Unwritten, Unbought, Unlived
I wake up at 3:30am every morning, for no reason, to total silence. But this time there’s a ghost at the foot of my bed, milky and translucent. I’m startled, but not scared; there’s a ponderous, cool energy in the room. As I scoot down to sit beside the ghost, to look at its face, it turns toward me.
A man. A bushy handlebar mustache. A name that I don’t even speak aloud but he nods in affirmation to. Nietzsche.
I settle beside him, pulling my knees to my chest. I would like to say I thought of something profound, but instead I ask the first thing that comes to mind.
“Have you been a ghost this whole time? Since you died.”
“Yes,” he said. His voice is stronger than I’d expected, with the same cool static that seems to come from his body. “Have you been one since you were born?”
“I’m not a ghost,” I say, half-smiling.
“Tell me then, what is a ghost?” He juts out his chin, his strong nose dwarfed by that mustache.
A philosopher asks a simple question. One tries to give a simple answer. “The spirit of a dead person that...lingers. Stays on earth for some unfinished business.”
He lifts one finger. “As I said.”
I frown. “I’m alive,” I say. “I’m breathing. I’m solid. You’re not.”
“You’ve got unfinished business. You’re lingering, waiting for something.”
“How do you know?”
He looks in my direction. Without irises and pupils it’s hard to tell exactly what he was looking at.
“I can see what could be just as clearly as what is. I could read your unwritten book to you, if you want. Or describe your unbought little cottage by the sea, in Maine. I could report, down to the minute, a typical day in the teaching job you never pursued. Do you know that the child you never had with your ex boyfriend is a whiz at Legos?”
My heart aches, the weight of the unlived lives pressing it flat. The inverse of grief, grappling with all I never had instead of what I’d had and lost.
When he speaks again his voice is quieter, but still stern.
“So many lives you could have had. Yet you’re in this one, not as much because you picked it as that you didn’t pick any of the others.”
“You sound like my mother.”
He lifts his finger again. “I sound like she used to sound.”
Now that he mentioned it, it had been some time since she’d asked. Strange; it had been something I’d thought I wanted, an end to all the questions about what I was doing with my life. But they’d ended, and now I couldn’t remember if they’d died off slowly or if she’d suddenly given up one day.
“What should I do?” I asked him.
He shrugs. “Anything. What do you wait for? Permission?”
“Someone to do it for you?”
Then he is gone.