My time in college was an ever-winding journey of indecisiveness and fleeting relationships. Each friend I had seemed to stick and every romance seemed to fade like a ghost. It would take the week of my graduation and subsequent death of my roommate for those ideas to clash full circle.
After leaving for the night, roses in hand, anticipation through my veins, the jitters of a first date always come. We took our seats, ticket stub in hand, popcorn between us. Two hours of the movie went by and the box of popcorn depleted before the 1-hour mark. No hand holding no first date kiss but the jitters didn’t escape. converted to suspense to relay my happiness from my rather normal first date. The goodnight text with a foreboding of a second date arrived as quickly as I arrived home. Upon flopping on my grey comforter, my eyes shut and the butterflies went silent.
The next morning I awoke to an empty apartment. I wiped the night from my eyes and started the Nespresso. The beep was interrupted by a phone call. I knew I saved her number so it wasn't her. Instead, it was a number I didn’t recognize from a city I didn't live in. I answered the phone only to hear my own name echoed on the other side. The eerie silence of the apartment filled one ear while the other tried not to listen. I sank to my knees, my mind in more directions than seemed possible. My heart no longer fluttering, instead mute. Still... Pounding Pounding. The officer on the other end asking me questions I had no hint of how to answer. “I don't know anyone who would want to hurt him” The next series of sentences was a mess of trying to wrap my head around what happened and to who. My mind was a frenzy, truth not seeming real. As bad I as I wanted him to repeat his words to see if my ears were playing tricks. I almost didn’t want to hear. The echo of his words still reached the inner caves of my mind, rattling around, leaving punctures with every bounce. He was gone. I lost him this night I was with her.
Going through trauma when life is supposed to be a happy event could send you in many directions. I was in the midst of graduating college, a time when “moving on” is written on every grad announcement. Somehow life stood still. I remembered the girl from the night before, the last light I could see within the mountains in my mind. I clung to her as if she was the last life preserver on my sinking ship. I told her the events as vaguely as I wanted to remember and then shoved them to the side in favor of those that would bring me solace. She told me she would be there. Placing band-aids over large issues only make for even bigger scars.
We went on more dates that ended in laughing until cold streams ran down our faces, which was numbing. I felt myself becoming happier, she was closer to me now than the throbbing pain that was held within my eyes. My close friend becoming the ghost and the girl becoming the one who stuck. This is the idea that drove me back into a place that everyone around me was in. Denial was written all over my face, "how dare I be happy at a time like this?”. When my roommate was gone. His laughter, silent. It was unhealthy to mask emotions for grief but to encourage others.
Even still, I continued blissfully with moments of storm clouds slowly chasing away my happiness. We stayed in most days, usually watching a movie or two, ordering post-mates, and enjoying each other's company. There was little to no talk about emotions or feelings with the fear that the mood would be instantly spoiled when the word death entered the conversation. The connection was fragile considering we had met each other only a few weeks earlier. Somehow our relationship hit a difficult patch before we could even form an opinion of one another.
I thought this would make us closer, but in more ways, it formed a wedge between us. A screen with a giant "do not enter" sign hanging from the doorknob. We didn't speak of it. Eventually, as fast as my newly found relationship appeared, even she became a ghost. Not in the literal sense, but to me it felt like the band-aid was ripped off again and my grieving process began. While we might assume that her not sticking around to become yet another phantom in my college journey would be ailing to me, I have to wonder if it was something else.
The first thoughts were, “Is this me”, do people naturally want to leave me. Do I attract only to repel? They both left on their terms, according to their story. Not mine. Literal and physical ghosts are a part of life, of my story. My ghosts both decided to become shadows. Each following me whether I see them or not. If my friend hadn't chosen his fate, I could wonder if I would've thought her as a healer. The nights of laughter, the distraction that seemed to mask. People all have their reasons for leaving, and you can’t control if or how they leave. But masking your emotions once the time comes, only delays the process for becoming a full person again. It took me a while to realize that ghosts can leave scars as deep as gashes. Emotional punctures take the longest to heal. If we treat them early the scar shrinks.
A belly laugh in the park brought me clarity.