#AtoZ2016 : G Is For Ghosts

The ghosts haunt me tonight.
As they have all day.
I see them in the mirror
As I wash my hands,
Or brush my teeth.
I hear their whispers
In my ears,
Any time there’s silence.

People tell me there’s no such thing
As ghosts.

They lie.

Every time I stop,
Every time I pause,
Every time there’s silence,
The ghosts are there.

They’re not what you think,
You know.
The ghosts, that is.
Not what you think at all.
Not what this world tells you
They are.

You have them too.
We all have them.
I can see them in you.
When I look in your eyes.
I hear their voices
When you speak.

You’re like me.
Haunted.
By ghosts.

They live in my memories.
In each word I heard
When I was the victim.
When I was the target.
Of words spoken in anger.
Or in fear.
Or in honesty.
Words I heard
When I didn’t fit in.
When I was different.
When I was me.

You’ve heard them.
I know you have.

But the ghosts don’t keep you awake,
In the dark,
In the night,
When life pauses.
And then noise ends.
Replaced by

Silence.

Some of us can’t close our ears.
Can’t cover them.
You think we can.
Because you can.
Because it’s something normal.
Because everyone can.

But I can’t.
And I’m not alone.

And I hear the ghosts each night.
Their voices echo in my mind.
Their words are painted on the walls
Of everything I see,
When I close my eyes.

You can’t be that way.
You can’t believe that.
You can’t think that.
That’s not normal.
You need help.
You failed.
You let me down.
You hurt me.
You’re hurting me now.

The ghosts are there.
They’re real.
They live in my life.
My experiences.
My memories.

And I can never be rid of them.

They live in you too.
If you look.
I know.
I’ve seen them.
I’ve heard them.
They color everything you do.
Everything you say.
They define
What you believe.
How you live.
Who you are.

And you can’t see them.

You can’t see them at all.

But I do.

The ghosts are real.
This much I know.
I hear them now.
In the silence.
In the dark.
In the night.

In all the memories I have.
Of life.


It’s April 8th, the 7th day of the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 19 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.

Commentary : I Hide

It’s Wednesday. The day I have my weekly session with my doctor. There are several things we agreed about today. Several things I finally said. I’ve avoided saying them for nearly four years.

“This winter tore me up.”

“This winter was hard on a lot of people.”

I felt like saying, “Yeah, doc. I know.” I didn’t. I did what I always do. I thought first. I searched through my scripts. My databases. My knowledge. For the right thing to say. There wasn’t any right thing to say. I was in psychotherapy. And my doc knows how my mind works. He knows what I’m thinking.

“This winter tore me up bad.”

“I know, Mark.”

I thought of her. My spouse. My best friend. She whom I’d willingly die to protect. She without whom I’d be hopelessly lost. “She doesn’t know.”

My doctor nodded. “No. She doesn’t,” he put his papers down. “No one knows.”

“Yeah.”

“You hide.”

“Yeah. I hide.” I’d never admitted that. Never.

“And you’re damn good at it.” He doesn’t smile much, when we’re talking. He didn’t smile then. “You’ve had a lot of practice.”

“Yeah. I hide.” I knew there was no sense in hiding that truth from him. He already knew it. “I always have. I learned to. I had to learn to. I learned to hide. To keep what I feel, what I think, what I believe, hidden. I learned to observe. To tear apart. To analyze. To study. To build programs. Scripts. How to appear normal. How to blend in. Because I learned, if I did that, if I followed the scripts, and blended in, everyone shut the fuck up, and left me the hell alone.”

“I know.”

I wasn’t finished. “They stopped saying, ‘You can’t be like that. You can’t live like that. You can’t be that way.’ They shut up. And left me alone.”

We were silent for a bit. Only a minute. Maybe a hair more. Until I spoke again. “I’m going to take a walk in the morning.”

“Good! You need it.”

“Yeah. I need it.” I sat there, on the sofa in his office, as I have far more times than I can count, and I finally spoke the truth. “I don’t walk 5 and 6 miles because it doesn’t hurt.”

“I know.”

“I walk because I have to walk.”

He sat there, waiting for me to continue. We both knew he’d do that. We both knew why. “I have to walk. It’s how I cope.” I could have stopped there, but it was time to bring the truth out. “It’s how I cope with the anger. The frustration. The stress. Of living in this world.”

“I know. And it’s good. You need to walk.”

“She doesn’t understand. No one understands.”

“I know.”

Yeah. These aren’t the exact words we spoke today. But they’re close. I told him of the time I posted a message on Facebook. “I said no one knows. No one understands. How hard it is for me to keep going. To keep dealing with this.”

It’s true.

No one understands. Oh, people think they do. You have no idea how many people think they do. But, unless you’ve lived through this. Unless you face this in your life. You have no idea.

I the past few years I’ve found a few special people. They understand. They live with this same nightmare, or another nightmare like it.

I hide. Because the truth still stands. If I hide. If I put up a façade. If I blend in, and appear close to normal. People shut up. And leave me alone. They talk to me. They spend time with me. They don’t understand the person they think I am is a lie. Isn’t real. Isn’t me.

She knows I need to walk. She knows there are times I have to walk. She’s even said, “Walk. I’ll be here when you get back.” She knows. And I know it disturbs her. Especially when I’m wounded so visibly she says, “Go for a walk.”

I wish there were words, magic, miracles, anything at all, that would let me explain why I walk to her. Let me show her that I HAVE to walk. And I have to walk for miles. I have to walk, even if it hurts.

Do you know what it’s like to walk seven miles, or more, in August, when the sun is burning the grass, and it hasn’t rained in weeks, and you can see the heat coming off the asphalt streets, and the humidity is so high you feel like you could cut the air with a knife.

Yeah.

It hurts.

But I have to walk.

It’s walk. Or go insane.

You have no idea. You really have no idea. The price I pay. Every day. To live in a world I never made.

How Can I Explain?

I sit here, on this Sunday night, barely noticing the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, my mind filled with endless questions, endless ideas, and a single, staggering truth.

I’ve wanted to jump for joy, laugh, run around like a little boy, and tell everyone what I’ve figured out. But I haven’t. And I won’t. For I have learned other truths. One of which prevents me from telling what I’ve learned. “No matter how many times I explain it. No matter how many words I use. No matter how many pictures I draw. No one that does not already know will ever understand.”

People believe what they decide to believe. It’s a harsh truth. Not a universal truth. I’m not sure any longer there is such a thing as a universal truth. Except perhaps for one. All things end. But I digress. People do, in fact, decide what they believe.

I find it disturbing how many people have decided, and believe, that the things of the world they do not like, do not understand, or fear, are the things that are wrong. Are the things that are sins. Are the things that are evil. It disturbs me to have learned this. It disturbs me to know I struggle with this truth in my life, my existence.

Perhaps it is natural to fear, distrust, and perhaps even hate, that which is unknown. Perhaps it is the unknown that reminds of us things in the corners of a room, in the dark, waiting to pounce on us. Perhaps these are the monsters under the bed. The demons in the closet. The devils in the dark.

I sit here tonight, wishing there were words I could say, words I could write, to capture the truth I’ve come to grasp today. I struggle with this, knowing I will never find a way. And even if I could, it would not matter. For the people I would share this with. The people most in need of hearing it. Of learning it. Would never understand.

They would, instead, relegate me to the ranks of the evil ones. The demons. The nightmares. The eradicated. The forgotten. The ignored. From that day forward, I would be the sad memory of the one that fell from grace.

I know this. For there are people I knew just a few short years ago, who view me this way. The sad story of the successful person, with the great career, that crashed and burned, and destroyed it all. It was such a sad thing for them to see.

The gulf between how I see things, how I believe, how I feel, and them, has grown with each day that has passed, until now, it exceeds the vastness of the space between the stars, and galaxies. I could no more talk with them than they could talk with me. Our words, worlds, and ways have fallen into parallel universes. Right next to each other. Unable to detect the others presence at all.

It saddens me to think of this. I would say to them, “It is only pain. It is only fear. It is only change. What are you afraid of? Why do you hide? Why do you run?” If there were some way I could.

There is not.

I write. You’ve doubtless noticed I write. It’s one of those things I’ve learned I must do. It’s part of me. Part of who I am. As a body breathes. As blood flows. As hearts beat. As children are born, grow old, and pass beyond the veil. I write. I can’t be any other way. The stories are endless. In my thoughts. My dreams. More than I can ever put on paper.

The stories never end.

I sit here tonight. Knowing I can never find a way to share the truth I’ve learned today. Knowing it would be pointless to even try. Knowing instead, all I can do is write. Stories. And perhaps. Maybe. Someone. Somewhere. Will be drawn by those words, by those tales, into a world they never knew was there.

And start their own journey to find the truths I seek. Knowing they could never explain them to anyone. For a very few would understand already. And the rest exist in a parallel universe. Right there. You can see them. They are real. But they rest an entire universe away.

How can I ever explain what can’t be explained? How can anyone?

#5SF : Words

She stomped her feet, then stared at me, her eyes cutting right through me, as she screamed at me, “You never do anything. All you do is talk. Talk, talk, talk. You never act on anything you say. It’s as if all you are is words.”


Here’s my weekly attempt at Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Words.

Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

I Don’t Know At All If I Can

The card came in the mail yesterday.
A sympathy card.
From her.
One of my favorite cousins.
Expressing her sympathy
For me, and my family,
With the passing of my Mother.

It was a beautiful gesture.
Totally unexpected.
There was a picture inside.
Of her and her spouse.
Never met him.
But he looked OK
In the picture.

I found myself looking
Up at God.
“She better be happy with him.
He better be taking care of her.
He better not be
Like that first guy was.
You got that, Lord.
She deserves to be happy.”

And then I saw
The handwritten words
Addressed just to me.

“It has been a long time.
If you can give your cousin a call.”
And then she wrote her number down.

And I don’t have a clue at all
What to do.
Not one clue.

I hear so many voices
They could fill the Roman Coliseum,
Screaming at me,
“Pick up the phone,
You ding-bat!
Give her a call!”

And I want to.
Oh, God,
Do I want to.

But…

How?
What do I say?
How do I say it?
Whatever it is?

I called a friend in February
Of 2011.
Wound up calling her a lot.
She was wounded.
And lonely.
And so very ill.

I’d call her up,
And I’d listen to her voice.
I’d listen for as long
As she wished to talk.
And I’d almost never say a word
Myself.

People just don’t realize
How hard it is
For me to talk.
They just don’t know at all.

Hell,
I’ve known my lady 35 years.
And there are still times
I just can’t say a thing.
Times no words come out.
When I talk with her.

It’s another way I’m wired
A little differently.

I remember meeting Deb.
Face to face on Mother’s Day
In 2001.

The only time I’ve seen her
In real life.
I’ve seen her picture many times.
But we’ve only met
That one time.

You know what she said to me
When she got home
From the trip her and Scott were on?

“I was sitting right there,
At the table.
Just across from you.
And you didn’t say a word.
You didn’t say anything.
Anything at all.”

She told me how disappointed
She had been.
That I hadn’t spoken with her.
Hadn’t talked.
And she was right there.
Right there.
She could have held my hand.
We could have shared stories.
We could have talked.
Like people talk.
Like friends.

And I sat there.
Damn near silent.

I would have loved to talk with her.
Tell her how beautiful she was.
Tell her how the pictures I’d seen
Were pale imitations of her.

Tell her stories of the kids.
Listen to stories of her kids.

And I couldn’t.
I couldn’t find the words.
I couldn’t find a way.
I couldn’t.

I just sat there.
And listened.

And now,
My cousin has asked me
To give her a call.

And oh, how much I want to.
You will never know.
You will never understand.

And I don’t know at all
If I can.

I don’t know at all
If I can.