There’s a ghost in my house. I’ve been talking to her.
She doesn’t talk back very often. In fact, I’ve only heard her once. I think she told me her name.
But the thing is, I’m not even sure if she’s real.
If she’s not actually there, that means I’ve been asking lots of questions to absolutely no one for about a week, which is slightly embarrassing. But if she is there, that means I can talk to ghosts, which is kind of badass. Regardless, I’m putting this story on the internet, so I guess you can decide for yourself.
It all started when we were eating dinner. I looked down the hallway and saw a white silhouette so clear that I thought it was my brother. I asked him what he was doing and turned around to find him walking into the kitchen behind me. I looked back in the other direction, but the figure wasn’t there.
“I just saw a ghost,” I said, quite matter-of-factly.
My dad, the self-proclaimed cynic, is surprisingly interested in the “supernatural,” if you will. While he’s never seen an actual ghost-like figure, he’s experienced quite a few unexplainable events.
He proceeded to text my aunt, who is our go-to gal for all things psychic and told her I’d seen an apparition. To put her into perspective, she once made me come to a meditation with her, involving tinctures, crystals, incense – the whole set-up. (Whilst there, I discovered that in my past life I may have died in 9/11, but that’s a story for another day.)
She responded saying that I needed to ask the ghost what it was doing and why it had made itself known to me. I eyed my father skeptically.
“I would do it, dude, but she [my aunt] says you’re more in-tune with this kind of thing,” my dad said to me, in a manner that reminded me of a little kid trying to convince his mother to buy him a lollipop.
My mom assured me that I didn’t need to attempt to communicate with the ghost if I didn’t feel like it.
But I felt a sense of obligation, like this was my duty. This was a task that had to be done, and only I could be the one to complete it. I was Gilgamesh setting out on his quest, but instead of searching for immortality, I was just trying to talk to a dead person.
So anyway, that’s how I started talking to this ghost in my house. At first, I was a little freaked out, but from what I’ve concluded from our encounters, I think she’s friendly and just here to visit, so I’m not worried.
I think she was telling me her name is Mary. The reason I’m not exactly certain I heard it correctly is because I thought I might have been tricking myself. My dad’s grandmother was named Mary. She was an artist and we have her paintings hanging all over our house.
But, like I said, I’m not sure if any of this was real. I’ll let you know once I figure it out.
On the center of the granite countertop of the mini bar in my grandparents’ house, a home I spent the majority of my childhood in, sits a single polaroid. In that polaroid is a picture of me as a little girl, food all over my face with my dog right in front of me.
That is the only photo I have from my childhood and I can barely remember the story behind the photo. Now, it makes me wonder how many memories I’m missing out on because I can’t remember. This is also because I have no photos to revamp my memory.
I have no photos of myself with long hair, with my parents, or pictures of my dogs. All I have are my memories; the ones blurred between the lines of trauma and bliss that was my childhood, the ones I desperately want to forget and remember all at once.
It’s terrifying that I have such a clear memory of the smallest details nowadays, but I can’t even remember the details of my parents’ faces. The little things in life that were defining aspects of my day to day life as a kid are blurred images in my mind today.
All I would have are these photos, but I don’t even have those.
Now, I have an abundance of videos and photos piling up in my Snapchat memories and phones new and old holding numbers of concert videos that I barely look at anymore. Videos that I refuse to give up, in case I want to look back on them and smile. I have photo albums filled with developed photos, polaroids from prom and random nights with friends, lining the shelves of the desk in my dorm room.
Some people say you need to live in the moment, to put your phone away and let your mind keep the images. But, I can’t. I don’t take photos and shaky videos to post them on my social media; I take them so I can hold on to the memories forever in the literal palm of my hand.
I have no photos from my childhood. Not a single one. Not in a photo album, on my phone, but I wish I did. As much as I try to forget everything from my life before I was ten, I wish the memories weren’t becoming just memories. I wish I could hold on to a photograph and relive the moment all over again.
But, that’s why I take photos all the time through the lens of three different cameras. So in thirty years, I can look back with a clear image and not just rely on the one in my head.
When I was in third grade, I wanted to go see Kung Fu Panda. All my friends were excited about it, but, when my mom broke the news to me that we couldn’t afford to go, I was heartbroken.
For weeks and months, I was upset about it. Until one day after school, when my mom made enough money, she showed up with the DVD and a stuffed panda bear in hand.
I’ve kept that panda bear ever since. Its name is Bob, and it’s a she. I don’t remember why I decided to give a girl panda one of the most boy names I knew at that time, but I do remember the countless questions I was asked, and the countless times I didn’t care to give an exact answer I didn’t even know myself.
What I did know was that I loved that panda. I brought it everywhere. I brought it to my dad’s home on the weekends, to the occasional family dinners, and to the sunset Malibu car rides.
It was around me when I was happy and when I was sad. I held onto it during the silent nights. I held onto it with the grip of my small, but tight hand while trying desperately not to feel alone with my family in the other room.
In a time of darkness, that stuffed animal was the last dwindling light source. It held every bit of my fighting innocence that diminished within me as I grew up, but, as I carried it with me through my life’s adventures, I carried bits of my childhood along with it.
When I moved in with my dad, I brought that stuffed animal with me.
When I went to Argentina for the first time, I brought that animal with me to the hotel, on the plane, and in my backpack on tourist trips.
Every trip I took to Mexico, I’d bring it with me.
When I went to boarding school for the first time, it stayed on my bed. When I went home for weekends, it came with me in my suitcase. When I went to OVS for the first time, it came with me.
After I got back surgery before sophomore year, with all of my emotions ridiculously heightened from the the extreme pain meds that put me under, I had a mental breakdown for hours because I thought I had left this panda at OVS. It didn’t stop until my uncle lifted up my blankets and handed it to me.
I was fifteen then.
Then the Thomas Fire came. In a panic, I only had thirty minutes to pack anything valuable to me. Without hesitation, I grabbed my panda and threw it into the bottom of my bag. The dorm parents told us we would only be gone for the night, but I couldn’t risk it. I cried when I thought I left it at school, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if it burned. I had to bring it with me.
It seems ridiculous how emotionally attached I am to an inanimate object now that I’ve grown up, but it’s still important to me. It stays on my bed and it no longer goes on trips with me; I no longer rely on it. I don’t hold it when I fall asleep. In fact, it sometimes slips onto the floor guiltily in the middle of the night. But, whenever I’m distraught or alone, I grab onto it and hold it as tight as I can.
It may still be a stuffed animal, but it’s so much more.
It’s the last thing I have from my mother. I no longer have photos in my possession or objects from her and, despite all the tragic, dark times, this bear represents one of the few good memories I have of her. It symbolizes the goodness in her which faded away over time, but is still kept as a stored memory I hold onto – literally.
It holds my innocence. My ruined, diminished childhood innocence still stays safe inside that stuffed animal I look at every time I make my bed and I still smile about it.
The panda symbolizes my childhood. Without it, the last remnants of it would vanish.
The light filtering into the kitchen was the type of gray-white light that made her glow like a goddess. She was fastidiously picking through a bowl of cereal for the fruit, too focused to really care about the food. He came and placed a hand on her shoulder, stilling her arm, he tiptoed his fingers across her collarbone to her other shoulder and pulled her in, his bicep laying gently across the top of her t-shirt, his hand idly playing with the hem of her sleeve.
It was still chilly outside and he could see a mist drifting by the window, the grass looked like blades of pure emerald. Rich and dark, sharp in comparison to the fogged and blurred weather. He glanced down into the grass under the window, he could just see the tale of a garden snake, he had begun to think of it as his pet this last month, disappearing into the grass. He tapped her twice on the arm.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the right words,” she hummed.
As the weather had warmed she had grown colder and colder. The spread of tingling embers that always started in her ribs and shoulders, that radiated out when he was near her, faded into cool pinpricks, like rain or snow. The clock had ticked out the final seconds: tick, mine; tock, mine; tick, mi– and then it was gone, the ticking of the clock was gone. They were no longer tied together, something no longer felt right.
So she found a way to say goodbye.
He knew he shouldn’t. But he did.
He couldn’t help it. He had to look at her one last time, to look back on her like he always had, if only he could have walked the road in time, he could have let the music of what tied them together play as a reminder that she was there, she was real, she was his. But he had to stop — look.
Today she was in white — she never wore white — mourning. She was frozen mid-stride, a raindrop stopped just upon impact with her nose. He reached out and hugged her fiercely, angrily. Wildfire’s searing nails dragged down every nerve in his body. If only he hadn’t looked. If only — he stared at her eyes: cool, unwavering, timeless. He bent down to her —
He was back in the doorway his back to her, turning away. He tried to spin back, feeling like reality had finally slowed to meet him. He turned just in time to watch helplessly as she slipped away, pulled by an unseen force.