait,” her nameless neighbor said and dropped her hamper on the floor. She walked towards the detergents and Julieta was about to open her mouth to scream.
“Wait,” she said, and stood up, leaving her computer beside her. “He…”
“You use The Laundress, too? Girl,” she turned to her, a devilish grin on her face. “It’s my favorite. A little bit pricey but…anyway, do you have clothes in the machine?”
Fuck. Julieta opened her eyes wide as she stood in front of the ghost she loved or liked. She couldn’t decide. She sighed. At least the neighbor couldn’t see him. Was she going insane? Did he even exist? Oh god. Oh god.
“Nope, nope. I was about to bring it down, but I was just answering emails.” She looked around.
“Ehm…I like the quiet.”
The ghost stood next to the blond woman, still smiling at Julieta. He also seemed pleased that he couldn’t see her. His existence was a secret they were meant to keep.
“You do you girl. Do you mind if I do my load first? I have Pilates at 10.”
“No, suit yourself,” she said, already turning back. “I’ll be back later.”
“So it was me, you know,” Ray said while chopping some vegetables in his kitchen. It was so loud, the way he would chop chop chop vegetables with incredible velocity. Julieta was grateful that he loved to cook, and that he was good about it, but today she wished they could just go out, leave the building that housed the ghost. Get some distance.
She took a sip of the honey wine he brought from work. A gift from a client or some shit. It was sweet, way too sweet, and yet she took another sip and then another.
“What do you mean it was you?” Julieta walked a couple of steps to the faucet and opened it
slightly. When he turned to put the vegetables in the sizzling pan, she added a little water to her wine. It still tasted like shit.
“I was the one fucking up the case. Because I couldn’t get the names straight….they were too similar: Eric, Erin, Ervin. So I kept confusing who had said what, or who had called who.”
Julieta nodded and put her glass of wine on the table. She tossed the salad again, her contribution to the dinner, although she'd already tossed it plenty.
“I get it. It matters,” she said, it seemed like the right thing to say at the moment.
“Honey,” he paused, stirring the sauce. He dropped the wooden spoon on a plate and wiped his hands on his apron. “What’s the matter? You seem really distracted these days and look at you.” Ray touched Julieta’s cheek softly. “You’re so pale. No one can get you out of that basement.”
“Basement?” She said, “I don’t spend any time in the basement. The laundry—”
“Oh yes,” he said, going back to stirring a harissa sauce that smelled like chilies and fresh herbs, “the laundry. Have you given the dates more thought?”
“The dates?” Julieta asked, flipping through the pages of an appliance catalog. “What dates?”
“Julieta,” he scowled at her. “The wedding. I know you said summer, but the summer is so hot. What about the fall? Next fall?”
She touched her forehead; it was warm and moist. Miniscule drops of sweat had started forming above her lip.
“Fall is great. It’s just so close. There’s an entire wedding to plan. We’ve got to find a venue. It’s so competitive.”
“Hey.” Ray turned off the stove. “It’s going to be okay, I know you’re nervous. It’s a lot to plan; we’ll do it together. Like we do everything.” He put his hands on her cheeks and pulled her close. He smelled minty and clean. His beard was prickly, but she kissed him anyway just to feel closer to him.
“You’re never here at night,” he said.
After Ray had fallen asleep, Julieta had gone out and purchased a new bottle of wine on a Tuesday, after midnight, and instead of going back to the apartment she had gone to the basement. It was thundering outside, and she got soaked. Her hair that she usually straightened was curly again, she touched it, the coarseness that she took out of it every week, returning. She thought about how many things after the rain went back to its natural state. The rain had a way of making you tell the truth.
She needed to see if he was still there. If he was always there for her, waiting.
“Have you always been here?” Julieta asked as she turned on the light.
“I told you. I don’t know. One day, I woke up and I was dead.” The ghost walked a couple of steps closer to her. He had never gotten that close. Julieta was on the staircase, shivering, and the ghost was at the end of the steps. So close. So close that she could almost touch him.
And she sat down next to him because although she felt stupid, she was also very curious. She needed to touch him to see what would happen. To see if they would wake each other up.
“But you’re not dead; I already told you. There’s a version of you out there.”
He lifted a brow. “I’m dead. I’m here, so I’m dead.”
“Right,” Julieta released a loud sigh that she felt guilty for. She wasn’t the one trapped here.
“Right,” he said, and sat down. Julieta poured herself a large glass of wine and poured some for him. She went down the stairs never taking her eyes from his brown eyes, off his messy auburn hair, and that worn blue sweater she had gifted him once.
She bent down and put the glass of wine next to him. “For you.” The air turned crisp as she got even closer, she felt the goosebumps, the hairs of her arms, and the beating in her chest. Her whole body wanted to shake itself awake.
“Julieta,” he said, putting a ghostly hand on her arm. She could see his hand on her skin, but she couldn’t feel his touch. She could feel the sensations though, a cool current of air on her arms, and her heart beating fast. A tingling on the back of her ears as he repeated the magic word: “Stay.”
He studied the glass of wine, and placed a hand around it, as if he was trying to grab it. But he couldn’t hold it: He was translucent and translucent beings couldn't grab things.
She took the glass from the step and poured it on the floor. “For you.” She had seen this done in movies and TV series and she wondered if it worked.
“Were you able to taste it?”
He laughed with his whole head tilted back like he loved doing. “Nope.”
She shrugged and laughed too, looking at him. He couldn’t touch, he couldn’t smell, but he could talk and laugh. The sound of his laugh inundated the room. His face was stuck in time. Not a line, nor a wrinkle. She had developed many in the time they had stopped seeing each other, and he had been kind enough not to mention it. He had stayed frozen in a time when they were both struggling artists in Brooklyn, eating kebabs on the street and drinking Tecates because they were cheap.
“Ha,” she said, still not able to shake the memories.
“What?” he asked, drifting his eyes to the mess on the floor.
“Nothing, nothing.” She said, thinking about the night when they had gotten drunk on someone’s stoop until dawn, and they had only stopped drinking when someone threatened to call the cops on them.
“The cops?” they had asked, already standing up. “That’s pretty extreme, man,” he had said, already picking up the bottles of wine from the floor. Julieta, piss drunk, couldn’t stop laughing. She kept repeating “the cops,” as if it were the name of a band.
“Let’s go,” he had said, with that stern face she would later see again. Those brows that met in the middle meaning all business.
Julieta had followed him, she always followed him on those days. Not knowing the future. Not needing to.
“What neighborhood is this?”
“How did I end up here, in this basement, with all these yuppies?” he said, lifting a brow.
“Good question,” she said, putting a hand on his knee though it was like putting a hand in the air, holding on to the nothingness.
Julieta had woken up on the stairs in a weird shape, her hair spread out like a fluffy cloud across the wooden steps that were probably no strangers to mice and other rodents.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she said, waving goodbye to the ghost lying next to her. “Fuck!!!!” She ran up the stairs, and then up the braid of stairs that would take her to the apartment. When she opened the door, Ray was there waiting for her.
“I was worried sick. Where were you?”
She entered the apartment like one willingly entering a nightmare. She collapsed on the couch and put her hand on the back of her neck. It hurt like a motherfucker.
“Are you okay?” Ray asked and ran to her.
She shook her head no and started sobbing. She was seeing a ghost. Sleeping with a ghost. She wasn’t fucking okay. She wasn’t sure she ever would be.
Julieta had slept all day. After a warm shower (too warm, the water in her old building always came out extremely hot or extremely cold) she sat down at her desk and typed on the computer: “how to dissolve a ghost.”
In order to dissolve a ghost, she found, one should want to dissolve it in the first place.
Did she? She asked herself, hand on her chest for effect, and a crucifix her grandma had gifted her once in the other, to grasp what was left or her sanity.
It didn’t matter what she wanted, she reasoned. She was getting married next year. She laughed at herself. At what she was finding on the internet. At this whole mess.
So, to dissolve a ghost (according to @ghostbegone88 on a reddit post from eight years ago) Julieta needed black salt, table salt, a broom, water and a rosemary plant. She ran to the bodega, bought all of those things, and then went directly to the basement. Her plan was to not acknowledge the ghost. Pretend that she couldn’t hear him.
That had always been her problem; Julieta never knew when to let go. Or she knew it was time to let go and she wouldn’t; she couldn’t. She grasped onto things for way too long, way too tight. She needed to unclasp. To let go of this ghost so the living could move on with their lives.
Right, she told herself out loud as she opened the door. It was dark, and as she turned on the light, she noticed he wasn’t there.
Was he hiding? Had her hallucinations subsided? The pain in her chest became increasingly acute as she went down the stairs. It was cold and balmy in this basement. Ifnshe focused, she could almost smell his scent. Clean but musty.
“Hey,” she said, her plan of not talking to him out the window. Julieta was armed with a bucket, water, a broom, and a rosemary plant. She must have looked pretty ridiculous. Perhaps he was hiding from her, it was a prank. She got to the end of the stairs and put the plant on the floor. The instructions had said to leave it as close to the door as possible of the room you were trying to clean of spirits. But fuck it, if she left it close to the door, someone was going to kick it over.
“Well,” she said, taking the broom and sweeping the room clock-counter wise as the instructions said, perhaps she was going crazy after all. Julieta glued her eyes to the floor and to all the grime she was picking up: dust bunnies, lint, rodent excrement, and candy wrappers. She was sad and disgusted. Her chest felt so tight that she needed to remind herself to breathe.
After she was done sweeping, she poured water on the floor. It was mixed with black and table salt, and as she moped the floor, she repeated:
“Ghost be gone, ghost be gone.” Except, she didn’t sound too convinced. She sounded like a kid repeating words they should memorize for a test rather than a priest during an exorcism. But alas, It was better than nothing.
She started feeling a wave of nausea. She didn’t want him gone. Of course she didn’t but she felt she should. But holding on to him was like holding on to the idea of Santa Claus or the Easter bunny.
“Ghost—” she repeated, and she felt the unique cold from behind. The voice in the air that lingered.
“Julieta,” he appeared from the back. “You want to get rid of me?”
“I didn’t know you could appear and disappear like that,” she said, still pushing the wet cloth on the floor.
“Yep, it turns out that I can. I wasn’t feeling too well today. I figured you wouldn’t come since you spent the night here.”
Julieta looked at his eyes. Brown, big and familiar. She took a breath.
“Ghost be gone, ghost be gone, ghost be gone,” she said three times, remembering how all the things from the devil come in threes.
And he laughed. He laughed and put a hand on his transparent chest. “Julieta, if you want me gone you could have just said so.”
“Ghost be gone,” she said and dropped more salt on the floor. But he wasn’t vanishing; he wasn’t dissolving like a cloud of smoke. He was there, standing in front of her, not going anywhere. Julieta ran up the stairs to her apartment where her soon-to-be-husband was making dinner.
“Come down the stairs!” She yelled at him, and he turned off the stove where he was heating up soup and ran down the stairs with her.
“What’s up with all this stuff here?” Ray asked, studying the bucket, the broom and the wet floor.
“Do you see him?” Julieta asked, pointing at the ghost standing next to the washing machine.
“See who?” Ray said, turning to her. His face was the color of ash, and he opened wide his brown eyes. It was cold, as it always was in the basement. She brushed her arms to warm herself up. He couldn’t see him. The ghost stood in front of Ray, studying his movements. He bent down when Ray bent down, stood up when he did, and froze for a couple of moments, studying Ray’s face.
Of course, things had changed. Ray’s hair was thinner, and his brown eyes edged with thin lines. But overall, it was the same face.
The ghost turned to look at Julieta, who didn’t know what to say. She swallowed and her saliva tasted like acid. She was poisoning herself. She tugged at Ray’s sleeve. This should have never happened.
“We should go,” she turned towards the stairs, already going up.
“Why? What are you talking about? Who was I supposed to see?”
“Julieta,” he said, standing in place. “You’re treating me really strangely these days. What the fuck is going on?”
“I don’t know,” Julieta threw a hand in the air. She could hear her voice breaking. No, no, no. No way. Not right now. “This mess was here when I came down.” She lied. “Perhaps someone was here. Someone got inside the building.”
Ray started looking behind the shelves and opening closets that he shouldn’t be opening. Julieta watched as Ray’s ghost stood between them, seeing himself. Seeing her with him.
A hand on his chin, that always indicated that he was in deep thought.
“Let’s go,” Julieta pleaded. She lifted her hair up, and repeated, closing her eyes, “Let’s go, please.”
Ray didn’t say anything, because what could he say? She was right. They needed to go. He followed her up the stairs, and just as she was going to close the door behind her, she heard the voice she knew so well. The voice that only called her name in threes:
“Julieta. Julieta. Julieta.”
Like most stories, it hadn’t always been like this. It had a beginning. In the beginning, Ray and Julieta were in love. So in love. They had bonded over the sheer terror of living in the suburbs. They both loved chocolate ice-cream and loud concerts, and they both drank way too much.
She wanted to be a visual artist, put on shows and be in galleries and he had wanted to be an environmental lawyer.
Neither of those things had happened. Park Slope had seeped into their bones as they watched places that they’d known and loved disappear. Friends that they were used to seeing, got busier, had children or vanished to the suburbs–as quickly as you vanish a ghost, but you would never be able to summon them.
Julieta always believed in ghosts, but she didn’t know there were versions of ourselves hiding away in basements. She wished she could unknow that now.
But the knowledge tugged at her at night. It was right below her, a couple of floors down, and she couldn’t just forget.
He was there, just as she was in her apartment, lying awake at night. The rise and falls of her fiancé’s snores being the only constant in her world.
“Hey,” she said, as she went down the stairs. He was in the same place, sitting on the chair without a leg. She wanted to ask him about his needs. What does a ghost need in order to survive? Light, sleep? Someone to remember them and think about them often?
“I’m sorry about what happened before,” she said, going down the stairs, one last time. She had decided she wouldn’t come back. Julieta didn’t know, of course she didn’t know, how she would manage not to come back. Perhaps she would hire someone or throw out all her clothes and just wear new white shirts. She didn’t care.
Julieta walked to where he was, and he stood up. Even as a ghost, he towered over her. She placed her arms on the back of his neck and started moving from side to side. In her head, a song that they had heard in a concert was playing in her head. She didn’t tell him which song, but it didn’t matter because he knew he was moving to the sound of her steps. Their hips moving together as one from side to side.
She put her face on his shoulders and closed her eyes, thinking for a brief moment how this would look if someone were to come in. She didn’t care. Julieta breathed in, taking in the musty smell of the basement that had brought him back to her one last time. She leaned in and pressed her lips against his invisible ones, holding on to the memory of his soft lips, his long kisses, his warm breath.
That version of him that she had loved the most. The first.
Julieta’s abuela loved three things: crucifixes, talking about the devil, and Monday mornings. According to her, it was the best time to start over. Julieta always thought that was such a luxury. What if she couldn’t wait a whole week? What if her life ended on a Sunday?
Ray was sleeping soundly, his body rising and deflating under the emerald-green sheets. Her favorite color. She peeked out the window at the wet leaves that she loved so much in the fall. Julieta took in the room one last time: the chair covered in clothes, the closets about to burst with the objects of their life together, and the books they had accumulated. Some that they had loved and some they would never read. She decided that if she were to go, she needed to travel light.
The ring had always been a little too big for her. It slid right down her finger onto the wood dresser without a sound as gold hit wood. She sighed and released a breath, already shedding a layer of who she'd had to be. Who she had once wanted so hard to be.
Julieta went down the stairs and ignored her impulse to go down to the basement. She opened the door, and the night outside was crisp and clean, a musky smell invaded the air. She breathed in this new air and walked into the street, contemplating the cars and the brownstones that contained a whole city of basement ghosts.
Julieta walked into the night and wondered if she had shed enough of herself in that apartment to reincarnate as a ghost.
She wondered if perhaps in the afterlife, when everything was done, they would keep each other company.