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They say you should never hold onto the past. You should let go and move on. That’s life for most of us on this planet. You live with something or someone that become part of your soul. You get comfortable with it and love it with every fiber that man has ever possessed. And then it’s gone in an instant. Some inexplicable force twists the bond and breaks each knot, each tie from one being to another until there are no remnants of its existence.
I woke up with a view of black specks on a white background. They had this unusual pattern that led into a bright source of light. The light, however, was obscured by a filmy cover of plastic: Fluorescent lighting. I had recalled at that moment that our apartment had no such fixtures. Where was the caramel stained glass chandelier? Where were the chestnut walls? It was then that a rush of memories entrapped my senses: Heat, Flames, Smoke, Burning, especially burning. How in God’s name did I survive that? I looked to my body expecting my limbs to be swathed in gauze and bandages, but all I had witnessed were the previous clothes I had adorned before the accident: heavy depressed denim and a wrinkled cotton black T-shirt. What was more unusual was that I had been lying above the sheets of the hospital bed. They seemed to be undisturbed by my weight, as if I was hovering above them. I made the movement to touch the pattern made by baby blue squares upon the blanket, but as I attempted to grab a fistful my entire hand disappeared into the bedding. I jumped from my position with a start. What’s going on?!
It was only then that I had realized there was another occupant in the room. Her entire body had been wrapped in white gauze that gave an uncanny resemblance to a mummy. She was moaning something. Perhaps a name? Her voice had an evanescent quality; it reminded me of the sound of soft waves on a beach, lapping against the sand. Their presence is barely heard as was her voice. “Matthew.”
Why would she be calling my name? The memory struck me once more. Marie. She had been there with me in the fire, in the smoke. The burning edges of the flames began to envelope us as the beam collapsed sending us into oblivion, or so I had thought. But there she was alive, still breathing. The deep pit in my stomach subsided. “Matthew.” I placed my palm lightly on her golden bed of hair to alert her that I was there; she didn’t have to call my name like that. Once more my hand vanished, this time into the golden strands of Marie’s locks.
I pleaded with my voice, “Please no, Please.” I felt like crying. The sobs escaped my throat, but no tears traveled down my face. “Marie! Marie! Please, can you hear me? I’m right here, baby. No, no, no!” I shook my head and fell to my knees in despair before her trying to grasp any part of her that I could, nothing. Suddenly, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder.
“I know; it’s tough.” I whirled around and saw a man in a white suit.
“Who the hell are you?!” I yelled with distress and alarm.
“Now, calm down now. Don’t start with the yelling. I hate the yelling,” he responded with his arms raised.
“What’s going on? I’m not me. I can’t touch her. She can’t hear me. There was a fire. She- I- just don’t understand!” My body shook with sobs.
“Matthew, what I’m about to tell you may seem irrational and unnatural, but it’s a way of life that many do not know about.” He gazed at me through expectant eyes. I think he thought I was going to throw myself out the window. “When you and Marie were trapped in your apartment, in the fire, only one person was rescued. The burning cinders concealed your body from the firefighters. It was too late,” the man explained. I stared at the stranger with heavy silence and a crushing weight on my chest. I knew what he was going to say next.
“You’re dead, Matthew. Your body died in the fire, but your soul still lives. You are a ghost.”
Ghost. I had heard the term before. It was when the spirit of a human still had unfinished business on earth. They couldn’t step into the light; something blocked them. At night you could sometimes hear the voices of lost souls wandering, the sounds of hale, rain, and thunder. Their presence was like the wind. You couldn’t see them, but you could feel their pain, their frustration, their anguish. I had become one of them.
“What does this mean?” I asked him.
“You can no longer interact with the mortal world. They cannot see you, hear you, or touch you. You are merely a fly on the walls of their lives, an observer. There is, however, one exception to this rule,” the man said.
“What? Please, I need to go back,” I said with urgency as I stared into his blue eyes that resembled the sea after a storm.
“Unless you can figure out what is keeping you on Earth. Then you have two choices.”
“And those choices would be?”
“Ah, not so fast my dear friend. You must first figure out why you are still here,” the man smiled revealing a perfect set of pearly whites that stood out from his tan wrinkly skin. It resembled leather.
Why am I here? The obvious answer is Marie. It has to be. I was going to do something, but it didn’t end up happening; I never got the nerve to. There were some unresolved issues. “And what issues would they be Mathew?”
“How the hell did you know what I was thinking?” I exclaimed at the mysterious figure. He gave a hearty laugh at my not so subtle inquiry.
“Oh my friend I know everyone’s thoughts. I’m the boss’s right hand man. Now Matthew, do you know why you are here?”
I answered with caution, “Yes. Her.” I looked towards Marie. She looked so fragile and broken. I felt a pain in my chest once more.
“You are quick to answer Mathew. Why is that?” the man asked with a twirl of his white moustache.
“Because I . . .I,“ I couldn’t say it out loud what I was supposed to say to Marie.
“What were you going to say?” He asked with an expression that hinted towards knowledge of my answer.
“I don’t know,” I replied after averting my eyes from his penetrating gaze.
“Oh, I think you do, Matthew. In life there is no time to postpone emotions or actions. Trust me, I have quite a bit of experience in that department. What you do and say on this Earth lasts for a millisecond, and then you’re gone my friend. How did you expect to go on with her? You were too scared to say anything. You need to let go of the fear, the pain, and the apprehension. If you feel something, say it. If you want something, reach out and grab it,” the man stared at me with conviction of his words. I felt like a mouse staring at a lion.
I looked to Marie once more. I would have given anything to be with her again. To be able to talk with her, laugh with her, hold her. She was the source that kept me living and is what’s keeping me from the dead. To see her lying like that has made me cringe. I cannot be with her ever again. I should have told her. I needed to tell her. I need to tell her, now.
“I know what I have to do and what I want to do,” I said. The stranger smiled once more.
“You are correct to why you are here. Some ghosts are not so fortunate in having an obvious answer such as you. Nevertheless, our choices dictate our actions. So, Matthew you have two choices: one, you can go to heaven and experience paradise, etcetera, etcetera.” He rolled his eyes. “Two, you can go back to your human life and let go of the fear you have held on to and accept something greater than life itself. What shall it be?” the man asked with a twinkle in his stare.
I knew my answer before he explained the choices. I needed to go back, to tell her.
“Ah, I see.” The mysterious man twisted his white moustache once more. “Well then, I do not hope to see you for a very long time. But, remember chances like these scarcely happen. Take advantage of this Matthew.” He smiled one last time before everything went black. It felt as if water compressed my body, yet I was floating. Sharp pains all over abruptly appeared. I felt two large ice cubes bang into my chest followed by a beeping noise.
“Clear!” Then silence.
I awoke once again in a hospital room. This time as I looked down I saw gauze everywhere and everything hurt. “Matthew.” I turned my head and saw Marie in the hospital bed next to me. She started crying. “Mathew, you died. You died and they brought you back to life. I couldn’t believe it when they told me, but here you are. I just—,“she was cut of by a sob, “I’m just glad you’re okay.”
I stared at her intently. She was less broken than before. Her body had barely been burned and she only had a cast on her leg. Tears streaked down her face from her chocolate brown eyes. All I wanted to do was to hold her and kiss her, but the body cast I was wearing had a different agenda. I couldn’t move, but that wasn’t going to stop me from doing what I set out to do. In life, you only have one chance. I was fortunate to have two chances, and I’ll be damned to let the second one go to waste. The only logical thing that I could think of saying, the only thing that made any sort of sense was, “I love you, Marie.”