Friday, February 13, 2015

On the existence of ghosts

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Once upon a time I stopped smiling, dear readers. A time when my innocence was robbed. Let me tell you what happened. It’s a horrible thing when a human loses his/her previous underpinnings for their belief-system. Me? I never believed in ghosts before. Sure, I heard the stories, but I didn’t trust what others said about what they saw. I placed them in the same category as those who were abducted by UFOs, or those who believe in conspiracy theories of the kind that had no evidence and had assumed some rich cabal was behind every act of violence in the world. Whenever I’d meet such people they seemed to have the same stupefied look in their eyes. So you can only imagine my surprise when I found out that there were in fact ghosts in the world. I was 33 when this revelation happened, and I hated myself for finding them—but it’s also hard to truly come to terms with the life lived blind.

It all happened when I was walking through a house here in the NW that me and my significant other (SO) were considering as a rental. It was large, much too large, and I lost the real estate agent and my SO, pausing to stare at a room. Standing there, my skin tightened and my stomach started to churn. And that’s when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and felt something cold brush up against me. My heart tripped and fell fast into my guts. Legs shaking, I could barely stand straight.

I turned to see the agent there. I forced a smile.
Nice room, said the agent, grinning, all teeth.

I would later find out that a man had hanged himself in that room. Finding that out scared me to no end. My scientific mind tried to think it through. After all, wasn’t I alone? It could have been a cold draft mixed with the lighting of the room that set off the more primitive parts of my mind.

But belief is a hard thing to defeat. And the more I thought on that moment in that house, and the more I read about the dead man, the more certain I was that I had come across a ghost.

Now, before this moment, I knew that there were a few scientific studies pointing to the influence of blood spilled on the ground. The influence appearing in the behavior of the people in the area, even if they had no part of the act of the blood being spilled, or even if they had never heard it. Some of the invented reasons—such as social transmission, a kind of reasoning that required a constant human chain to work—were ones I assumed as reasonable, but now I sensed they were silly. Because I knew that it wasn’t just humanity, but a curse of ghosts, as the one I felt had touched me.

Yet as much logical sense as my new model of the world made, I hesitated to share it with others. So I allowed the idea to settle in my head, then slowly move down through my body, an unplaced rock drifting, causing me pain, bodily harm—still I would not talk.

But one day a friend and I were arguing geopolitics somewhere in downtown Manhattan. It was about our latest military actions. I had just turned the argument on him, and he was coming around to see the pacifists’ cause, at least in this matter. We ran into a statue, an odd hooded thing with a dark hollow hole where the face should have been. An ode to fighting men of a battle hundreds of years ago, it seemed out of place here amongst the glass buildings of the finance district. That’s when I saw my next ghost. Like a shadow, it leaped from the statue and seemed to run through my friend. From the light in his eyes, I was certain that he saw what I did, but neither of us said anything, and we walked away briskly from the statue.

My friend then doubled down on his previous position that mimicked that of a government shill and his verbosity and fury increased to such a level that I had to concede the argument. After he was done huffing, and we managed some sort of detente, we stopped at a cafe made from the ruins of a church. The hour was growing late and a beautiful couple from Mali worked the espresso machine. We sat next to a window, coffees in hand, and watched as the just turning street lights punctured the dusk and the world trembled. For a second, I saw ghosts everywhere. I started to hyperventilate. What would become of me? Was I truly losing it? I decided to tell my friend. I asked him if he saw anything odd near the statue. And he only gave me an odd look and said it was wasting space when it could be used for something that made the city money. I pressed on, asking if he saw something else.

He eyed me warily, and remaining silent, his look teetered towards disgust. I didn’t let that deter me, and still pressed on. His face grew serious and angry and he asked if I knew what I was asking. I said yes.

He sighed and leaned back on his chair. It creaked under his weight. Of course, he said. I saw it.
My heart jumped, wondering if he was humoring me. I asked him how he could be so nonchalant about it. He shrugged and said that one just had to ignore them or else they would take over your life. I didn’t believe what I was hearing. How does one ignore them?

You have to, he said, leaning forward, his face growing soft like he was talking to a child. I felt a slight embarrassment, of course, and I turned red. I asked if he knew anyone else who knew about the ghosts.

He said he had a few friends who knew about them, so he assumed that like many things in the world, everyone knew about it. Then he looked at me with disgust and said that everyone knew one couldn’t talk about them. To do so was to give them a power over you that was certain to make you crazy. And if you were to point them out, you would be in a strait jacket by the end of the day.

I sipped my coffee to help deal with this verbal assault. I was mostly concerned with me just finding this out this late in life. We parted ways after the cafe and I searched the internet for any information on the matter. There was little. And the websites that did have information were filled with all sorts of conspiracy-theorists. I went to sleep as confused as ever, and the next day the confinement only seemed to have grown in strength. So I called the same friend and went over to talk to him. He was furious that I was still on the same subject, and that I had come over. I asked if he was serious about the ghosts. He hissed that he didn’t want to be taken down with me.

I asked how he managed to ignore them if they were everywhere, he pursed his lips together and shook his head. Knowing I needed a different strategy, I asked if he could point out some, so that I may be more aware of them in the future. He countered that not seeing them was a blessing. But I needled him until he was swearing at me in languages I hadn’t known he knew. Nonetheless, he took me to his computer and showed me a news clip. One from the middle east. The usual violence.

My friend asked if I was certain I wanted to see this. I nodded, though my stomach churned.
He stopped the news clip and zoomed in. And there, hanging above a child’s head was a shadow. It moved back and forth and then it was gone.

I realized then that I was shaking, my palms sweaty, and that another rock had formed in my chest. My friend, looking at me, smiled in a most sinister way. I should have warned you, he said, that they aren’t contained by video. I didn’t know what that meant, but I needed a cure for my shaking. He told me to go and have a drink and forget all this ever happened.

I never saw or heard from that friend again, though he was right about being blessed by not seeing these ghosts. For days I was seeing them everywhere, worming their way up from the ground and pushing people this way or that. It was horrid, and I couldn’t think of a single way to free myself from this horrendous sense that the world was infested. But, soon I learned to take my friend’s advice, and I started to forget, to turn away each time I saw these ghosts. And so I did, and I was able to be free. So for now, dear readers... for now I’m smiling all the time.

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