Midnight Sun

October 23, 2008
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Alaska was familiar with ghosts. She had more than she cared to count, clinging to her soul like the permafrost to her namesake. They fought to put their hands around her throat, to choke her when she tried to move past their chains. They fought to hold her down, to hold her to the past she tried to forget.

They weren’t bloody ghosts. They weren’t even dead. Her ghosts were still living, still breathing, still walking to the beat of their fluttering hearts.

Living ghosts were the worst. They disappeared for a while, only to show up again. They’d let her live in peace, then appear again and taunt her with every question that went unanswered. They flaunted her regrets like prayer flags in the wind above the mountains.

It had started with Ray, last Friday.

He had been the friend she could have had. He was brilliant, interested in many of the same things she was. She could have easily gotten along with him, but she had been to occupied with painting her ice to make her seem like everyone else, and she had let that chance slip by her. Ray was the one she couldn’t imagine doing mundane things, mainly because he had been so much like her and she detested the mundane. Instead of in the news, however, she had seen Ray at the local supermarket. He had just walked by her, glancing briefly in her direction. There had been no flash of recognition in his brooding eyes, the exact same expression he wore in most of her memories. She had shown signs of recognition, though. She had felt her eyes widen, felt the burning blush blaze its crimson way across her china skin. She had hoped he hadn’t seen her, but Alaska’s shock of blonde hair—a soft mix of reds and golds and platinums, a result of being naturally blonde—was impossible to miss. He had seen her.

She didn’t know what hurt more, the fact that he saw her, or the fact that he hadn’t recognized her.

Ray was the harmless ghost. He didn’t have the darkest regrets tied to him, not the way his friend hurt her with the sheer weight of the memory pulling her heart down into some gloomy night.

Reed had been one of the dangerous ghosts. He had been the specter on the horizon, the one she always wanted to meet. She had chased after him like a wolf after the moon. He was nothing but a water moon, though. An image of something that could never be touched; something that could never be truly real. He was the ghost she had liked to believe in. He hadn’t really haunted her, but going to school with his younger brother Joey had done enough damage. It had given her questions she didn’t want.

Had he ever noticed her? Was he as bright to his brother as he had been to her? Had he always been so blinding, casting shadows everywhere? Did she really waste her time all those years ago?

There was Julie, the best friend she had somehow lost. Julie had always been there, never far away from Alaska. It had always been like that, since they were toddlers learning to live. Somewhere along the line, Julie and Alaska had fallen apart. She had moved on, found new friends and new hobbies, leaving Alaska to sit in the dust of their stolen childhoods. There had been no goodbye, no formal sign that they weren’t what they had been. But the signs were there. The way they couldn’t find anything to talk about, the way they seemed to be speaking different languages. They went to school together and managed to never see each other.

Julie was the ghost she hadn’t wanted. She wanted the real Julie, the friend she had always counted on, but all she had was the after image of their friendship.

Toby was a painful ghost. He had had the potential to be one of the greatest friends she’d ever had. He could make her laugh, even years after they had broken apart before they even began to know each other. He sat next to her in class, spoke to her about things they had in common, but it wasn’t true communication. Alaska was always left wondering what could have been. Would she be laughing with him, debating with him and acting with him in the school plays? Would they still have actual conversations, the summer days so blurred in her mind? There were so many regrets, so many missed chances tied to Toby. It hurt to think about.

There was David, the friend she gave away. He was a neutral ghost. She was unusually sharp with him, but it was a reflex. She had harbored a crush on him, only to be crushed in return. She had never taken wounds well, but if anything, David had made her stronger because of that. He was the reason she kept her walls up so high, the ice so think around her heart. He was part of the reason she didn’t smile a lot. She wondered if he knew she had kept the drawing he gave her when they were kids.

David was a neutral ghost. It hurt her to think about him, but he had given her the strength she had. She was thankful for that.

Katie and Maggie were the twin ghosts, the two revolving stars who never left the other alone. They were the ghosts she wanted to stay ghosts. She had been glad they had left her alone.
Maggie was self-destructive, a bomb with a fuse already gone, yet the explosion hadn’t happened yet. Alaska wanted to be in the distance when she finally collapsed. She was the ghost that made her see her own emotional time bomb. Knowing that Maggie’s ‘beloved’ boyfriend was likely abusive made her all the happier to get away. Maggie wouldn’t listen, and the day it fell apart, Alaska wanted to be far away.
Katie was the ghost of who she could have been. She was a lot like Alaska, had the blonde remained girlish and ignored her own heart’s tempo, the melody it sang in dissonance with the rest of the world. Katie was the one with an amethyst set in white gold, the band around the third finger of her left hand. She was younger than Alaska, throwing her life away where Alaska wanted her own existence first. Katie reminded her of everything she hated in herself.
There was Jason, the ghost who hurt her the most.
He was the love that could have been, she thought. It had been a mutual interest, one that Alaska had tentatively acknowledged. He had been the one she’d truly smile for, though theirs had been a distant and remote relationship, dependant more on the enigma that both seemed to present to the other. It had been her crippling introversion that had kept the seed from sprouting, and though it may have grown a little, there never was a bloom of vibrancy and daring.
There was still adrenaline in her veins, coursing through her blood and through her frantic heart as she sat at her computer, staring aimlessly out the window. Trigonometry had started that day, that fateful Monday.
Jason had been there.
She had met him in her last math class, basic college algebra. The adrenaline had always flushed her system when he was around, the blush creeping across her cheeks like a bleeding weed she couldn’t control. When she had seen him in the bookstore, there for the supplies for the same class, it had been everything she could do not to give into the weakness in her knees. She had been certain he had mentioned that he was moving, but there he was, the same smile and the same voice haunting her regrets when she closed her eyes at night.
It was déjà vu, and Alaska hated it.
Jason was a weakness, a crack in the citadel she had painstakingly built around her heart. Somehow he had managed to affect her, change the course of her thoughts and quicken her heart in a way years of track and soccer never had. The adrenaline was more than competition had given her, more akin to fear than anything else.
He was the stars that mesmerized her, the fire that burned her, and the rain that sang her to sleep. She couldn’t stand it, the begging curiosity her heart fluttered with. She wanted to take a chance, risk it all, just this once. She wanted to break down the walls from the inside, but found she couldn’t. She didn’t have the strength to do it.
What was love, anyway?
Jason put the crack in the wall, and it was Alaska’s job to finish the destruction. It wouldn’t be down for Jason, and he would just be another ghost in her collection, the one she cherished the most for all she learned.
She would break the wall down for him, but not to take that chance.
She would cut away her ghosts; destroy her worries and her inhibitions. She would free herself from the chains she fashioned herself.

And she would run.

She would run, and she would find her own midnight sun to illuminate the darkness of her life.

Alaska would make her own midnight sun, and she would thank her ghosts for teaching her how.

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