It’s strange, seeing the face of someone who is, for all intents and purposes, dead to you.
Last night I saw a ghost – not a real ghost, of course (though I’m convinced I’ve seen those, too.) I saw the face of a man I haven’t seen in nearly 3 years, and his entire form was clear as day.
I dream often, but not vividly – despite the creativity of my waking mind, the creations of my dormant imagination are pretty lackluster. Friends, family, and everyday objects are blurry around the edges. I more or less “float” through the illusions, the words the characters are speaking more prominent than anything else. Often, I will scarcely remember a sliver of having a dream at all after it’s ended.
But last night, he was there. And I remember it all.
I opened the front door of my home, summoned by a friendly knock. He was in his fatigues. I remember marveling at how nicely the green contrasted with the russet molding of the door, how his tan skin accented his white teeth. He was smiling a full smile – something he rarely did. I remember noting that oddity.
“What are you doing here?” I gasped.
Well, no, I didn’t gasp. I giggled. Like I used to.
“I’m back,” he said simply.
“Why are you wearing your fatigues? You can’t do that – especially not now. You’re out.” Typical me, changing the conversation to avoid the real issue at hand.
“I don’t care what I’m allowed to do,” he scoffed, “I did it because I know it makes you happy.”
I hesitated, but finally swung the door open, and let him inside my home.
Together we meandered our way through an average day made special only by his presence. We strolled side-by-side down a main street quite like Babylon Village, peering into storefronts and commenting on what we saw. He was much more animated than usual – he made wild, New York-style gestures with his hands, and rambled, and shot sidelong gazes at me when he thought I wasn’t looking.
Sometimes, he got very quiet. The way he used to. I’d prod at him, the way I used to.
“What’s the matter?”
My sleeping mind was suspicious of the validity of these events because, unlike in reality, he would actually respond when asked a prying question.
“Nothing,” he’d quip with a beaming smile. “I’m just happy to be with you again.”
Unlike other dreams I’ve had about this ghost – nightmares, some might call them – I did not once forget my lifeline, my lover. My real boyfriend. He was a buzzing in my ear like a gnat, begging me to remember that he was a part of my world.
Once we’d come to the end of the storefronts, the scene abruptly changed.
Clad in dress attire, we were in the midst of a party. The room was filled with people from my new life – my life after him. We sat together on a single chair in the middle of the room; I was perched on his knee. Nobody walked by us. It was as if they knew we were in the middle of a sordid reunion, and they wanted no part of it.
The entire dream had felt perverted and weird. This moment was the height of that feeling.
Especially because somewhere in the background, my partner ceased to be just a nagging thought – he was in attendance.
His hulking form lurked in and out of sight. He saw me. He watched us. He’d disappear for a while into the crowd, but like clockwork his form would again appear between faceless bodies that clogged up the room.
He didn’t interrupt us, either. He let the scene unfold without complicating it.
I know his mannerisms so well, he didn’t have to interrupt.
You have to choose. I know my worth. Do you?
The ghost was talking about how wonderful it was to be in the same room as me when I cut him off.
“What makes you think you can just return like this? Just come back in?” I wasn’t exactly angry. I was irritated. But I was genuinely curious, too.
“Because this is right,” he said, “This is what makes me happy. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize. To remember.”
“But I have a whole new life now,” I insisted, gesturing around the room. New friends. New interests. New things about me even I didn’t know when we parted three years ago.
“But you’ve been happy since I came back, haven’t you? You look fine to me. How could this be wrong if you’re happy right now?” he offered.
I was happy. I had been happy, somewhat, from the moment I opened the door. But in this room, surrounded by the life I now led, it didn’t seem so easy to let go.
“This is wrong.” I wanted to climb off his lap, but I felt frozen. He wrapped his arms around me.
My partner watched from afar.
“Do you still love me?”
I woke up with a familiar hunger for answers. For confrontation. I scrolled through every scrap of text messages, Facebook mention, and status update, looking for clues as to why, three years later, the deepest parts of my mind still wanted to wage this war.
I was looking for answers, knowing full well none of these silly social media snippets could possibly give me one.
The internet gives you a million ways to chase a memory, to pin a ghost. Is it ruining society at large? What must it have been like to be able to walk away from your past knowing there was no true way of it ever catching you?
It must have been comforting. Blissful, even.
There are so many questions I still have about that dream. Is it wrong to think of him? Is it horrible to dream? Is it important to feel guilty for what my subconscious mind created? Or should I accept it for what it was, and let it fade away?
Like a ghost?