When she woke me up this morning at 4am, all hallow-eyed and opaque and looking confused, I had been dreaming about flying. I sighed, rolled over and sat up. I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to fly.
I must have told her 1,000 times by now. Maybe 2,000. I’m sure many more than I don’t even remember by the time the morning light wakes me. Or, more accurately, the noon light. I tend to be a late sleeper. A cat-napper, my grandmother used to call me, because I was rarely committed to deep sleeping, and I could often be found dozing off in broad day-light.
I used to watch late-night movies and read when I couldn’t fall to sleep, but now my nights are spent holding her hand. Assuring her with my comforting lies, that it’s going to be all right.
But each time it’s all anew. She doesn’t understand. How did it happen? Who will look after her son? What will she do without him? And she sobs, each time, like it’s the first time she’s time heard the news.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I have a lot of theories. Like that maybe we’re not just one soul, but a bunch of souls all shoved tightly together into this one small body and when we die it’s like a separation and all of us are left trying to figure out what happened. Somehow, we all come back to find out the same news.
No matter how long it’s been going on, you never really get used to someone who has already died coming back to visit you. You never grow into being okay about having to tell her again and again that she isn’t alive anymore. But, you do kind of get used it. It becomes sort of routine.
I’ve started wondering about who tells all the other dead people that they are dead. This takes more time than you might think. There is a lot to consider. There are a lot of dead people, you know.
I asked her once. Asked her if I didn’t tell her, who would. She looked confused, then hurt. “Tell me what?”, she asked. And then I remember she didn’t know yet. So, I sat her down and told her once more.
Like every time before, she believed me without question. Just wanted to know what would happen next. The answer is always the same, “Soon you will slowly fade away until you just disappear. I won’t be able to see you after that.”
She never asks how I know. Just accepts that I do.
At times she weeps, crying into my shoulder. Sometimes softly, but I’ve learned to carry tissues in my pockets in case she starts really wailing.
One time, when I was still pretty new to the experience and had only told her two or three dozen times, she started begging my forgiveness. Please forgive me, she repeated over and over until she disappeared with a fizzling, popping sound. I always wished I had comforted her. Given her some kind of absolution. Or resolution. It wasn’t mine to give, so far as I know, but who could deny a soul–a fragmented splintered soul–their one request? I’m just not that kind. Maybe that makes me selfish.
I’ve learned that she appears when I least expect it and only when I’m not prepared. But, there is a pattern to her visits. The rain comes immediately before or after her visits. And she never appears when it’s sunny.
When I get to feeling like I really just need a break, I’ll sit in front of the weather channel, telepathically communicating my need for a sunny forecast to the weatherman. John, is almost always right. But, when he lets me down I am furious and send him hateful emails for days.
I always apologize later. He always forgives me because he understands how tired I am.
When I was 15 I dreamed that I had dyed my hair and had an allergic reaction. My skin had a blueish tint and was thin as paper. My brain had melted away along with the back of head, leaving me with nothing but a few strands of hair to cover it up–like the comb-over my science teacher use to have. The one that went flapping in the wind when he took us on a nature hikes. We all laughed and he looked just like a little boy standing there with red, angry cheeks; hands on his hips. Vulnerable. Just let I felt in my dream.
Just like I think my she must feel every time she finds out that she’s not alive anymore.
And kinda like how I feel when I have to tell her.
Sometimes she stays for minutes and sometimes days, so I’m always trying to think of ways to make her the most comfortable. She can’t seem to hear the radio, but she does like to sing along with me. When I turn on the television it hurts her ears. Her chain-smoking days are behind her because now the smoke goes right through her no matter how she puffs away. This surprised me, honestly, because whenever they show angels on late-night movies they seem to be smoking. But, I guess being dead isn’t the same as being an angel.
Usually we just sit there talking. She really likes to tell me about when her son was born. And when she got married. In that order, because thats the order in which it happened. She loves talking about when her dad threw her a great big birthday party. She was 17 and her cake was pink with blue lettering.
She likes it when I cook cornbread, and taught me her great grandmother’s recipe, even though she can’t eat it. She says she doesn’t have an appetite for food anymore, just smells. I don’t think I understand that. I bought a smaller skillet when my pants started getting tight.
I considered telling someone about her visits once, but I know I can’t. When her visits first started I thought I was going crazy. I looking up schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. I thought maybe I was a psychopath but then I realized that none of those makes you see dead people.
When Ghost Whisperer came out I was kinda excited. I thought maybe Jennifer Love Hewitt could teach me what to do. I started visiting cemeteries looking for lost souls.
I found one once–he was sitting next to a grave wailing. “Are you lost?” I asked. “I am feeling that way, yes”. he said. But, I couldn’t see through him so I didn’t trust him. I walked back to my car and sat inside crying. Feeling really alone. When I looked up she was sitting next to me.
“Why are you crying?”, she asked.
I shook my head and wiped my tears away. “No reason.”
“Good! I want to tell you a story”, she said. “about my grandmother’s cornbread.”
“Is it a true story?” I turned and looked out the front window.
“Yes, but every good story has a few lies.”