"Ghosts" by James Edward
There are ghosts in here. Look, but not too quickly now, move your head slowly, keep your pupils right there in the middle, like you’re trying to glimpse a floater as it floats past, but don’t go after them, do not give chase. They are remembering you and what it means to be you just as slowly, and it is a subtle, fragile process.
It is a hard and a sour thing, after being so long without it, to look directly at life. And for you, to see in final fulfilment all your dreams and predictions of death.
They will flit the edges and concentrate acutely on mundane things, penetrate the folds of your leather coat to hear it creak, and to remember its soft warmth. This is as much humanity as they can stand, yet; soon they may breathe on the back of your neck as you stand on a cold pavement waiting for the subway, giving back, a gift, a taste of what you will soon know intimately. In this way you will bond, meet in the middle, two stages of the same thing that will one day overlap in a Venn diagram. You will prepare each other for what is to come and what has come.
Right now you are looking in your cupboard for something to eat. It has been a hard day. The people at your work say you look tired. You are, have been. You take a can of tuna and think about calling in to work to say you’re not going.
If you don’t go, nobody will come in your place. You wish you had a ghost that could go for you, or a robot, to present the basic facts of you and do the work that needs to be done. It wouldn’t be cheating if it was just like you, or had some part of you in it.
You make a tunafish sandwich with lettuce and mayonnaise and realize too late that you are not hungry. Something has spoiled your appetite, gotten between your body with its needs and your mind with its wants and severed the cable.
You do not eat but smoke and drink coffee, separating the hunger even further.
Perhaps it is your boyfriend, who is a poet. He has been telling you things that are not true. He has been saying that you are not real. He says that living with you is like living with a ghost. Or maybe he is the ghost. He doesn’t know. He is a poet.
True, there is lost time. Time that is marked by progress reports on the Internet but that didn’t happen and won’t come back. Sitting alone and waiting for nothing, and thinking about things you’ve already thought about. You won’t remember it until you do it again, impersonating yourself. Echoes, reruns, lost time.
The ghosts are bad tonight. Their voices still sound like shattered glass in your ears. You check to see if you are bleeding. They are, but you are not. Someday you will adapt to their lingua franca and there will be no language barrier.
Your boyfriend comes in and he is invisible because he isn’t doing anything new. He sits down at the piano and plays the notes he played last night and no new ones. The symphony of unplayed notes is deafening.
You go into work. The people there say you look tired. You wonder for a second if you sent your ghost or double and you are still back there, listening to the old notes on the piano.
Your boss walks up and it smells like he hasn’t showered. There is a crisis and there will be layoffs. He is telling you politely that you may be one of them but not to lose hope. There is no hope to lose. You don’t care and the robot smiles.
You go home from work and eat your old tunafish sandwich. It tastes even better this way because you are ravenous. The ghosts are ashamed because they don’t share your hunger. They blush and turn invisible.
You are standing at the subway and there is no breath on your neck. You know their tricks, and they no longer scare you. You no longer scare them, so they go looking for someone else to understand.
One of you gets on the subway, and one of you goes back home and writes about ghosts. It starts like this:
There are ghosts in here. Look, but not too quickly now...