I invited him over when he had already become a ghost because I wanted to see him in the light of day. I put my lips on him and smelled him and pressed my palm and fingertips against him.
He was solid. In the afternoon light he was just a man, he didn’t have the power to haunt me the way I thought he did.
I could see now that there was nothing here to miss. I could trace the edges of the mistake I had made, that same familiar shape. I had done the thing that girls with open minds and functioning hearts do. I had contemplated forever with this extraordinarily ordinary collection of molecules.
If you ask a ghost hunter, they will tell you there are distinct types of hauntings. Demonic hauntings are said to be the product of an evil spirit attempting to take over an individual’s body (possession). Poltergeists are noisy and mischievous pockets of energy that move things around, aimlessly. Intellectual hauntings are less troublesome, a hearty “go towards the light” and some sage can clear your problem right up.
A residual haunting is the saddest of all. There’s no ghost in the way we think of them, no brains of the operation. There’s just some assemblage of energy that’s stuck repeating the same thing over and over. Whatever event took place had enough energy that there’s a trace left on that place, a loop that never leaves.
It’s a memory, physicalized in the most depressing way possible.
It’s the same when you love someone deeply. That love gets stuck inside you. It repeats itself and you get confused thinking you want something that is no longer an option. You don’t really. It’s just muscle memory. A longing that is no different than catching the scent of someone’s perfume in the air long after they have left the room. You did something for so long that you have to practice not-doing it in the awkward way you have to practice breathing in and out at a normal pace when you’re trying to calm yourself down.
The thing about a residual haunting is you don’t get rid of it, you just stop noticing it after awhile. This is a play that is going to go on with or without your attention. It is made up of human things and science things and other stuff we haven’t worked out yet — but it’s not for you.
A memory might not leave you alone the way you want it to, but it can’t hurt you. It’s mortal the way we are, it dies when you neglect it.