Some ghosts don’t haunt you; instead, they walk at your side, and they live a simultaneous existence, one that you never see clearly, one that you gather in snippets, in small messages, sometimes glimpsed between lines of text that seem banal until their full weight hits you in the middle of the night; it’s a weight that rouses you from a fitful sleep and sends you to your porch to sit under the street lights, and despite the discomfiting feelings that come with having been awoken by whispers that are not really whispers, you pull that weight around you, and it’s warm, and it shields you from the cool night air.
I know such a ghost. Her silhouette is long and narrow and draped in garments that highlight her otherworldly nature, and she steps along the dusty ground of the desert with what seems like conviction and purpose. Her smile is warm but inscrutable, and her eyes, though they sparkle, are deep black pools that betray nothing. And yet, there is a tentativeness that accompanies her movements, because her purpose is not a purpose, but a search, and one that may never end.
At night she lives with me; while I sleep, I can feel her breathe, but when I’m awake her breath is distant, and she is words on a page, or photos on a screen. All of this seems like it should be so simple, and yet somehow it isn’t.
Joan Didion once wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I am not usually one for quotes, particularly ones so calcified as that one, but in writing this, it struck me.