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Devoid of Expression
I am a trapped soul, a wandering mist. Perhaps even a figment of my own imagination. Or in simpler terms, I am a ghost.
My face does not exist and nor do my hands, nor my feet. My name is unknown and my thoughts retain no psychological meaning.
The people pass me by, their skin glowing, radiating life. Their eyes are vibrant colors as they scan their surroundings; mine remain gray and fixated on their diverse expressions. Some sip coffee, loosely grasping the cup, their intake of the liquid cautious despite their thirst for energy, for it is too hot to drink too quickly. Some bite into soft blueberry muffins, the aroma permeating the city. Some grip the hands of another, their gazes transfixed upon each other.
I stand within the crowds, my face devoid of expression. The people do not seem to notice me … they never have. Not once in 153 years. Of course, however, the occasional eyes darting my way when I stub my toe or knock over a stack of books is always somewhat enjoyable. I suppose it depends on the crowd. Nevertheless, I will forever remain invisible to all who roams the earth.
Why am I here? Now that is a good question, so good that I myself do not know the answer. In fact, I should’ve left a long time ago. A very long time ago. I do not remember what exactly occurred to trigger my death, but I remember flames snapping their flickering tails about the crisp, winter air. I remember the screams, the heat that crawled about my arms, my legs, boiling my skin and filling me with such intense agony that to this day, I still endure it. I have two scars to prove my memories: a subtle, jagged mark above my left collar bone, and a rather immense wound, wrinkled to the point that no normal skin is visible, stretching from my bicep to the center of my forearm, a long tendril extending to my wrist.
I gaze upward to the towering buildings above, the windows glinting with the sun’s vivid light. Boston wasn’t always this way, evidently so, with structures less sturdy and not so extravagantly tall. And by what I’ve seen, nobody needs buildings so massive. But then again, suppose that given the resources of today’s time, it’d be easy to continue growing. Matter of fact, people never tend to quit growing, changing … or discovering new ways to better themselves. Given the amount of time I’ve sat silently, watching the world develop, I’ve undoubtedly recognized such drastic changes, such growth.
When I was alive, times were much different. My fogged awareness of my short-lived life brings me images of bricked pathways and ancient theatres … horses and carriages, newly founded companies. Now, all that remains are illuminated screens and eyes that seem oblivious to all that surrounds.
Howbeit, I am not oblivious like the rest, for my resources are limited. I see all, for what else is there to do as a ghost? I enjoy creeping into homes at night and trading my conscious thoughts for a wildly unique story, the dusted covers of the books clamped tightly within my weak grasp, made up of bony, pale knuckles. Moreover, I also luxuriate in attending musicals, as well as wandering about art museums, my eyes scanning the polished dancers and walls coated in splattered paint. Luckily, I am stuck in a city with much to do … I never thought I’d say the word ‘stuck’ in a positive remark.
Currently, I saunter about the streets, nothing but a cold chill felt as I emerge into the crowds, brushing past with thin fingers. I clutch the sides of my frock coat --usually left undone and down at my sides -- tugging it downwards, feeling the black fabric between the tips of my fingers. My gray cloth trousers fit loosely around my legs, my white cloth shirt untucked and blanketed by a coat of blackened smoke. You’d think such a stain would be absent by now, but perhaps I'm mistaken. My leather shoes clonk against the cement sidewalk … such a pity that I am the only one aware of their sound.
This is all that I own.
At one point, I was insane. Of course, who, in my position, wouldn’t be? Silence does that to you, I suppose. And being alone is quite annoying, especially when you cannot do anything about it. Nobody can hear me, feel me, see me … I live alone among an overpopulated world.
I’ve been present for every event of Boston since 1863. I’ve watched the people migrate west, while I’ve remained trapped behind an invisible wall. I’ve listened to the anti-slavery speeches, I’ve seen the Irish flood in from across the ocean. I was there when the Boston Red Sox (formerly known as the Boston Pilgrims) won the world series. I sat and watched The Great Molasses Flood kill the innocent.
Kill. Death. Such odd words. Is there even such a thing as an afterlife? I’ve read every novel on such words … religion, Heaven and Hell, souls. Ghosts. I wonder to myself if there are trapped souls like me, wandering the Earth, with nobody to converse with except for their crazed minds.
When I was insane, I’d try to kill myself. I’d run a knife through my skin, but no blood would flow. I’d leap into the Charles River, holding my nose and waiting anxiously for my lungs to collapse … but they never did. I’ve fallen from the Prudential Tower, landing perfectly on my leather shoes no matter how forcefully I fell.
So, I’ve stopped trying … not only because I literally can’t, but perhaps because subconsciously I still believe my life acquires a purpose. Because I am immortal, somewhere inside I find myself clinging to some form of hope, pulling it towards myself, my skin tearing and burning, but never letting go.
But then again, perchance this is all just self reassurance, and the real reason I haven’t gone entirely mad is because of Callie Kline. Though I’d hate to admit this to myself; it would propose that I am absence of worth. But, who am I kidding, I’m a ghost.
Abruptly, my neck jolts up, my posture straightening. Warmth bundles me up as I see her now, striding toward an office building, just two blocks from her apartment. She drinks her coffee steadily, as though she’s sampling it, determining whether she savors the flavor. Her soft, rose-colored lips kiss the lid, her tongue wiping them clean as she pulls away. She’s a coffee addict, and I’m afraid it’s terrifically obvious to even a stranger. Her deep brown eyes are wide and observant, her slender fingers tapping the side of the cup.
She wears a worn pencil behind her left ear, her shoulder-length, sandy brown hair blow dried and slightly draped over her high-set cheekbones. Her figure is shapely, her black slacks fitting her neatly and a maroon blouse tucked in, flowing with the gentle breeze.
Callie Anne Kline. Even her name sends a shiver down my spine: she’s gorgeous … magnificent.
She brushes past me, with no clue that I am standing so near to her. No care, either. And she carries on, crossing the street, just sipping her coffee.
No matter how many 26-year-old women there are thriving in Boston, she’s the only one I’ve noticed, ever. She’s the only one that I’ve imagined kissing sweetly … imagined feeling the natural softness of her fingertips as she strokes my neck. The only one I’ve imagined looking into my eyes and seeing me, understanding me.
“Stop that,” Benjamin snaps to me. “It’s useless … pointless … she’s never going to see you.” Benjamin is my mind, and frankly, he is rather frustrating.
“I don't care,” I murmur in reply, stuffing my hands into my pockets, watching Callie’s kitten heels click clack across the street. “There’s just something about her … something about the way she moves, the way she talks. I can’t describe it, Benjamin.” The chilled air catches my soft voice, carrying it further from me until it is once again nonexistent.
“Suit yourself,” my mind sighs.
I’ve been watching Callie Kline for four years. Well, watching sounds as though I am a freak, or a stalker. But then again, I suppose I am.
Is it odd that I’ve been practicing what to say to her this entire time? Maybe, maybe not. But perhaps one day, one miraculous day, she’ll see me and we’ll talk for hours. I mean, we’d have too … but would we even get along? I’d like to think that we would; everything she says is remarkable … brilliant, even. She comes up with ideas that I never even knew existed, and each word she speaks leaves me breathless for more.
She’s the most intelligent person I know. However, I don’t feel that she agrees.
Callie Kline works in an office building with gray walls and stained carpet, and undoubtedly she thrives to be more. An aspiring author, to be specific: each night after answering sales calls and gnawing on her pen, she comes home to her cramped, one-bedroom apartment, a steamy cup of coffee -- flavored with one packet of sweetener and two tablespoons of cream -- between her palms, and a laptop placed before her, the glowing blue light of a Word Document shadowing the holes beneath her eyes. And she writes … and writes and writes and writes, her ideas exploding from her vast mind like a volcano demanding to be emptied.
I enjoy concentrating on Callie’s face as she writes -- she furrows her eyebrows and mouths the words she intends to type. I usually stand near, but not too near, so that she can be as alone as possible … so that she can be set free.
Her stories are glorious, but she continues to start over. She never finishes. Never shows anyone her work, for she is afraid. So many times I have sat close to her, my gaze glued to hers. “Quit starting over,” I whisper to her. “Take a chance.”
However, she doesn’t listen.
As cliche as it is, Callie makes me feel alive; it’s as though my heart leaps, my lungs expand … as though a warmth itches across the back of my neck. I’ve experienced feelings like these before, in 1860 … I vaguely remember caressing a bare shoulder of another woman. However, I do not remember the feelings I endure now, with Callie; all I remember from those images are filthy clouds of lust and meaningless pleasure.
My attention regains focus on the present, and I follow Callie Kline into her office building. The ceilings are tall, the voices echoing about the space, and I glide past the living. They wear slacks similar to Callie’s … clean and shimmering with the light of the chandeliers. I gaze toward a glass wall as I pass it, my eyes scanning over my appearance. It’s quite humorous actually: I’ve looked the same since 1863. But I’ll admit, part of me always expects to see something different. Perhaps my hair will become blonde instead of murky brown. Perhaps my skin won’t be as pale.
And perhaps, even, I won’t be dead.
“You are a ghost,” Benjamin informs me as my thoughts once again take the better of me. “You are nonexistent. You are nothing.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” I reply blunty, my thin, white lips pressed into a line.
Callie enters an elevator. She is alone, her eyes staring toward the coral-colored walls as the doors begin to close. But, before they do, I join her.
“Hey Callie,” I say to her, a warm smirk spreading across my face.
She doesn’t reply, but I imagine she does. A smile warily emerges onto my emancipated face, my eyes transfixed upon her distant stare.
“She can’t see you,” my mind mumbles.
“Silence, Benjamin!” I holler.
The doors of the elevator begin to open, and Callie flicks her hair over her right shoulder before continuing toward her office.
She smiles kindly to the receptionist, then to Marcus. I despise Marcus, with his clean-cut black hair and broad frame. Of course, I could respond to his flirtations with Callie by becoming a stereotypical ghost, flickering his lights on and off and tossing knives across his kitchen. But then again, that would be rather rude.
Nevertheless, he’s a complete fool.
I sit with Callie most of the day, engaging in casual conversation with her. She works most of the time, but plays a game titled Poptropica when her manager cannot see. I chuckle when she does this, leaning back against the wall and stretching my arms.
It’s humorous how times have changed so dramatically, yet stay so similar: people continue to lie and cheat … but they also continue to play. They continue to experience and make the most out of life, for life is brief and unexpected, and perhaps even unjust.
Once in awhile, however, injustice becomes the most wondrous occurrence.
I’ve known Callie Kline since she was 22, when she first arrived to Boston. She was young, fresh out of college with nothing but a three-year-old Persian cat and a Liberal Arts degree. To this day, I can still visualize the moment my eyes spotted her in the crowd. She bit her lip, her bright eyes frantic as they flickered about the crowded streets of Boston. She watched the taxi cabs speed by, the extravagant lights blanketing her skin. I approached her gently, my head bowing slightly, my lips parting in awe.
I had never seen such a beautiful human being in all of my existence.
And from then on, I remained at her side. I’ve watched her meticulous movements as she paints strokes of blue upon blank canvases. I’ve watched her fall in love, I’ve watched her heart shatter. I’ve watched her tell stories of magic and mystery and love … I’ve watched her create.
I joined Callie on a date a couple years back. I strolled with her to an Italian restaurant, admiring her slimming green dress and gold jewels. And once her and the man -- his name, I remember, was Evan -- were seated at the candle-lit table, I observed them both from a distance. My arms were crossed and my lips were pursed as I watched Callie laugh with that strange man named Evan, whose attire was much too neat, his appearance handsome and well-groomed.
Evan couldn’t quit blushing like a child on their birthday, which sent waves of heated agitation through myself. Frankly, moments are never awkward with Callie; no matter how odd or dull the conversation, she responds with a glittering smile and a kind reply. Every man adores her for this. Or, at least I do … and Evan did.
After the date, when Callie returned to her apartment, she yanked off her dress -- I promise I closed my eyes like any gentleman would … -- and slipped into cloth pajama shorts and a stained t-shirt. She turned on the television, leaning back into her sofa, her cat curled up in her lap. She must’ve sat there for hours, all throughout the night, watching house-renovation shows. And whenever the couples were first introduced, she would stroke her cat and whisper, “One day, I will find a man, and I will love him. And I will be happy.”
If only she knew how close I was to her during that moment.
For the duration of those four years, not once has the thought of me crossed her mind. Of course, I’ve considered that perhaps, even if I were alive, she still wouldn’t think of me. Why would her mind, being as vast as it is, care about a pale, awestruck man dressed in clothing very much out-of-date?
I think back to my purpose. If a God exists, why didn’t he take me? I do not recall ever doing such harm, such bad. I was only 22 … surely I couldn’t have been so horrific as to receive such punishment.
I remember emerging from the depths of the Charles River after nearly an hour of hoping for my final death, everlasting slumber, hollering curses to the sky, tears boiling within my eyes.
These thoughts bring a frown to settle on my face as I wonder: I don't know if I can endure another day of being invisible to Callie. Of wondering how she’d react if she knew how I felt. Of wondering how she’d react if I told her how perfect she is to me … how wonderful.
Callie Kline gives my life meaning. But she’s also slowly destroying it … or, at least whatever remains of it. Is my life technically even considered a life? I mean, I am dead. A wandering mist ….
Perhaps even a figment of my own imagination.
At six o’clock, Callie leaves the office, and I follow her as she says her farewells to her coworkers, descends down the elevator, and hastily strolls out the front doors without another word, her lips sealed.
Outside, the sun is setting, the chilled air breathing against us both. The street lights blink on, the taxi cabs honking, people scattered about the sidewalks, some smoking a cigarette, some begging for money.
Tonight, however, Callie Kline does not turn onto her street. I gaze at her carefully, wondering if she is okay … wondering what she could be thinking about. She crosses her arms, her eyes dewy as she saunters toward Central Park. I float alongside her, my gray eyes curious and somewhat frightful: Callie Kline has never done this before.
We approach the park, and it is now nearly seven at night. The stars begin to appear, glittering. It is funny, that for 153 years, the stars have remained in the same positions, and the moon is just as bright as it once was before I died.
I died at night; I vaguely remember the darkness consuming me whole as my eyes forced themselves shut and my body settled into a stiffness.
I vaguely remember reaching toward the hand of another, burned raw from the flames, as heat nipped at my calves, my forearms. Or, in other words, I died saving someone from a fire. Or, at least trying to. So, why did I end up here, stuck and trapped … as a lost soul? Disparagingly, I understand that such depressing thoughts will not help me, nor revive me … but a human being cannot help but question, even when they no longer exist.
Callie Kline seats herself on a park bench, bowing her head, gazing forward at the Charles River. Her stare is solemn, yet her mind is loud; I can hear her thoughts erupting into madness. I seat myself beside her, observing her face, which to me, is as a wishing well … deep and mysterious, full of wonders beyond my knowledge. Her mind beholds such treasures that even I dare grasp.
All my lonesome life, I have never met someone so beautiful, so pure. So intelligent. Her eyes, so clear-sighted and filled with such intensity, brings myself to consider whether or not she is like me … like me being that she is a ghost herself, a lost soul, absent of any idea of where to go, where to venture to next. She’s stuck in one spot, with unrealistic dreams and too many questions to answer.
My thoughts are interrupted when she raises her chin, and begins to speak in a voice as gentle as the rippling waves of water, “Why am I so alone? Is this my fate, my destiny? Is it not my purpose to be successful with my writing? For goodness sake, I am 26-years-old with no prospects, no boyfriend, no family, no money … why am I so alone?” Tears begin to pour down her cheeks, past her lips, dripping from her chin. She wipes them away with a shaky hand. “I have always wanted to be so much more, so why can’t I? Why can’t someone love me? Why can’t I excel in my talents? Why am I stuck here, in Boston? Why can’t I escape?”
My eyes widen, her sudden sadness engrossing me more than anything ever has. I would’ve never imagined Callie Kline to be so sorrowful, so melancholy.
“You have me, Callie Kline,” I speak to her gently. “I’ve always been here … trust me. I, myself, am stuck, too. We can achieve anything together … I promise.”
As expected, Callie Kline does not respond. Instead, she sniffles, her thumbs fidgeting in her lap, her hair gently blown back by the current breeze.
Beneath the darkness, I see her eyes glisten, reflecting the moonlight. I see her lips part gently, wet from the tears. I see her face. I see her mind.
I see her.
“I am so in love with you,” I breathe out.
And then, ever so gently, her head tilts, her eyes augment, her pupils dramatically enlarge, and her breath hastens. She cautiously turns her head, her frantic gaze suddenly finding mine. And amidst the night, beyond the noisy streets, the busy, oblivious people, the altering world … we stare at each other.
And she sees me.