A Dangerously Bright Ghost

September 30, 2007
There was no sign of her. No visible sign at least.

The invisible signs were everywhere, lingering in the room, ghostly fingerprints of where she had been. They were not able to be seen but when you closed your eyes you could feel her everywhere, surrounding you, intoxicating you like the first breath of air after a long dive of solitude. Like the heavy silence lying over the room, her presence was a thick veil over the entire room, choking and powerful, but too beautiful, too beautiful to be understood.

The open window in the corner was thrown open and you could see her ghost sitting beside it. I could imagine her sitting beside that open window, her long legs curled beneath her, cheap red flip-flops framing her cherry toes. She would lean dangerously far out the window, her blonde hair falling around her face, hazel eyes shining dangerously bright as she looked back at me, babbling dangerously fast about nothing at all. Pointing to all the stars she could see above the city lights, she would laugh to no one in particular, laughing that bright tinkling laugh that seemed to be made of the stars themselves.

If I closed my eyes, I could almost smell her scent of cigarette smoke and cinnamon chap-stick as she lean over to whisper in my ears. “Let’s run away together,” she’d say so softly I could only hear the snatches of her voice, the cacophony of her words speeding together, one blurring into another, until they crashed together with her breathless laugh, a beautiful train wreck of noise. “Let’s just get away,” she’d murmur, her smoky breath tickling my cheek, her blonde hair whispering around me in a feathery cloud spun of gold.

I remembered every detail of her restless agitation, constant movement. She wouldn’t wait for me to even answer before she swung a leg over the edge of the window, her shorts riding up farther revealing more of her curved legs. She would pause for a moment dangling both feet over the edge of the window, her flip flops hanging from one cheery toe over the entire city blaring beneath her. She’d watch for a couple seconds the rush of people below, coursing like an endless river of empty faces, a single current in a sea of lights. For one moment, her entire world would be put on hold, as she closed her eyes, letting her eyelashes rest against her cheeks. I would steel up beside her and sit with her on the window sill, letting my feet swing in the air in wide circles, the air rushing around them.

I’d watch her for just that moment, her energy melting away into something even more stunning. I could feel her just breathe and listen, and somehow that was what took my breath away. She would talk about nothing, throw her head back, and just laugh, but somehow the absence of her essence, seemed stiller, realer than she had ever been before. She would be still and know the world could exist without her and I wonder if that ever scared her, made her breath catch in her throat, and made her heart stop for just a moment to glimpse what it would be like if she was gone.

If she was gone.

I barely had to open my eyes to walk over the window again, sitting in my customary spot, her ghost resting beside me on the window sill. She seemed even realer than I was and even now she had the vibrance, the scorching intensity that I’d never had but sat back and absorbed from her. My feet dangled out the window and even in the morning light the world rushing beneath them seemed distant, an apathetic continuous flow of lights and sounds that coursed forever around me. From my window, I was on a tiny island, alone amid a sea of motion, surging around me but forever untouchable. The only real thing was her.

I closed my eyes and the familiar sequence of events danced on in my mind. She would sit in stillness for a few moments and I would watch closely as her face slipped away into the night. But as quickly as the change came, it would be over. She would snap back to her reality, energy spiking through her veins like lightening, her face breaking into a dangerously bright smile, that impossible smile that made all possible. Her smile scared me for even in the predictability of the night, the familiarity of the events repeated again and again, it promised the unpredictability and instability that was her.

She would leap from the window sill, slipping fluidly from her seated position into the night. You’d barely see her form in the dark as she dropped away, but you could see the blonde halo of hair catching the faint light of the streetlights below, flying out behind her like a flash of light itself. My ears would catch sound of her noisy clap of flip-flops against the fire escape two stories below. The sound would reverberate like a gunshot as it was followed by the thud of her light body following behind it.

She would beckon up to me wildly, her hazel eyes glinting dangerously bright, her blonde hair falling back to her shoulders. I’d follow her because her danger was alluring and frightening at the same time; it intoxicated me and like a blind drunk, I would follow her to the ends of the earth for a single sip of her brilliance. I remembered the sensation of leaving the window behind, slipping away into the night. It was the same feeling of stepping of a cliff, because in the dark you wouldn’t see the ground rising to meet you, and it was only blind faith that made you hope that you wouldn’t fall forever.

Even now I still followed behind her, trailing after the unforgettable memory, slipping off of the window sill. Even in the light, I felt my stomach leap to my throat and the familiar fear grip me. In my mind, the cool August morning had morphed into a dark beast, a phantom of night as I closed my eyes, waiting to be on the ground again.

I would land on the fire escape, the bang rocketing into the night as my feet slammed into the metal grating. The jarring jolt of reaching the ground crashing through my joints, my knees would nearly fold beneath me as gravity repossessed my body. She’d give a bright, but cruel laugh as I stumbled, standing above me, she seemed as cool and distant as the stars. She would quickly give me a hug, as if to condone her laughter, and I would be swallowed by the scent of her; everything else drifted away.

Her arms would be around me for the briefest of moments but I would feel the lingering touch of her warmth around me, fleeting as the cold night overtook it. My back would tingle where her long fingers had spread across it, leaving a twisting path as they fell away. I’d stand still soaking her essence up as she ran ahead of me. She would take the steps two at a time, her smile flashing at me over her shoulder, her voice carrying as she scrambled up the fire escape. Her words would morph into a song, the kind of song that you could hear everyday on the radio but never really know the words. She’d trill along with the music playing in her head, skipping, singing, spinning in long lazy circles in front of me.

I’d follow behind her, plodding up the fire escape, watching her spinning, her blonde hair flying wildly around her, long glistening strands arcing away from her face. She’d spin in endless circles, her arms spread out from her body, her face thrown back to soak up the stars. Her hair was a dizzy mess around her face when she would finally stop, panting, but a broad smile would always creep across her face, eyes alight with an unseen joy. Everything from the mess of blond hair hanging with electricity around the curves of where her neck would slope into her shoulders and down into the hollow of her back, to her hazel eyes burning with energy, to her mouth twisted into a smile that would push her eyes into half crescent, everything about her seemed her seemed bright. So bright that it almost hurt to look at her but it was always harder to look away. From her curves, each running into each other, constantly bending and bowing as she flowed with energy, an electrical current she was impossible to ignore. She would be so bright and beautiful, but so dangerous. Always dangerously bright.

I opened my eyes, standing a few steps from the top of the fire escape. It was so hard to believe that she was not standing in front of me. She was still so vivid and bright in my mind, still dancing in front of me. I took the last few steps with measured accuracy, placing the soles of my shoes in front of each other on the step, sipping the morning air in to keep myself from fainting away. I reached the roof.

She would always take me to the roof. We’d never go down, always up, up, up into the sky, swimming in distant stars. She’d climb onto the roof, one of the few traditional ones in the entire city, slanting upward to reach a peak, complete with a brick chimney. As I puffed up the last steps, she would curl into a ball on the roof, her face angled upward to catch every last glimmer of moonlight. Her face would be faded to pale porcelain, so carefully crafted it seemed about to shatter with each shuttering breath she took and sometimes, though it was surely a trick of the light, you would see the finest tear slide down her cheek.

I would lower myself down beside her, looking up at the stars. The shingles of the roof would cut into my back beneath my t-shirt and the wind would whip around the roof, but just lying beside her in the purest sense of the word made every discomfort worth it. Her finger traced my wrist, blazing and alive against my skin as it meandered the length of my hand. I’d barely catch her words as she’d speak. “Just look at ‘em all,” she breathed into the night. I would look into the night, seeing only a dark haze of night, clouded with smog and city lights. She’d continue, “So many bright stars. Do you think we go to the stars when we die?” She’d prop herself up on one elbow, looking at me with dark glittering eyes, blonde hair falling over her shoulder. “Do we float up into the sky and dance among the stars? Or are we just gone?”

I pulled my legs up to my chest, wrapping my arms, holding them tightly with balled fists. The wind whipped around the roof and the morning light glared against the metal roofs of all the buildings around, the sunlight gleamed against the windows, everything was glaring and bright, but there was no danger. It was like stepping into a silent film. There was light, color everywhere, swirling all around you but with no sound. I couldn’t hear anything but her voice asking the same question over and over. Are we just gone?

I closed my eyes, blinking back tears, waiting for the memory of her to come drifting back. I waited for her bright ghost to come sifting back into my reality. I waited for some sign she was still there. But all I could hear was the endless echo, Are we just gone?

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