No one tells you about the ghosts of the living. No one tells you about how when you lose yourself you become only a shell, a ghost of yourself to all those around you. Depression, anxiety, addiction, they all demand a part of yourself and for that part you are made a ghost of the here and now; heart beating, breathing, moving but lifeless all the same. You trade your soul with these things, doomed to live your life and experience and live your life without the tangible ability to take control or enjoy of any of it.
For years I’ve walked through my life as an empty vessel with nothing but the void behind my eyes. All of my experiences I’ve seen in outer body grandiose, trying desperately to reach out, touch, feel and truly connect but nothing comes of it. My only option is to pull my own strings, like a faraway puppet master, left-right, left-right, smile and repeat. That empty wooden face of mine is good at fooling others: the painted smile, the false enthusiasm, it got me as close as I could imagine how true connection feels. It gained me things, this false connection to the world: a job that I’d work until my eyes rolled to the back of my head, friends all with problems as hollow as my intentions and even a family for whom I thought finally I would be brought out of my emptiness. Again I had tried to bring color to my life but even flowers wilt.
I met a man who I thought harbored love for me. For the smallest amount of time I felt myself growing closer to him, filling in my hollow frame with an attentive spirit. In time, however, he began to show his true feelings and how he only truly cared for the mere outline of a person I was when I met him. I fled myself and my body after the first time he beat me, painting over the bruises of my wooden puppet and making sure I locked my true flesh away. We tried to reconcile ourselves with a child, in my mind nothing else could make me feel more real than having another human fill me up.
The truth instead was that the more my belly swelled the hollower I became. I tried to join my sisters on the streets, holding signs pursuing the rights to our own bodies but the cold of the wind and the harsh asphalt were still only muted to my senses. The closest I got to feeling natural, feeling human, was the birth, the pain of it brought me straight into myself and for a brief second between contractions I thought “Yes, this is it! This is what I was meant to do and what will finally ground me.” But after that little boy excited me I became emptier than I ever was before. My outlines were only filled by his life inside me and now that he was gone there was no life left. His father, disappointed as I knew he would be, left when he saw that I was still only a ghost.
I watched him grow from this far off place, perched inside my mind but deep beneath the surface. I felt what I guess I would call “love” for him but it was beyond impossible to truly show it. When we would hold hands I would delight in his warmth but fear that his hand would fall right through me, being the ghost that I am. The time where he needed me, needed his mother helped me stay attached to my puppet self but he sprouted fast, like a tree and it was soon time for him to uproot. I pulled back, inside myself, again and again and my outlines began to fade. He no longer held my hand and I know long pulled my strings. One day my lines will disappear altogether and I can’t help but think that when that day comes I will fade away without feeling anything at all.
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