My house is clean.
My brain is empty.
I spend an entire Sunday not speaking to anyone. It rains and I’m bored, unable to write or focus on a book or do anything remotely productive. I drive to the thrift store, thinking that wandering through aisles of other people’s castoffs will soothe me for awhile. But I walk in the door and immediately turn around and leave, buy a few groceries at Target and go back home.
To pass the time, I clean. I scrub the bathroom floors on my hands and knees and spray noxious bleach on every surface. I throw the rugs in a corner and pass the mop back and forth over each floorboard. Near my bed, one is stained red. This is a strange new development, and an unnerving one.
Blood on the floorboards, I say to myself, and then I laugh so I don’t freak out. After all, someone told me I’ve got a ghost. It’s OK to be macabre every now and then.
It has been two years – two full years – since you last touched me. I have the date etched in my memory and even though I want it gone, it sticks around and pollutes my headspace, popping out of nowhere like a siren on the street. You can’t just erase things like that, even though I wish you could. It’s been two full years since I crept from your bed early in the morning, barefoot with my dumb overpriced dress all bunched up funny, and walked in the rain to my car down the street. That was the last time I saw you for nearly a year. It was like you died.
Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be maudlin.
“You smell like vanilla,” he whispers, and buries his drunk face in my neck to suck in the scent. I sit up straighter to hold his weight, trying not to spill my red wine all over my dress.
The next morning, he hugs me goodbye very tightly, rubbing my shoulders like a family member instead of someone who has just spent the night with me in his white bed. “You are so tense, Jesus,” he says. “Can’t you relax?”
“You have no idea,” I reply. He doesn’t know that I lie awake in my bed from 3 to 5 AM most nights making a checklist of worries and anxieties that I laugh at the next morning, thinking how silly Nighttime Kara is. Even if I try to dull it and smooth the sharp edges with melatonin or whatever “natural” supplement I’m testing from Whole Foods, my anxiety still claws me into Awake. There is no relaxation for me. Nobody’s hands can knead out those kinks. At night, I clench my teeth so hard I get holes in my industrial-strength mouth guard. I go through one a year and rack up $600 dental bills. The boys who sleep over must look at my sleeping form all crunched and tense and pity me. No one can love a girl wound this tight.
I’ve made friends with my ghosts, now. I don’t mind if they draw on my floors or push the couch away from the wall. At least I know they’re OK with sticking around.