Origins of the Friendly Ghost
I guess that’s how I got my name. My parents are cartoon buffs, so when their baby popped out off-color and half-dead, there was only one thing to do. If you haven’t guessed it yet, my name is ******-Ghost. I’m Ghost.
I have anemia, caused by a severe iron deficiency. But that not the only thing I’m referring to when I say my heart wasn’t quite right. It’s three sizes too big, or I like to say so. It’s normal sized in reality, but it sure seems like too many people can fit inside at once. It makes it kind of hard to breathe sometimes. Too much weight in my chest. You can’t really blame me for having bad posture, can you? With a chest full of people, you’d probably do the same.
My heart was an okay size when I was very young, but it grew at a much faster rate than I did. My body grew in a linear way, and my heart exponential. I always cared a bit too much, even when my heart was the right size, though. I grew attached to anyone who stuck around long enough to let me. We moved often when I was younger, because my dad was involved in the military.
Eventually, we settled down in good old Elkader, Iowa, a town where everyone knows your name. I was in middle school by now, and my heart was heavy from all the people I had left behind.
So one day in eighth grade, I ran as far as my feet could carry me- which ended up being about 35 miles, until I had to stop because I was going into shock- and I emptied everyone out on the side of the road. I held onto two people, my parents. I sat there for who knows how long, until the sun set, and my mom had finally gotten our junky old minivan to drive out far enough to find me.
Soon enough, I was in high school, with my heart two sizes too big and a reputation two sizes too small. I was known as Ghost, mostly, or sometimes Spooky, or Jeepers. I was the kid who ran from Madison Middle School, from Elkader, from myself- although no one knew that part. People mostly left me alone when they weren’t poking fun at me. The two things balanced each other out in sort of a funny way, I suppose.
And then there was her.
She transferred to Elkader High (our school chant was ‘Goooo Elks!’ -very original) in my sophomore year. She was new, she was pretty, she was my light in the dim town that was Elkader.
It wasn’t dark there, because my heart glows for a couple yards around it. Not red, not pink, but grey. A heart that glows grey is a funny sort of concept, I guess, but you’d know if you saw it. My photos of other people always show their hearts. Hidden behind collars and scarves and jackets and hands, sometimes you can’t even see them glow. But they all do. Every single one.
Hers was golden, mixed with red sometimes when her emotions leaked into it. I could have seen it from a satellite.
She decided she liked the kid with the too big heart and the too small reputation. Maybe it was because I was the only one who had run from this place. Every other kid had lived in Elkader their whole life. They didn’t know what it was like to leave the place. I knew that Elkader’s generator could only make enough light for a dim glow in each heart. I had to get out of there, fast. And so did she. I could see her light fading by the days.
So we stuck together, us kids with slowly fading hearts. And eventually, we fell in love.
I wish I could tell you it was the pretty kind, where I knew from the moment I laid eyes on her, and I only fell further. Or maybe that it happened all at once, and never went away. None of that is true. It just kind of, happened. And I didn’t know what to do, because her soul was too big for even my heart.
But she tried anyway. She fit, just barely, squeezing out everyone else, and left the door to my heart wide open for her feet to stick out.
She never knew about how weak its walls were, I suppose. They were thin stained glass, made thinner by my anemia and my heart being stretched too big. She wanted a promise. In our little town, there were no rings that I could give her. Nothing was big enough for her Saturn-like soul. Maybe I was just too late to keep her heart from dimming too far.
The only thing I remember after that is blood. Maybe I just fell too hard and too fast for her. Maybe my walls finally broke. Maybe that was my promise. To die for her.
And I almost did. Would have been more fitting, I guess. When I woke up, she had left my heart in shards, my body bruised, and my plug pulled. My heart doesn’t glow anymore. I’m still trying to piece it back together.
So here I am. A crazy university called Elsewhere. The only place I’ve ever felt I belong. A boy with a shattered heart that doesn’t glow like it used to, and a name just big enough to fit all the pieces of myself behind, running from the only person who ever got close enough to break me.
Because if no one knows your weak spots, no one can hit them. So I hide behind the false front of a proud, brave, stupid kid, naïve enough to never have had his heart broken. And if you look close enough, you’ll see the real me behind it. Plug in hand, welding my heart back together, ready to start again.
P.S. You can find me @ghostinthejukebox if you promise not to hurt me.