The longer I live, the more ghosts live with me. They twine themselves around locks of hair, tuck in behind my pierced ear. One lays in the scar sliced into my shin during my summerful of biking. One swings from an anklet given by a boy whose memory is as persistent as an earworm. One tries to be a guardian angel against both bike injuries and broken hearts, and that ghost lives beneath the bracelet my father gave me years ago. The ghosts flit over eyelashes and warm themselves under rings.
Most of the time they use my body as a playground, weightless, as constant as a heartbeat. But sometimes a familiar song will play on the radio, unexpected, and a ghost will make its way up to my earlobe, tug slightly, and whisper. Sometimes they murmur nothing but nostalgia. The laugh of a friend from years ago. The carelessness of camping under shooting stars. Midnight scares in a kitchen that became home, with paper hands and a singing fish on its wall. A sweater wrung with memories. The exact crack a table makes when five best friends dance upon it, long into the night.
And at moments like that, those ghosts are demons. Because they’re not reminding me of a place or a person, but of a time. There’s no way to go back to those perfect little pockets, where life stopped and took a big breath and grinned. Life has tripped and continued on, leaving nothing but imprints behind. The houses will be empty, the people long gone, the pieces of the puzzle never quite the same.
But other times these ghosts from the past will sneak up onto my shoulder and play the angel, pointing out a mistake I shouldn’t remake, whispering a new opportunity. A friend with a smile that crinkles his eyes says he knows everything about me, and a ghost tells me not to let him slip away through the fingers of time. These friends are few and far between.
When I’ve given up on a new idea or decide the millionth attempt at another goal just isn’t worth the effort, the ghosts clamber up on my shoulder. It stands firmly there, memories gripped in each of its little hands, and it shouts DON’T. So I’ll throw out another draft and crack my knuckles and put pen to paper again. I’ll lace up my shoes. I’ll pack up my bag and continue on to the next oasis.
And in the end, when I’m laying down for my final sleep, I hope these little ghosts crowd around me and murmur their furry memories into my ear, and I hope there’s tonnes of them filling my days. Both the angels and the devils and all of their whispers.