Eternity is the worst thing about being a ghost. I guess it’s the worst thing about being dead too, but I don’t suppose you’d really mind. Nothing will ever get better for me, although I don’t see how it could get worse either. I’m simply here: seeing but never seen, drifting without destination, waiting for nothing to arrive.
Sleep is my only escape. Sometimes I’ll spend all day in bed, neither awake nor asleep, alive nor dead, just listening to the whir of the ceiling fan and trying to imagine life as someone else. Ordinary people must wake up so pleased with their desire to accomplish things, fueled by their pride and the knowledge that their actions matter. They must want to better themselves and take care of their loved ones.
That must be nice — to feel loved and wanted, or even to have someone notice whether or not I was there at all.
The fact is that I’m both prisoner and jailer in my own mind. The obvious solution is to simply unlock my own cell and go into the world, but it’s not that easy. Seeing all the purposeful people living their lives without me — it feels like I’m underwater, only everyone except me can breathe, and no-one notices that I’m drowning right beside them.
I did go out today though, simply to exhaust my restless thoughts and hasten back the temporary death that sleep promised me. I was floating through the park, stealing glances at all the happy people, when something quite miraculous happened.
Someone looked at me. Not past me, not by me, not through me — she really saw me, the crease of a smile playing about her lips, her head tracking my movement as I passed.
“Cool shirt, dude.”
No angel in heaven has ever sung sweeter words. I was frozen in shock as I watched her go. All it took was a smile, and for a few seconds I was alive again. She was my only link back to the rest of the world, and if she disappeared now, I might never get another chance.
I moved to follow her, but stopped short. What was I supposed to do, chase her? That seemed preposterous. Should I shout after her? Or would that scare her off? What could I even say —
She was in her car now. Another glance in my direction, another smile. I had no choice but to follow, stumbling through the shock, breaking into a run as her engine roared to action. A moment later and she was gone, taking my heart with her.
Maybe I should have just gone home, but the numbness of my life hadn’t returned yet, and I couldn’t forget how real her smile made me feel. People don’t just go to a park by themselves once, do they? All I’d have to do is wait for her to come back.
Faces, people, blurring together and passing by, I waited for her in the park. Sun or rain or midnight frost — it couldn’t hurt me now. I tried to rehearse a thousand things to say to make her understand how much her smile had meant to me, but nothing felt right. It didn’t matter anyway, because the moment I saw her again all words and thoughts were purged from my mind, replaced only by a desperate, unfamiliar hope.
It was almost dark, and she was walking fast, but I knew it was her as surely as I could recognize the moon behind a cloud. Someone was following her, his voice raised and angry. Every once in awhile she’d turn over her shoulder to shout something back. It seemed like a couple’s quarrel, although there was a dangerous edge to the man’s voice which unfroze me from my spot. I was catching up with them, and was soon close enough to hear:
“Ungrateful bitch. Where do you think you’d be if I hadn’t taken you in?”
She saw me. Did she see me? I can’t tell, but I’d like to think my presence gave her courage.
“Oh please. With a pretty face like this? I think I’ll be okay.”
“You’ll be a fucking whore in a week. Is that what you want?”
“I’m already sleeping with a creep. I might as well get paid for it, right?”
He didn’t see me — he only saw her, his vision blind with rage. She glanced past him and saw me — I’m sure of it this time — but her eyes lingered for too long. He was on top of her now, grabbing her arm and dragging her into him.
“Don’t you dare walk away from me. You promised to be mine, and that’s what you fucking are. You’re —”
“Let go of me. Someone help!”
I wasn’t anyone, but tonight I was someone. I grabbed the man under his arms and hauled him away from her. He noticed me for the first time, flailing wildly and striking me on the jaw with his elbow. Together we tumbled to the ground — me on top of him — pummeling and forcing him down while the girl kicked him hard in the stomach. A moment later we were running together, leaving him to puke on the ground.
“Are you okay? I don’t know if you remember me, but —”
“I remember — get in the car,” she said. “Quick. Before he gets up.”
I couldn’t have concocted a better introduction than that.
Living with depression feels like I’m neither alive nor dead. And no it can’t be cured by a passing smile, no matter how breathtaking it is. Just being able to remember that a smile like that exists in this world though, that’s a happy thought. And knowing her life is better because I’m in it — that’s another happy thought. And sometimes one happy thought can lead to the next and the next until, without even forcing it, I realize that I’m still alive after-all.
And for once, that’s a happy thought too.