Giving Up The Ghost

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I don’t know what has gotten into him. He walks heavily, as if struggling through mire. He talks slowly, lightly, quietly. He barely looks at me. He just wanders around the apartment like a cat getting acquainted with its new home, afraid and insecure.

When he’s not walking around. He’s drinking something. Coffee. Tea. Whisky. Pepsi. I tell him to come near me. “Come sit next to me.” I tell him to confide in me. “Come we’ll share a joint and you’ll tell me all about it.”

It. Ambiguous. Vague. Perhaps non-existent. And my pleading is met with nothing, spurring my frustration, agonizingly twisting my spine. I want to help. I need to help. For us.

Us. Charged now with a possible schism. Us. Breaking apart, a rupture, a fissure caused by a communication breakdown. We sit in front of each other; a medium of silence between us becomes viscous in its transparency. His eyes seem to be looking right through me, right through the wall, towards a horizon not knowing a boundary; empty.

“So what do you see?” I ask him to show me the invisible.

He puffs smoke in no particular direction, the cigarette still in his lips, burning and being the only track of time. A quarter of a cigarette has passed.

Half a cigarette. No response. “So what do you feel?”

And it becomes pathetic. Ash falls on his lap; his gaze doesn’t budge, still staring at the horizon as if it’s a black dog that he had lost in his childhood and has finally found again.

A cigarette. I get up; go to bedroom where my laptop is open. I sit down, and notice that he has followed me. Something tells me he needs me, and I smile. But he looks at the laptop and disgruntled, he rolls his eyes, dissatisfied and deeply annoyed.

“What? Tell me!” I shout and go after him. He turns when I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t stress it,” he says, “I’m down. I’m out. Just let it be and it’ll go soon.”

“Why don’t you talk to me? Don’t make me miss you when you’re right here in front me.”

“Don’t make this about you. This is not about you.”

“It’s not about me. It’s totally about you. It’s just you and all I want to talk about is you. Just share it. Whatever it is.”

A mild vibration of anticipation reverberates between us. His eyes seem to wander towards the horizon again, but this time it’s the horizon of expectation; he summons what he wants to see and he describes it.

“Come closer.” And I approach his open arms which enfold me. I feel his heartbeat, steady. His hands are on my back like blocks of ice. I feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in his arms, but I close my eyes and withstand the coldness of his murderous embrace.

“I keep thinking about this story. A story about a writer.” A story about him, a writer. “A writer who’s dead, and it’s a great tragedy that he has died so young, full of promise. Withdrawn. Finally, his few remaining friends, more fans than friends, take a chance to go through his belongings, his once vaulted private apartment. When they’re looking through his house, rummaging, digging like treasure hunters through his notes, they find tons of letters addressed to this girl called Ariadne…who no one knew about.” He holds me tighter. “This mystery, this elusive lady, this stranger to life who has been born in the memory as a result of his death, her only record of existence borne in their old fashioned correspondence is suddenly the centre of attention of his death.” He swallows.

“And?” My limbs suffocate, the blood in them turning cool, my breath smoking out of my mouth.

“And she’s there but not there.”

“And why is that making you feel this way? As if she got away from you?” A tinge of emotion in my voice, creaking.

“She’s raging between the crowd and dark alleys with nothing but a thin dress to cover her. She’s crying, and I can hear her. She’s miserable and I can feel her. She’s real and I can remember her.”

And he lets go.

“I remember her with her camera, attached to her like a mechanical twin, a technological advancement like no other. I remember the elaborate set designs and the formless images that resulted, the surreal, the magnified humanity caught in a still-image. And this still-image of her in my mind is what I remember…”

And he’s moving away and I’m like a marble statue, questions and inquiries running through my head like a gushing wound, searing as it violently rushes, driven by insight that is slowly overcoming my previous blindness.

“…I see her the way she was. Naked under the rain. On her knees and bending down, arching her back like a cat. Her hair is tightly tied, but there’s a perfect fringe cascading her forehead. Her eyes defiantly look forward even though the umbrella is completely useless, completely destroyed. This is how I left her.”

“When did you leave her?”

“But sometimes, her head rotates and she looks at me with the same look, the same expression, and my soul shrivels up, covered with contrition and guilt. A ghost haunting me in its non-being. There but not there. A spectre.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about it before?”

“You wouldn’t have understood it correctly. You’d have assumed too much. You would have read too much into it.”

“And why is she pre-occupying you now in particular?”

“Because of this.”

He takes out a shriveled wrinkled piece of paper from his pocket. Smudgy handwriting in the centre; artistic.

“Read it aloud,” he says as he lights another cigarette and sits on the couch. I start.

You left me. I knew it before I came home that day. I knew that I would not find you. And I know why you did it this way. You would have told me that we can stay friends, and I would have accepted that because I would’ve taken anything like a fool. I would’ve accepted that even though I would’ve known that I can’t handle it. And after my shameful acceptance, I would see you with another girl and that would kill me. So in a way I should thank you for that. But you still left me, with nothing. Not a trial at an explanation. My heart sighed endlessly. My body cried incessantly.

Half a cigarette. My eyes seeing nothing but the page.

She’d be really nice. She’d be amazing. So amazing I would’ve been her friend if she weren’t your deepest bond, like I used to be. I’d see you with her and then every thought of you would be accompanied by her perfect being next to you, an image which no lens can capture except that of the mind. The way you’d hold her would, the way you’d kiss her, the way you’d try to make her smile when she’s miserable, lying on the ground, weighed down by the burden of history; or is she not like me? Is she not a hassle? Would you be the one weighed down by history? By the memory of us still itching your thoughts? Anyway. I…

He stands, the contrite look on his face; my cheeks flourishing with a red hue. There’s no need to read it anymore.

Do you want to go?” I ask.

“No.” A fading utterance.

“What do you want?”

“I want to forget.”

"Then let’s go inside and forget. We’ll put all her letters on the bed and drown them in the pool of milk and glue and relish their death.”

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