I stood at the entrance of the cemetery, reluctant to go in. Something in my mind was pulling me back, something… I couldn’t put a finger in it. I just lingered at the gate for a few minutes, staring inside at the neat rows of gravestones lined by shade-giving trees, and all the while wondering what I was doing there in the first place.
After some time a dark blue car pulled up to the curb behind me, startling me. I glanced over as a woman slightly older than me got out of the passenger’s seat. She wore a plain light gray shirt and black shorts that looked strangely exactly like the ones I’d wear while working out. Her straight black hair came down to her shoulders, and she didn’t have on accessories of any kind. She closed the door behind her and gave a little wave to the driver, and then the car sped off.
The woman turned toward the cemetery gate and saw me standing there looking at her. I blushed, embarrassed, and quickly looked away. After a moment’s hesitation she walked up to me and I turned to face her again as she spoke.
“Hello,” she said politely.
“Good afternoon,” I replied. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare…”
She shook her head. “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I’m Aiko, and you are…?”
“Nice to meet you, Haku.”
I nodded uncertainly. “You too.”
“If I may ask, why are you just standing here? Is there something wrong with the gate? Is the cemetery closed today?”
“No, there’s nothing wrong with the gate, and it’s open, so you can go in. I’m just standing here because… well… I don’t really want to go in, you see.”
I blushed again as I tried to explain myself. I thought she would laugh at me, but she just nodded with understanding.
“That’s fair,” she said, giving me a little smile. “People generally don’t want to go into cemeteries.”
“Why are you here?” I asked, hoping the question wasn’t too rude.
“Because I can see spirits,” she answered simply. “I can see them and talk to them. So, every weekend, I’ll come here and talk to spirits whose friends and families haven’t visited them in a long time. Death can be quite lonely, you know. I think it’s sad. So I’ll just come here and chat with some of them and try to help them feel better.”
I thought about that for a moment. “Death is lonely,” I declared in agreement. “I’m glad you can see and talk to lonely spirits and help them out.”
She nodded. “It’s bad when people forget about the dead, don’t you think? I’ve been able to see spirits since I was really young, so I try not to forget all the spirits I’ve met since then… it’s hard sometimes, but for the spirits themselves it must be worse!”
“I imagine so,” I said. “You’re right.”
The woman smiled at me. “Take my hand, Haku. Let’s go in together, and we’ll do our best not to forget about each other afterwards. How’s that?”
For the first time all day I allowed myself to smile back at her. “Sounds good.”
I took her hand, and we entered the cemetery side-by-side.