Sing With Me

Fiction by Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez

I approach the bar after my friends insist I go talk to the man nursing a beer and watching the screen above him.

“He looks decent enough,” they said.

I pursed my lips and arched my eyebrow. Decent enough—like I can’t do better.

“You’ve done worse,” they said, reading my mind. Preemptively cutting me off from running my mouth and defending myself. But they’re right. I’ve done way worse.

Like the one who kept “forgetting” his wallet, leaving me with the bill, and taking the leftovers. Or the one who couldn’t invite me to her apartment because of her “roommate,” ending with us doing it in her car and me inevitably hurting my back. Or the one who would cry after sex because his ex-wife was “never this kind” to him. Or the one who shaved his body because of his aversion to his hair—it was like getting exfoliated with sandpaper when he moved on top of me. Or the one who I believed after she said she loved me but turned out she just needed a place to crash for a while. And, of course, the married one—the one who couldn’t be with me but didn’t want me to be with anyone else.

I checked my makeup on my phone camera. My eyeliner was smudged from a long day of dealing with customers. I used the corner of my shirt to wipe the residue of black liner caked in the creases of my crow’s feet.

“Same, please,” I lean in across the sticky bar, motioning to the bartender for another beer.

“Hi,” I say to the man next to me. I tuck my hair behind my ear and smile—my opening move.

“My father’s dead,” he says into his beer before taking a sip. He must’ve seen my eyes widen because he adds, “We didn’t get along but now I can’t get rid of him.” He leans back, revealing a ghost seated next to him. An older man with a thick mustache in a cowboy hat tips his hat to me.

I see my friends through the specter before me. They’re small and shimmery like looking through a snow globe. They give me a thumbs up—their approval, which also lets me know they can’t see the fucking ghost in the bar.

I debate leaving because a ghost sounds like it should be a red flag. But the familiarness of the living man’s face—maybe the sadness in his droopy eyes—makes me stay.

“Two shots of tequila,” I flag the bartender. “Make it three,” I shrug, unsure if ghosts drink.

“Women usually run off by now,” he takes the shot and places one in front of his ghost father, who tips his hat to me again.

“I don’t run. Bad knees.” I chuckle. My second move—make them laugh. And he does.

“Matías,” he offers me his hand. When I shake it, I’m overcome by a feeling that I’ve done this before. Been here before. Ghosts and all.

We drink and drink and eventually my friends come up to me to kiss me goodbye. It’s only 8 p.m. on a Wednesday but they have office jobs, husbands, and children.

“Let us know you’ve made it home safely.”

I wait for them to acknowledge the ghost in the room but they blow more kisses at me and walk out the door. A panic hits me, what if there is no ghost?

The crowd is now a mix of hipsters and locals. The bartender rolls out a karaoke machine. The first singer is a señora in a leopard print bodycon dress. The opening notes of Selena’s “Si Una Vez” makes a crowd in the back burst out in laughter and taunt a robust man in their group. Some hold their chests and others cover their mouths when she points at him and sings about regretting ever loving him.

I’m so entranced by the performance of it all, I don’t notice when Matías gets up to sing next—ghost father in tow. It’s another sad song about love and loss. The bar joins them in the chorus and soon everyone sings, except me. I know it’s a song I’ve heard, maybe even sung before. The words are heavy syrup in my mouth, suffocating. Matías and his ghost father keep their eyes closed throughout the entire song. Ghost father wraps an arm around his son and they sway side to side to the sadness of the song.

“Your husband is a good singer,” the woman in the leopard dress appears next to me and nudges me. “Guapo, too!” She smiles wide enough for me to see she’s missing some teeth in the back of her mouth.

I try to find the words to explain we’re not together, we just met, the ghost father—who either the woman can’t see or doesn’t care about.

“He really is,” I say instead. I bask in the bar’s orangey glow and grin at my new fake husband and his ghost for a father.

Matías squeezes past the crowd. I grab his hand to pull him through and let it rest on my waist—my final move.

“Sing with me.” He hands me a binder of printer paper with handwritten song names tucked in plastic sleeves. I flip through the pages and suddenly I’m somewhere else watching me: fully in love, giggling, singing, and dancing amongst strangers. My cheeks are flushed, my lips are painted red, and my long black hair glimmers.

Matías gives me a mic and I don’t know what song we’re singing until the music starts. The accordion weeps and some raise their drinks in our direction. I spot the woman in the leopard dress sitting on the lap of a see-through fellow. A few men slow dance with translucent women. Ghost father removes his hat and places it over his heart. I worry I’m not wholly here. But I sing my song and I know I belong.

<strong>Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez</strong>
Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez

Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez has published stories in Hispanecdotes, Everyday Fiction, Acentos Review, Newtown Literary, So to Speak, Longreads, Lost Balloon, Reflex Fiction, Strange Horizons, Nurture Literary, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere. Sonia’s writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction. She lives and teaches in New York City

3 responses to “Sing With Me”

  1. “I see my friends through the specter before me. They’re small and shimmery like looking through a snow globe. They give me a thumbs up—their approval, which also lets me know they can’t see the fucking ghost in the bar.” so good!

  2. ‘I worry I’m not wholly here. But I sing my song and I know I belong.’ What a wonderful last line to a perfect story.