Dear Past Self,
There is a ghost in your life, or more accurately my current life, which is just your future life, and I’m going to try and give you all the instructions I can to keep it out. To keep this ghost from coming in the first place. I don’t know where it came from, so I’ve been carefully compiling a list of all the maybe-ghosts who would want to haunt me, and I think if you are able to follow my instructions, there will be no future ghost.
There is a graveyard in the middle of the New Mexico desert where grandma is buried. Don’t worry- grandma isn’t the ghost- I would know if it was her. But during grandma’s funeral, I got bored and the sun dried up all my tears before they could even come out. It was the kind of hot where I could feel the veins in my eyeballs. White chocolate was her favorite, don’t you remember? So the funeral had been stuffed with white chocolate and it was stuck to the roof of my mouth as I wandered around the tragically hot cemetery. I was all alone and went about reading the gravestones, with aching eyes and a white chocolate-y mouth, judging names and wondering if everybody was truly “dearly beloved.” One in particular has a picture fixed into a pocket in the cement stone, a picture of Jessica Johansen (1997-2007). These are the instructions: do NOT, do NOT reach forward with your pointed heel to remove dirt off the picture. This is disrespectful, and it even cracks the plastic casing a little bit. This is the reason why Jessica haunts me. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll describe what the picture looks like, since I know you want to know. It’s a young girl with brown hair and brown eyes and buck teeth. She’s holding a bat and she’s in a red softball uniform. She reminds you of the girl who stole your favorite pencil in the second grade. She is dead and might haunt you in the future.
The next possible ghost comes from a high school anatomy class field trip. Somehow we get into the city’s med school’s morgue, where they show the medical students fatty pancreases and clogged veins and purple tumors. The class shuffled into a room that smelled of copper and bleach, like if somebody tried to deep clean a penny. They pass around many organs for the students to poke at with gloved hands, and for a long time there’s only sounds of the crinkly plastic gloves. They pass around many organs but I believe the owner of the liver is the possible haunter. It’s gray and meaty, with nodules like little hard seashells embedded in the meat of the organ. Our anatomy teacher holds it first, explaining cirrhosis of the liver and its link to alcoholism. Do NOT laugh and say “too many margaritas” as you poke at the organ and squish it between gloved hands. It’s rude. And do NOT- this is the worst and I feel ashamed that I even have to write it- do NOT pay James 5$ to lick the liver. He will, because he’ll do anything. He stuck his tongue out flat, which was long and covered in the gray brush of those who forget to brush their tongues, and pressed it against the liver. Blood bubbled up around where his tongue was. We all died laughing, but he got caught and sent out. If even the teacher saw him, surely the owner of the liver did too. Even if James was the one who did it, I was the instigator. I was the one making fun of the alcoholic liver. Besides, you’ll go to your fair share of AA meetings (I’d tell you to not even start drinking but let’s focus on the ghost. One problem at a time.)
I never planned on joining a sorority but that is what you do when you are skinny and bored and friendless in college. I thought that even if I didn’t exactly have friends I would have some girls to do some things with. Not that there was anything they particularly did other than drink vodka sodas on the weekend and run around the track each morning. The first sorority I joined gets dissolved within a week by the university, after reports of hazing. I didn’t get hazed because I’m smart enough- really it was just one hazed girl, the dead one, the maybe ghost. What happens is they line the girls up and demand that we take as many shots as our body count. The obvious answer is to lie. Lie and make your body count the exact number of shots you want to take anyway. I list my three bodies and choke down three shots of cheap berry vodka. Alyssa- Alyssa with the bright blue eyes and the smallest waist of any of us- proudly lists the 15 men she’s supposedly slept with. As if being fucked is a compliment. Alyssa finished the first 5 shots easily- “I’ve been drinking since I was like 12.” she tells us snottily. But after 8 in an hour, there’s something wrong. I fill up her 9th shot, I don’t know why, someone just hands me her shot glass to pour in. Another new girl tugs at my sleeve. “Fill it with water, look at her.” She whispers to me. I roll my eyes. “She should’ve lied then, about her body count. And she can always say no.” Alcohol spills over the glass ridge onto my fingers as I pass it over. My instructions for you are: Fill it with water. Watch Alyssa. Don’t let her fall out the third floor window. I didn’t actually see her fall because I had already returned to my dorm. But she knows that I could’ve given her water and I didn’t. She follows me now, maybe. I wasn’t the cause of her death. She got hazed, and the sorority had to pay a fine. I didn’t. The rules were to take shots- she wanted 15 shots. She could’ve knocked it out of my hand. I didn’t force it down her throat, down straight to her teeny tiny waist. Still sometimes, I would spill a little vodka on my hands and I think of spines cracking and brains leaking in front of a large dirty house.
These are the only people I can think of who have reason to haunt me. Alone, in my apartment, I hear a young girl dragging along a baseball bat. Light steps plus a woody scrape against the tile. I smell bleached pennies and one time I woke up convinced someone was trying to smother me with a raw liver (heavy and wet and leaking blood into my mouth and nose). My hands always smell of cherry vodka. Whenever people ask “What’s that smell?” (everywhere, anywhere) I know they’re talking about the sharp and sweet scent that soaks my fingertips.
I actually lied- these aren’t the only people who would want to haunt me. There is another too. But if it is her, I want her to stay. Even if she’s the one wandering and smothering and reminding me of all my sins, I want her to stay. There are no instructions for her, because I would do it all over again. I think that is what love is (she said I was incapable of love). I won’t tell you her name or anything like that, so I don’t mess up your future. If she is the ghost, she can and will stay.
This is all. I hope you get this, and I hope I can start sleeping again sometime soon. I wish I had not been so casual.
Your future self, haunted and insomniac