The Ghost Tour I like being the center of inattention. It makes me feel like the ghost that I am. Freedom to move around, undetected by most. I raise havoc by causing people to trip, drop things, and whisper unusual thoughts into their unsuspecting ears. Sammy T’s is at full capacity. Its original tile ceiling was recently painted a rustic red. The booths are tall and dark, hiding their occupants with cozy comfort, but conversations float freely to others. A group of people have a heated conversation at the bar. Ah, the bar ofsolid wood, from days gone by, runs the full length of the room. You seem to sense my presence in the mirror that is as long as the bar. I whisper in your ear, “Take my advice, leave this dreadful place, and join me in the underworld of life.” I extend my hand to you, waiting. You hesitate, and then placing your hand in mine, we move toward the door. I tell you that now we are invisible to everyone else, except each other. You smile but don’t believe. Our very first encounter is a man late for his date. He runs through us. You shudder as you feel your body violated. I assure you this is normal. It just takes a little getting used to. A man spits his chewing tobacco juice out on the sidewalk. His wife has a horrified look on her face. Knowing that people are close by, his wife says, “Gross.” He wonders what he did wrong. I laugh hysterically at the clueless, spitting man. You look down at your white sneakers. Finding no tobacco juice stains, your facial expression speaks volumes. You still don’t believe. I am selfish being the center of inattention. I need to show you more, so I hold on tight to your hand. We walk the brick sidewalks of downtown Fredericksburg. There is a book-signing going on outside The Griffin Bookshop and Coffee Bar. A woman sits with her self-published book about her father’s suicide. The woman smiles at people passing by and jumps up to hug a close friend. I feel you squeeze my hand. Together we give the woman an encouraging pat on the back. The woman turns, the sidewalk empty behind her. She smiles and whispers, “Thanks.” You wonder if she can see us. I can only tell you that the woman, just like yourself, can sense our presence. The foot traffic on Caroline Street’s worn and cracked, brick sidewalks is getting heavier. As more people walk through us, you no longer have disbelief in your eyes. We stop to admire The Cat’s Closet’s huge glass display windows. Two of their resident cats sleep peacefully on pillows. The tabby wakes, stalks towards us. With all its hair raised, it hisses and growls like a lioness. You jump, and I laugh. Cats are such fascinating creatures. We move quickly away before the other cat wakes up. We sit for a spell, to people watch. Teenagers make their own fashion statements, with multiple piercing, mohawks, tattoos, and pink hair. Children create their own version of the Civil War, playing with their toy replicas of guns, swords, and cannons. Elderly couples stroll by still holding hands. A young couple argues as a toddler cries, strapped securely in the stroller. Dogs precede their owners, while others lag behind.
I have seen it all before. You, however, discover the best way to experience downtown Fredericksburg is by walking and observing. Especially satisfying to you is that no one can see you. I still hold your hand. Rising up, I have one more place to take you. As I lead you toward this place, I hear a familiar sound. You seem not to notice as the clop, clop, clop, of horse hooves on pavement grows louder. You finally catch the sour, yet sweet smell, of sweat drenched horses. We watch as cozy couples in the horsedrawn buggy pass by. A slow, romantic ride as they relive an archaic way of stress-free travel. Knowing that horses spook easily, you ask why the horses remain calm after sensing our presence. The two, almost identical, white horses, and I are kindred souls. I always see recognition in their scared, but accepting eyes. We stop to obey the flashing red hand. Antique stores populate one side of the street. The strong aroma of coffee beckons us to hurry. Traffic is heavy and the numbers counting down pedestrian safe crossing quickly return to the flashing red hand. You jump and shudder as cars pass through you. Caught up in the journey, you forget that we are together though not here. I lead you to the source of the rich aromas of specially blended coffee beans. As we approach Hyperion Espresso an assortment of people, populate the outside tables. Individuals focus on their laptops, some seem to be talking to themselves. Others are in deep conversation as they sip their coffee. As we move toward the door, a large dog rushes toward the water bowl next to the doggie hitching post. You ask why the dog didn’t react to our presence like the cat did at The Cat’s Closet. I explain that dog is god spelled backwards, so dogs pay no attention to us. We go inside Hyperion Espresso, soaking in all the smells, sounds, and soothing atmosphere of a very busy place. We overhear a woman complaining about neighbors in Ohio that did nothing about their suspicions. I sense your interest in hearing more. We stand listening as the woman says, “If only those neighbors had gotten involved. They should have told authorities about the boarded up windows and loud music. Those three teenage girls, who were abducted and held captive for ten years by that horrible man, would have been rescued from that house of horrors a long time ago.” I feel your deep sadness. We move inside, noticing the center portion of the walls that have been painted sunrise yellow. Barely noticeable are delicate, wavy lines of orange, rising up from where the yellow begins. The larger windows allow natural lighting to fill the room. You seem unwilling to move. Your sadness is gone. You sense the shift in energy. I release your hand. Sammy T’s is at over-flowing capacity. You sense my presence at the bar. You return to your personal center of attention, talking with your circle of friends, but glance around. I return to my own center of inattention as downtown Fredericksburg’s wisdom keeper.
Teresa Mohme has lived in the Fredericksburg area for the past ten years. She is the self-published author of A Daughter’s Reflection on the Suicide of her Father, a collection of poems, writings, and narratives. The book is available on the websites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. Fall 2013 Volume 1, Issue 1
A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)