Ghosts

She stood in the corner. She was gray and she looked nothing like the last time I saw her. Somehow, she’d put her head back together. Her eyes were back in their sockets. There was no blood, no brains leaking from her busted skill.

 

She stood in the corner and stared at me until I woke. I woke and saw her there an rolled away. I tried to pretend that she wasn’t there. I lay in my bed and tried to drift back to sleep, but sleep was gone and the day was starting.

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

 

“Shit.”

 

I got up and went to the bathroom. She followed me to the door. Even when she was alive, she wouldn’t come into the bathroom when I was pissing.

 

“Some things,” she said. “Needed to be done alone.”

 

So she stood in the bedroom waiting for me. I pissed and I thought about staying here all day, but standing in the bathroom waiting for my ghosts to go away never worked. Dead people had all kinds of patience. They had nowhere else to be.

 

I came back out to the bedroom and dressed and she followed me around. When I went out to the patio for a cigarette, she stood with me.

 

“I miss that,” she said.

 

She died nearly thirty years ago and here she was, bugging me, trying to get me to kill myself. I thought hard about it, but I also thought about my sons and my grandson and I knew that I would never do it.

 

“They’d be better off,” she said.

 

“You can’t be here,” I said.

 

“You know better than that,” she said.

 

My neighbor’s dog howled and barked and I shivered and she touched my neck.

 

“I miss you,” she said. “It won’t hurt.”

 

I thought about our daughter, the little baby that died days after she was born. I thought of the heroin highs we shared and I thought that maybe someday, I’d forget all of this and turn into a normal human being. It was never going to happen, but I thought about it.

 

The sun burned through the naked trees and she started to fade.

 

“Come on,” she said. “I’ll be here.”

 

My cigarette burned down and my room mate came out.

 

“Morning,” my room mate said.

 

I turned and looked at my room mate. My ghost was gone. That’s the thing about the dead, they aren’t very social. I stood there and pretended that everything was fine. My ghost was gone and I wondered if I’d haunt people when I died. It seemed a little rude. I hoped I’d be more considerate.

Stigma

Four days without sleep. I have not eaten, or showered, or even changed my clothes. I smell of sweat and cigarettes and wet shoes. I sit in my apartment with suicidal thoughts. I see myself lying in a tub of hot water, wrists slashed, blood pinking the porcelain.

I have pills but the pills aren’t helping. Visions of dead folks hang on the walls like murals from hell. I sit in my chair and try to convince myself that living is better than dying. It’s a loud argument.

I call my shrink and he says I should come in. The hospital is on the far side of town and I don’t drive. I catch a bus and the bus is filled with people. They all stare at me and whisper and their voices paint my skull dark red.

I talk to the dead man sitting with me. I talk to him and tell him to leave me be but he won’t go. I shout and shiver and the bus driver pulls over. He comes to me and asks me to be quiet. I cannot be quiet. The driver asks me to leave.

On the sidewalk, I call my shrink again. He says to call 911. I call 911 and the cops come. Three of them, as if I’m a dangerous man. I’m not a dangerous man. I’m a coward. I hide and mutter to myself. Still, three cops come. They frisk me. They search my backpack. They cuff me. People drive by. They walk past and I can feel their eyes pulling the flesh from my bones.

The cops call an ambulance and the paramedics argue that I’m manipulating the system. I don’t know what that means. Shame and guilt flood through me. The cops tell the paramedics to take me in. The strap me to a gurney, one hand cuffed to the railing.

The paramedic sits with me in the back. She does her job. You know, blood pressure, temp, all the vitals. We get under way and the paramedic looks at me.

“If someone with a real problem dies,” she says. “That’s on you.”

I stare out the back window and try to pretend that I’m invisible. At the hospital, the wheel me into the emergency room. A nurse takes over. She asks me to tell her what’s going on. I tell her about the insomnia, the suicidal fantasies, the spinning world.

“You’re going to be okay,” she says.

I don’t know. Maybe someone died because of my madness. Maybe this is the worst day in someone’s life simply because my brain hates me.