“My memory is defying me despite the increasing distance between then and now. I see pictures of her and this new guy and weigh the differences and similarities between us and I feel like I’m boiling from the inside. It’s not jealousy anymore. At least, not that I can put my finger on. It’s like a gap that, maybe a wound that closes near shut only to have the slightest perturbation of my body or state of mind. And only with the sands of time is it supposed to be healed but it’s been so long already and I’m tired of remembering. Does that answer your question?”
“… What question was that?”
“You asked me how I was doing.”
“Oh,” she leaned her head back as a sign of ascent, “yeah, now I remember. So, you’re still struggling with this, are you? We haven’t talked in a while. You haven’t come see me lately. Or I haven’t seen you come this way lately. I figured you had moved on to other things.”
“I guess you could say that. And it’s not all as dramatic as I describe it. At least, not all the time. But there are still moments, little camera flash moments in time when I see that face and balance on the ambivalence of missing it and wanting to destroy it. I got no closure, I got no real explanation. I was just the throw away and every now and again I will revisit that grave, I will mourn that corpse and I will lose my perspective for a moment while my heart drops into my boots. That’s when I have to cut loose and come here. And here is where I always find you. You’re like a ghost. You haunt this place.”
She froze. Not that she was moving much from where she stood but his statement seemed to freeze-frame her body where it was at. She didn’t respond as if in fear of shattering her dipped-in-liquid-nitrogen pose.
A slight breeze rustled the leaves in the tree above, just as it did a few wisps of hair as she stood in front of him, still faceless, still masked by the darkness of the moonless night. Not that they could see the moon anyway. They both looked in opposite directions as if to ignore the space between them, as if any proximity would give up the unexplained tension of the moment and it would snap, lacerating them both like a cable pulled too tight.
They both knew if they stayed in this dual of opposing forces much longer they’d see imminent collapse and so, like a movie taken off pause after a long moment they were able to go back into normal motion again. And they both breathed a breath to give away the fact that both of them were unsure as to how they should proceed. The silence was heavy, despite being carried on both their shoulders, they both looked down to better bear and bolster the weight of it as they listened to the leaves hiss and shudder against that summer breeze. And the quiet between them was a glass pane erected as a wall betwixt their bodies.
Until she broke it.
“I think… I think I need to tell you something.” She said, as she looked at the tips of her toes.
His brow angled towards his nose, he tilted his head. “What?”
“You… You described me as a ghost, that I was haunting this place. That’s not entirely true but there is some truth to it.” She breathed a heavy sigh.
“I don’t believe in ghosts. It was a metaphor.” He looked at her quizzically as best he could at her shadow mask.
“Like I said, there is some truth to what you said. I’m not really ghost. Think of me as a… projection. I am an apparition of your mind’s creation. I’m not really here. And to save you from people thinking you’re crazy for talking to the air, I only appear when we’re together here.”
“So, you’re saying you’re some sort of delusion or imaginary friend. Crazy people have those. I’m not crazy.” The pitch of his voice increased slightly from the thought. Am I crazy? Was what happened all those months ago the trigger that set me off the edge?
“No, it’s not. See, I am part of you. I know your thoughts but in order for this to work your mind had to create something to substitute for reality. You went through a a lot of emotional states because of her and you needed someone who would listen and could understand your point of view without judgement or derision. I was your brain’s way of taking care of you. I became your confidante and I also had all the characteristics of a woman you’d trust, maybe even be interested in in certain circumstances.” She sat down on the park bench and patted the seat next to him.
“So, why tell me all of this now? I mean, now that I know doesn’t the power inherent in the illusion disappear?” He stared at his hands as he rubbed the spot closest to the knuckle on his right ring finger.
She laughed, “Obviously not, since you’re still talking to me like I’m real.”
He managed a chuckle, “I suppose you’re right. So, now what?”
“Now is the farthest I can take you, unfortunately. You’ve managed to get through the tough stuff without serious problems. Sure, you have your rough days but that’s going to happen to anyone. And you know that because I know that.”
He nodded his head, “Will I ever see you again?”
She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Oh, I’m sure there will be times when the turmoil becomes difficult. But you have to remember that I’m always here, really.” She tapped him on the head, near his temple.
He stifled a laugh and a bit of sadness and stared at the pavement. He could only nod as he could not think of anything else to say.
“Don’t worry, kid. You’ll do alright.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek which was the most human touch he’d experienced in months because it terrified him so much. He felt the ice inside him melt a little bit. He turned to say something to her.
But she was gone…