A ghost slid into bed this morning and placed a little kiss on my lips. He was cocaine pale like a stone and as smooth as if water tumbled. I frowned and turned my head, the dead are not welcome in my bed, but he was persistent. My body began to hold the smell of suicide, of unhappy older women trapped in elevators. A long way to hell, I thought. The distance between his chilly hands and the last button of my shirt. The dead are clever, they orbit the lonely like satellites. They are a constant undertow trying to drag dreams too deep, close enough for them to touch. They promise success, but deliver only the cold light of the television. And this one was trying to take off my shirt.
The other side of time, I might have let him. The static song of his seduction was soothing, calming as a technocratic lullabye. Instead I opened my eyes, reached out my hands, and tangled his wings with the wire and string of my hair. Ghosts are small, collections of mental bacteria built up over uninteresting lives. They are usually as romantic to the eye as a plain white t-shirt. Capturing them is only difficult if you believe in angels and I am too old now. All my bridges with mystery were burned a long time ago. Sitting up, I examined the glow I caught. His eyes were a building tumbling down, a video clip on constant repeat, surrounded by a halo of jasper. A city creature then, sailing his ship through history. I wonder if he regrets how he survives. The lives he must have crept into as a memory, the ambitions and aspirations he’d cruelly siphoned off paper hearts to live off. I swear they have intelligence. Some inbred understanding of language, built layer by layer as they accumulate.
she is so pretty, so pretty, yes, like I remember, oh milk, they gave me milk, like pixies, a thousand names, pale like I am now, but to live, oh pretty, fire, flame, smoulder, a lamp dying, oh to touch, rain, blood, she burns, a spoken word, glimmering, pale like crystal, her skin, give me, please, her skin like milk
There are small silver scissors next to the bed. I take them and cut the ghost from my body. It’s still whispering, wrapped in my hair, waiting to wreck the party, but quieter now. I’m beginning to be awake enough to think. I lie back in the bed and watch the steel gray dawn coming in. Last night’s phonecall was me drunkenly walking a crooked line. I remember every word he said, how he’s busy lately, how the world is spinning too fast for a visit. His absence must have been broadcasting as loudly as teenagers flirting at a check-out counter for the ghost to have found me so recklessly easy. It’s either merciful or frightening to think that the slippery sound of my heart is so enticing. Maybe I should use some of those orange pills in the cupboard.
In the kitchen I find a jar the size of a fishbowl to put my new pet into. I spit into it and punch holes into the lid with a fishing knife before dropping him in with a crumpled page from one of my favourite books. The words reverberate and the paper begins to decay softly around him as he makes a little bed. Another happy ending ruined. The idea scrapes at the embers of my ruined evening and fuels my inner annoyance at how easily I push over. If I were a better person, I would stand up for myself, pound on the stubborn shore at the ugly sea that’s been drowning me. This is what I tell myself as I pour myself a glass of water. I pop the pills and notice the ghost is glowing brighter. Feeding him with my saliva was a good idea. Keeping him around will force me to resist the urge to burn this place down.