We Are All Ghosts

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The slide from Halloween into the end of the year is always the hardest thing to survive for me. That’s the way things have been for a long time and it’s a thing I try to prepare myself for, but it doesn’t get easier. Holidays and Deathversaries and Birthdays and feeling intensely alone.

This year is no different than last year or 2006 or 2009 or 1997. It is a looming thing. A shadow of the best and worst.

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I swallowed a matchbox car as a kid.

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My night is always a riddle. That’s what happens when you get older. Plans aren’t real anymore. The pull of staying inside away from the world with a book or a movie or some silence always outweighs the paranoia of running into people who have hurt me or I have hurt or people who have ideas and dreams that don’t match my own ideas and dreams. That’s what happens when you’re healing from being burned and trying to regrow tissue over scarring. Why bump it at all? Too tender, too new, too much memory with a side of pain.

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I was always putting things in my mouth as a kid. Obsessed with texture and the way rust tasted, how it would react inside of me to have a mouth full of pennies or sticking my tongue on the posi/neg posts of a 9-volt battery to get that tingle and spark. The way a nail would feel in my mouth as I pushed it around with my tongue, pressing it into my teeth or the roof of my mouth, being able identify the sharpest part by the way my flesh reacted or how my nerves would fire current was exciting, new, memorable.

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Sometimes my timeline of events feels endless and other times it feels like it’s already over and I’m just going through the motions at a slower pace because my heart can’t take the speed and truth of it all. Memories flash in and out of time while I’m in the middle of something happening right in front of me. My heart sometimes feels like it has flown out of my chest and moved away to another place and my job is to find it, to be tender with it, to reconcile and agree. I’m sure this makes me seem distracted, but I’m not. I’m present. I’m accounted for.

The recent things that have been hard for me are still coiled around me and there are days when I feel like the only thing I can do is follow my father’s advice and burn everything. I don’t want to burn everything. I want myself to burn. I want to turn into the hottest light and I want to make everything with darkness in it flash and glow and become clean again.

We all want, don’t we?

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A couple of months before I swallowed the matchbox car, I swallowed a large marble. I had been carrying it around in my mouth for a few days, trying to understand the blue and green swirls inside of it, the smoothness, the way glass could be porous, yet solid. I swallowed it when my tongue pushed it into the back of my mouth and I reflexively swallowed it down. I freaked out a little as it went slowly into my body. For a second it felt stuck in my throat, like it was closing and stretching my throat at the same time, but then it popped loose and went all the way down.

My father was in the kitchen making himself a sandwich and I came in and started guzzling some milk and crying. He asked me why I was crying, so I told him what I had done and he just calmly grabbed a stick of butter from the refrigerator and start laying it on thick on some slices of bread. He handed me a slice and told me to eat it and calm down. Then he handed me another. And another. And another and the he walked back into the garage without saying another word.

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It’s funny, this living life thing we all have to do.

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I don’t know if I still believe in a lot of the things I used to tell myself as ways to keep going. Maybe that’s another facet of getting older, or maybe it’s really an acceptance of circumstance being far more powerful than I used to think it could be. So many things are just random happenings. I used to believe we were all being tested by things and the hardest tests were markers on the aforementioned timeline, meant to serve as reminders or warnings or trophies for when the next happening would occur, so we could remember we rose from that happening into another more graceful and aware form.

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The matchbox car did not go down easy.

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When I was taking care of my father back in 2005, right around the date we’re at right now, I asked him if he remembered how I used to swallow stuff. He was drowning in his cancer and the morphine I was giving him was making him looser, a far more gentle and beautiful person than he ever was as my father. He stared at me, glassy-eyed and high and scared and halfway out of this life. I sat still and waited for him to say something, to acknowledge our shared history, the bread and butter of us.

“I remember you crying and yelling when you had to shit all those stupid things out of you.”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “We Are All Ghosts

  1. Wow, beautiful writing and memories. I remember my grandmother giving me buttered bread whenever I felt like I was choking on something. Totally forgot about that until now. Memories are weird. Thanks for sharing all this 🙂

  2. I just finished This Must Be the Place. Wow. Stunning. Been impressed by these writings as well as amused by your Twitter. Amazing individual and writer.

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