My friend Leila Grace said, years ago, that she always fell in love with haunted men. That she was the one to take them out of their grave and make them alive again. Thinking about it now I think I’m the haunted one. I feel full of ghosts, it’s a persistently recurring theme. How many times have I written about the way a history lingers, fingerprints on an iPhone screen?
In my truly hopeless moments, the ones where I’ve lost all sense of self and don’t think I’ll see light again, I’m a puzzle book or an exquisite corpse, a collection of parts attached to other people’s memories. At my worst I’m a receptacle for misplaced emotion, a lovely void.
“I miss your feet,” someone texted me a while ago. My toes used to curl around his dick. Sometimes he came after I’d already fallen asleep. It used to bother me that I couldn’t be anyone’s first anymore. Then I wanted to be their only. Then I realized that time is not particularly linear and that I’m not moving toward or away from anything.
I’m in Oregon this week, doing Oregon things. The air comes from the ocean, through the mountains and the forests and the rivers and the rain and it smells so much sweeter. It smells wild and young. It’s been years since I was here in autumn and it’s thrilling to me, how whole hillsides shade into yellows and oranges and greens. The dead leaves leave a thick pulp on the driveway of the house I grew up in. Today Chris called and on the phone I stood outside on top of a rain-drenched bench in a park and turned the furry bud of a magnolia over and over in my free hand.
“I’m pretending it’s a rabbit,” I said, stroking it with my fingers.
My rabbit’s foot. My bad penny. The word for the way the earth smells after rain is petrichor.
Not long ago my phone broke and I lost every photo I’d ever taken in the last five years. Gone: all of college, my first year in New York. Still lifes and landscapes and blurry photos from concerts I don’t even remember attending. Nudes and selfies, snapshots of drawings that no longer exist. I didn’t weep at the loss, but I felt shattered, and spent a long time scrolling Instagram, thinking about the fraction that remains.
“I lost all the photos we took in Vermont,” I told Chris, after it happened.
“But it doesn’t take away that we still went,” he said. I said yes and then I’m pretty sure after that I kissed him, because once I knew he was leaving the city I didn’t want to do anything but kiss him.
I’m haunted because I adore my ghosts, because I can’t let go of anything. Today I snapped the magnolia bud off the branch so I could roll it around in my hand. “I could mail it to you,” I said on the phone, imagining it traveling thousands of miles.
I’m haunted. I hoard memory. I need to see the world through a film of my excess, I can’t bear to be in a present that feels barren. Sometimes I feel heavy with the weight of the associations that have soaked me through.
And I am haunted by love. I am haunted mostly by love. These apparitions that drape themselves across my shoulders and slip beneath the collar of my shirt: they are made of care, if they are made of anything. I dress myself in it old and new. I sleep in it. I wake in it, too. In the morning, a name in my throat, I see how it has coated my hands.