Ghost girl and Senegalese food

When Jawara arrived at the apartment the girl was home, greeting him with a melodious if distant „Hi, Jawara“, pronouncing his name with a slight American slur though she was European, actually German.
It was unusual for her to be home at this hour. She was sitting high up on the kitchen counter that separated the living area and the table from the built-in kitchen cabinets, holding on to an oversized mug with both hands as if she was trying to warm herself and smiling at him. The small space smelled intensely for coffee. She was wearing Jeans and a plain white T-Shirt. No shoes, no socks. Jawara liked that she had the good habit of slipping out of shoes and socks right at the door. He smiled back at her, grateful that he did not have to spend the evening alone but a bit worried about not being able to go to sleep on time.
He realized then that it was already past nine in the evening, and the girl was the first person this day to smile at him and mean it, meaning him, Jawara, rather than directing a grimace in his direction by mere reflex or politeness.
The realization made him sad, but it was a passing sadness, he had no resistance to it. Her smile was genuine and she looked directly at him, and after the sadness had receded, the gladness about some basic form of human company returned. – Hallo, you are home early, he said for a greeting while removing his own shoes and socks. She just nodded and kept smiling with an ease that showed him she meant it, there was nothing forced about it.
She did not not offer any explanation as to why she was home, but he took no offense. He had noticed before that there were days when she was barely present and he had realized it had nothing to do with him. She was not absent in relation to him in the way people were who usually ignored him even when they were placing their orders or accepting his soliciting smile at the food truck. It was more like she was absent from herself, and keeping company in a different sphere that was not accessible to his perception. More than once when meeting her he had had the eerie impression that the girl though being by herself had seemed like a person in company, acknowledging him as if she was tied up in a social situation but would really much prefer to talk to him than to her present company.
This impression she conjured up by her body movements and attention to spaces in the room that seemed out of focus of the actual things,  directed into an empty space but also consistently arrested at this point of not interest without staring, this impression was so eerily convincing that at times he had had the feeling he could actually see people gathering around her. For example, there was no apparent explanation as to why she would sit up on that kitchen counter as if she was actually facing a room full of people talking animately and had found herself a place to survey an informal gathering. She did not have a book or a file with her as she sometimes had on weekends, just that big mug of coffee.
She was sill sitting on the counter with her coffee when he returned from the bathroom accompanied by a strong scent of hand soap. He walked past her and into the kitchen and she gave herself a quarter spin and then another following his position in the room and now facing the kitchen front instead of the non-existent gathering. He started taking out food from the refrigerator. His neck tingled as he was feeling her in his back, sitting silently on the counter like a house ghost. She was a very quiet person.
He opened the fridge and methodically removed his food containers from his shelf. The evening before he had marinated chicken in a big glass jar that still had a shadow of a peeled off commercial label stuck to it. He had chopped onions and clover and had mixed them with salt and peanut oil and had poured this mixture over the chicken pieces stacked with lemon slices in the jar.
He usually precooked enough rice to serve him for several meals and kept the rice in a container in the fridge, too. He fished out some carrots from the vegetable drawer in the fridge and placed them on the kitchen counter right next to her, followed by a small cutting board and a knife and he started peeling and slicing carrots.
Are you hungry, he asked her politely, implicating that he could prepare food for the both of them but knowing ahead of time that she would decline. He had never actually seen her eat before though she did keep joghurt and fruit in the fridge. She shook her head, but playfully picked up a piece of carrot peel and curled it around her index finger like a bandaid. This irritated him for a split second but he did not flinch. Still, she unwrapped her finger as if he had commented on it and put he peel back to the growing pile of scraps which unnerved him even more because it heightened the vague impression she had on him, kind of like she was not a real person but really a creature from inside his own head thus knowing him as well as he dared to know himself. This must have had to do with her quietness.
New York was a place for strange people. It was certainly a good place for ghosts to live without drawing too much attention to themselves. Spirits and fox girls. He suspected without true conviction that he had been invited in by one.
Even if it was true: it was better, much better, to share a room with a pretty ghost girl than with the kind of loud and inconsiderate room mates he had had before. Still, he sometimes felt unnerved by her mind-reading ability. Maybe it was a female skill. His mother had had it too and there was nothing ghostly about his down-to-earth mother.
The smell of garlic in the frying pan when he roasted the chicken rooted him, and he gave the girl another smile before pouring the marinade over the browning chicken meat. She watched him when he picked up the cutting board from the kitchen counter. He pushed the carrot slices into the fragrant mixture and let the dish simmer before turning again and looking at her. Strangers in close proximity. – There is more coffee, she remarked. He considered her offer, but thinking about the few hours of sleep he needed, now it was his turn to shake his head. He noticed now that there were some almonds in a small ceramic dish next to her, half empty. Ghost food, he thought, and she tensed up immediately and stared at him for a moment, but then relaxed again.
He turned to the stove again and added some servings of rice to the chicken and carrot stew, and turned the heat on low. He filled two glasses with tap water that smelled of chlorine and he knew would taste like it, too. Walking over to the table he set the place for one but added the second glass for her. When he returned to the kitchen to check on his food, he ran into her legs. He was very hungry but for a moment he grew aware that she was not a ghost but actually a living breathing person, a girl. Then the food won. She slid down the counter and walked over to the table still carrying her coffee. He followed her with a metal coaster and the frying pan. It smelled like home.

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