Every day when I get home, my eyes land on a photo strip: four faces squished in the tiny square frame. One face, in the middle.
He is my ghost.
It’s been one week since we have spoken, except for an eerie phone call in which, unprompted, you tell me that everything is fine. I can sense the lie through the crackle of the phone. We decide to meet at a café in Manhattan. A place I have been told has great pastries. You order pistachio cheesecake and a coffee. It’s 8 p.m. You say, “I just don’t know.”
We walk into the subway together and head to opposite platforms. Hiding behind a metal beam, I sob as your train pulls away. My train comes and I cry standing up. People avert their eyes. I come home, lay in my bed and cry myself to sleep. The next morning I wake up. I feel free.
· · ·
I should have been sad, but I wasn’t, too caught up to notice your absence. College drunk at a college with college kids, dry heaving for ten hours the next day, getting my body licked by a stranger in Detroit, hooking up with an old flame like we were meant to be, my friends pooling money to take me to the opera. My dream date, the one you could never pull off. Falling in love at a punk show, squished between two fat men in a mosh pit.
But a silence rang through all my daily interactions. The simplest of duties became impossible. Leaning over my shoulder, you cast a shadow on everything. Things were dark and blurry.
And I was drowning.
I’m on the 6 train and I’m convinced that I will run into you. I have to get off this train. Today can’t be the day.
The first time I listen to Michael Jackson since.
I’m at the bar and notice a new bartender. I begin hyperventilating over my margarita because she might be your new girlfriend. I know she is not, but how can I be certain.
The first time I go to Shanghai Cafe Deluxe without you. A place you introduced me to. A place that felt like ours.
I’m lying on my new lover’s bed. My pussy nestled in his knee. We are talking about our ghosts. Without warning I’m sobbing, uncontrollably, for ten minutes. I recover. We fuck. I come. Then I start crying again, while he’s still inside me.
My roommates are breaking up and I feel like the child of a divorce.
Where are you? I need you.
The number of times we have communicated since.
One text, one email, one phone call.
The number of times a day that you would tell me that you loved me for a year and a half.
My stomach cramped when I was meant to visit the Pantheon. I release all the contents of my body in a dark restaurant bathroom. My fingers drag on the spackled wall as I brace myself for your exit. I think it’s time for you to go now.
I can barely utter a single word because my throat is so sore. I cry on the crowded streets at 3 a.m. because I am sick and tired. I cry because I am with my best friend but I just want to be alone. I cry because you are gone. I carry around a roll of toilet paper in my bag. I’m trying to buy a bus ticket to what is supposed to be a magical place, a healing place. A place where, years ago, my friend Megan fell in love. I end up at the store of a man who is selling olives and things made out of olives. He makes me drink tea as I sit on a plastic chair. He kisses my forehead like he is my father but I think he thinks I’m a prostitute. I’m clutching my tissue like a Roman rosary praying I pass on my sickness to him. Please take my bug. Please take my grief. Please take this ghost away from me.
I’m moving soon and packing up my room. I find notes, photos, drawings. The Valentine’s card made out of construction paper, on the back written in crayon, “i love you.” Like something you give to Mom to put on the fridge. I find notes, doodles, etchings of super-heroes. I throw them all out. I come across a photo strip, hesitate for a moment. And place it in the keep pile instead.
The first time you said it I was at your house. As my mofongo cooled, you put on a heart-shaped Bobby Caldwell record and serenaded me with your perfect karaoke voice. You pulled me close, “I love you,” kissed me on the lips. Then we danced into the next year.
I have just moved into a new apartment. You have been gone for 194 days. One artifact remains. The only tangible-I-can-touch-it-with-my-hands evidence of you. It’s the photo strip from the Double Down Saloon. Your face in the middle.
I look at it every day trying to decide what to do with it. The love of a year and a half. The longest love I’ve ever had.
On a night that I can’t be entirely certain of
Your ghost is next to me in the night. Touching me in all the ways that you never could. Holding me just right. A kiss with just the right amount of tongue. Would you please make me come one last time?