shadows circling the parking lot, every neon light spread jam-on-toast, chlorine-in-pool wide, brutal tire marks bruising the concrete, goodbye kisses from careless teenagers driving off in search of bigger skies, pocket lint & gummy bears, the flicker-flare of a truck U-turning off the middle of the grimacing country road before shrugging back into the balmy dark.
cookies baking in the oven, the latest news story reports a mysterious death and four missing bodies, the tea kettle hisses like a hungry backalley animal, the chandelier swings on its own, the lights stutter & die out, your mother emerges from the kitchen with a knife and a cherry-fleshed smile, except she is not your mother.
some nights are the beginnings of a horror movie, all the stereotypes that never go out of style, the wispy wings of cigarette smoke butterflies fluttering out of lipstick bright mouths, cold eyes in the limelight, a face in the mirror that is not your own, lovers interrupted by screams ricocheting off the walls like flower vases smashed, blood splatters in strange places.
gutter-hearts in the grocery store, shopping for ice cream in the middle of the night, a song with a tune that is familiar to you but one that you’re sure you’ve never heard before plays soft as soda pop in the background, the gaunt clerk’s eyes seem to glow red whenever you look at him from the corner of your eye, you try not to look at him again.
a bouquet of alienated balloons in the sky, circling the moon like something out of the most dreadful fairytale you know, the forest gnarled as a dead body against the bony moon and the monster movie sky, all shredded clouds and playground empties.
your heart a slug crawling out of your mouth as a ghost hand reaches for you from somewhere behind you.
the shriveled gaze of black-eyed children pressing their lifeless hands against your car windows begging for you to let them come home, a gun in the car compartment, jesus on the dashboard, mascara massacred cheeks, coming off your mountaintop highs and plummeting endlessly through stars that only pretend to catch your fall.
Like everyone else, I have things I don’t necessarily want to talk about, and one of those things is myself. A lot of people would attribute this to humility. I know I’m not ‘all that’ and would never claim to be. Even so, this reluctance to discuss myself feels more fear-induced than anything else. I guess you could say I’m scared of ghosts. People can become them. You can laugh with them, hold them, maybe even kiss them. Until you can’t. Until they leave. And then what do you have? Memories. They can do their best to disappear from your life, but that won’t stop you from thinking of them at 3am. You know you should be sleeping, but instead you’re thinking about the songs you shared, and their laugh, and how they held you when you could barely keep yourself together. And then you’re breaking, because you remember for the nth time that they’re not there to hold you together anymore. I’ve read about it, I’ve seen it, in some ways I’ve even lived it. So now I’m not as open a book as I used to be. I decide the speed at which my pages are turned, or if they’re even turned at all. After hearing and being a character in too many ghost stories, you begin to expect people to become them. You become wary of them, expecting their pseudo-death. Everyone deals with this wariness differently. Some decide to disappear first. Others like me wait for what feels like an inevitable end, but hope for a better outcome. When I open up to you, I’m asking you to be different. I’m asking you to not turn into another person that haunts me.