A Ghost Story

Entry by: Briergate

23rd May 2016
The ghost of you

After the death, I grieved. I was haunted. I was lost.
The house, which had been so warm and vibrant, now spoke in a language which I didn’t understand. The lonely creaking of floorboards, the terrifying solitude of unknown bangs, whispered threatening sentences which I half-caught, and couldn’t translate in to anything of substance.

I began to dread the aching emptiness of solitude. I’d return home alone, each evening, after a say spent in a fugue of sorrow, and have to steel myself to place the key in the lock, stilling my trembling hands to turn it and gain access. And then, each time I stepped across the threshold, my heart would pound so hard that I could feel the blood thrumming in my ears.

I’d try and fill each room with light and noise, to drown out the persistent undercurrent of unfamiliarity that losing you had caused. I’d put music on, only to have to turn it off again almost immediately, as every song seemed to shout out the same message. He is gone. You are alone. Your heart is breaking, and life as one is no life at all. And then instantly, with the music cut off, the silence would flood like a wave of fear towards me, enfolding me with cold dread.

The strange and foreign clicks and gurgles from the central heating made me startle. Upstairs, the bed groaned and sagged under the weight of an invisible body. I would smooth out the dimples and creases where your body had lain next to mine, or coil up, foetal, as far away from where you had been as possible, to avoid the cold empty space which seemed so chilled as to be damp.

I’d seek out evidence that you had existed for me, in every corner of every room. I spent hour after creeping hour staring at your beautiful face in photo albums, tracing your features with unchecked tears. I laid place settings out for two without thinking, before the sickening surge of realisation made me start back from the table, and hastily replace the cup, the plate, the cutlery.
Was I going mad, after I lost you? Or was the house itself, the space we’d brought alive together, slowly dying around me?

Perhaps you were haunting me. After all, you invaded my dreams night after night, with warmth and humour, reliving again and again the time we had shared together. I would uncoil in sleep, only to awaken with the same jolt of loss and emptiness that was my constant state in all my waking hours.

Sometimes friends and family would call in, to offer condolences, share my tears, arms filled with flowers. I’d let them dispel the shadow for a while, but each time they left the house felt colder and more still, apart from the heavy persistence of your memory.

I started to grow angry with you, then. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the stages of grief? I’d deliberately shun your memory, getting rid of the last of your clothes which hung like shadows in the near-empty side which you had used. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, painting over your scent, deliberately choosing colours which I knew you would detest, in an effort to exorcise you.

It didn’t work. Still, I returned to the house day after day, and curled and cried because I lost you. And around me, the house sighed and shifted, and the silence was never true silence.

I remember one evening, when I had fallen in to an uneasy doze after a manic bout of clearing, and the doorbell shrilled so loudly it sounded like screaming. I snapped awake and stumbled, terrified, to the door and it took me two or three attempts before I managed to gain purchase and open it. In those few seconds of confusion and fear, my muddled mind became utterly, unshakeably convinced that it would be you, standing before me huddled against the rain, asking to come in.

Did I hope it would be you? Of course. And yet I would have been afraid. But when you lose someone you love, you cling to the idea of them and the love you have refuses to die along with them. You hold them close in your dreams, bring them alive night after night, and grieve for them in the waking hours. An endless cycle of return and loss, return and loss.

It wasn’t you standing there, when I opened the door. It was a new person. He was so different to everything you had been, and slowly I learned to welcome him over the threshold. He took up space in new ways, meaning that I wasn’t reminded of you each time he sat where you had sat, or lay beside me in the space where you had been. It was as if by his very presence, he had the power to cleanse the house of the memories, as we made new ones together.

He dispelled your ghost with the skill of a priest hurling the wrath of God through the door. He whistled different tunes, he brought in gusts of freshness and light, his coat flung casually across the chair you used to favour, and his boots splashed with rainwater formed quiet puddles which erased all traces that you had ever walked the same floorboards.

Ultimately, when he had come to the door and over the threshold again and again, the house evolved. He managed to make me laugh, and as the sound rang out and soared up to the ceiling, pushing out fear and emptiness, he helped me claim the space back for my own. The flowers he brought splashed colour in to the greys and dusks, and the house seemed to welcome him in.

I stopped hating the house, then. I looked at it with fondness, cherishing the quiet again when we sat together, hand in hand, and felt comfortable not speaking. He referred to you respectfully, but never probed for feelings or invoked your memory in anger. He was patient, and innately understood that grief and loss take time, and he only had to be with me, pushing your ghost from my living space, to empower me to love another man.

He had grieved too, before. We shared that complicity when we laughed at the things about our previous partners which had infuriated us; the quirks and niggles which all couples secretly detest, but accept in silence because to draw attention to them would reduce the beauty or value in the whole of the relationship.

When he proposed to me, I accepted. We chose to remain in this house, the one that I shared with you. Even though you still walk down the road from time to time with the woman you left me for, I am not afraid of silence now. I see you in town with her, and I no longer need to come home and weep the tears of the bereaved.

Divorce, then, is merely a matter of survival, of time, of dispelling the echoes of happy memories and learning to push away the terror of loneliness and accept that sometimes, the person you are can only continue to live, if you effectively slaughter your spouse and grieve for them as if they were dead.

I don’t miss you anymore. And I will not grieve for that love, which you killed. My mourning period is finished, and the death or our relationship heralded the birth of a new me, with resilience, light, strength and joy rippling through the house far more now, than I ever felt it, when I was with you.

Thank you.
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