nowhere / everywhere

In some places, the dead aren’t so dearly-departed.

03 February 2024 / Published on Medium
Photo credits / AYOUB AALLAGUI on Unsplash

Hello. You’re back again. I knew you’d come.

You thought I was gone, didn’t you? Splintered into a thousand memories, floating in darkness. Disintegrated. Scattered amongst the nuances of life. There they lie, dormant, waiting to come together. Waiting to be dug up, not out of my grave, but excavated from your memory. And when enough of them come together, I’m here once again.

Not neatly boxed and buried in my grave like you thought. Or safely filed away in that tattered photo album in those now-jaundiced Polaroids, slowly bleeding out over the years. There, I’m frozen in time. No, I come in the in-between moments. I live in that silence that lies in between words that people say and the quiet elevator rides and the still, reflective moments between day and night.

And in this house, I am very much alive.

When the walls shift and crack and settle as time drifts by, I crawl my way out. They still hold me there. Like a weed that has clawed its way upward through the cracks in the pavement out of the darkness below. Always waiting for a chance when death is looking the other way. Life wants to live after all. Even when you’re gone.

The shards of old fingernails and dead skin still down there in the dark depths of the drainpipes. Down in the guts of this place. My scent still clinging on to old shoes and tattered old jackets that were locked away in the attic.

You’re not here so much anymore. Maybe you want to forget. Somehow being this alive is too much of a burden for you. You think it’s better if I’m not always here don’t you? But I won’t fade away that easily.

It was easier when it first happened. When I left this world, bleeding out from my battered body lying in the crumpled car. When you stayed home night after night, wanting to hold me close. Your fear of being out there and suddenly being floored with a past memory in a world carrying on without me — without us — keeping you safely locked away in here. At least within these walls I’m still squeezing you tight, never letting you go.

I know you’ve felt me. You still miss me.

I was there the other day when you took your jacket out of the closet and my old plaid shirt — the one artifact that you couldn’t pack away — clattered and swung back and forth on its hanger in the silence, ticking off the seconds as time slowed down. The in-between time. You stopped for a moment and looked back and almost expected me to appear, as a single strand of my hair freed itself from the fabric and slowly danced back and forth in the sunlight. Still here.

I was there watching while you slept, tucked in bed on that cold winter night and conjured up by your dreams. When you woke the next morning, staring at the open bedroom door, so certain that it had been closed before you turned out the light.

I was there in the hallway mirror as it shuddered and swayed when you slammed the door on your way out, looking out at you through the murky glass . You’ll be back, I thought.

But you haven’t been back so often. It’s because of him, isn’t it? This new man of yours. Does he touch you like I do? Do you still remember my hands navigating the landscape of your body, feeling the familiar hills and valleys of skin and bone, armed with a secret map that only I possess? Or maybe your body is like a barren landscape, still not quite ready to be explored. I know my fingers still haunt your flesh. And a part of you knows that his hands will never be mine. At least I’ll always be this age. He will crack and lose colour and slow down but I’ll reside on this throne of youth and perfect memories. I’ve become a patron saint, looking down on you like some holy avatar, with my waxy alabaster skin and piercing, shining eyes.

But there, I stay in your mind in suspended animation, unmoving, unchanging. There’s no room for me in this unfair, fickle world that constantly forgets what has passed. Always making room for what’s coming. I’m swimming against the strong undercurrent that wants me to drown. To sink into nothingness. To make room for now.

Yes, now you think it’s safer out there. But I’ll be following you.

When you’re in the café that you go to. My favourite song drifting through the air, whispering my presence amongst the din and clatter of espresso machines and coffee cups. You will hear me.

When you’re in the subway on a dark night and you look up for a moment and see the ghostly blur of a man exiting on the other end of the empty train car, not quite catching his face. That will be me.

That’s when I will come. When there’s space for me to seep into the cracks.

My hopes still reside in those long-sunken sunsets — that razor-thin line between what is and what could be — where I placed them. My awe and wonder are still superimposed on the forests that we hiked through. My footprints have long sunken into the earth, but I’m still remembered amongst the whispering trees — those looming giants that hold witness to all who have passed through them. A part of me is still standing there as the seasons rise and fall.

But here, now our seasons will fade. The clothing is boxed, the furniture is packed and the rooms are empty as you stand there, silent. And now, quietly at first, the roof begins to hiss and chatter with the sounds of a coming storm. A sudden clap of thunder out there wakes you up out of this dream. The now is seeping back in. You are slowly letting me go now. I can feel myself fading. Fading between the cracks.

You’re crying now, I’m sorry. I know that holding me here too long means you’re not quite there. I just want to stay with you for a few more moments. Please hold me tight one more time. If not in your arms, then in your sweetest, most vivid memories. You can let me go, but promise me you will visit once in a while.

I know you’re leaving soon but this time I won’t see you as you go. The mirror is now long-gone, with just a ghostly frame of dust where it once stood. But as you pull out of the driveway one last time, I’ll be there at the bedroom window looking out at you from the gloom. Before I dissolve once again, like the thousand raindrops dancing and scattering on the surface.

Don’t worry, I’ll be alright. I’ll always be here if you need me. And out there in the in-between places watching, waiting. Floating in the darkness.

Nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

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