Everything I write these days is laced with talk of god, everything is sacred, every word a prayer. I haven’t been to church in forever but I am building cathedrals on the grass most Sundays. I swim until I feel baptized and I gaze into his eyes until I feel like something holy. Or I used to. I don’t really think we look at each other the same way. My heart is playing the sort of song that puts tears into your eyes, can he hear it? I think I was born with an old song about Vienna playing on repeat in me.
I feel often like a broken radio.
I have been exploring what it is to be human for some time now and it seems that what I have discovered is a strangeness that has never left me – a strangeness that cannot exist in isolation. You are part of this strangeness, now, O. I have taken some piece of you with me, O.
Maybe it’s enough to lean against a piece of cement and sigh, maybe that’s enough to make a pile of bricks sacred. All the deities and spirits, all the dead English teachers still burning their neuroses from the grave and communicating to me through music. Or just the one dead English teacher. I’m talking about you, O.
I talk to your ghost all the time, O. I ask you for advice, for forgiveness, for help. I imagine if you still exist that you still believe in love: in all its tragedies and dismay but at the end of the day you still believe in the thing itself. That was always your problem, you were too soft to be so bitter.
I know you wanted to move here, to Lisbon. There was a house purchased and a woman loved and an engagement broken. And then you drank a lot more coffee and you looked tired all the time and when people asked how your were you answered honestly. You laid claim to your misery. I remember all of your sad stories, O. All of your terrible jokes. I remember the way that you sighed and how your shirts hung loose in front of your chest and how I was always thinking about the buttons on them. You were an ugly man I wanted to unbutton.
I know I made you a promise, we had a deal: you would give me this one thing and I would let you go. Did I get the thing I asked for, really? I don’t think I did. I am not satisfied with my end of the bargain. Is this your way of telling me you would like to stay? You can stay here, we can be miserable together, O. I don’t need to fly home.
We can build that house you always talked about, with a view over the rooftops and down to the water. We could have an unbroken engagement. Hell, if I walk up another hill I may just collapse at the top of it. We could haunt these alleyways together, our reflection appearing as the occasional glimmer against the tiles. The people looking for our ghosts will see it, but their skeptical friends will say, it’s not what you think, it was just the reflection of the light off your watch, it was just a trick of the sun.
I was sitting by the water and writing to you. Writing out the goodbye letter. Because I promised I would let your ghost go. You always used to read over my shoulder, do you still? I held the journal out for you. He was sitting on my left not looking at me, and there was an empty space on the bench to my right and my elbow felt warm, like someone was touching it. The way your arm brushed against mine that one time, when we were sitting in the lecture hall with Noam Chomsky. That was an important day. There were journalists and protests and everyone wanted to be one of the few students in the room with him. Mostly I remember how your arm touched mine.
It felt like your ghost could have been sitting next to me, by the water in Porto. Or maybe the clouds had just parted slightly, maybe the weather had changed. Maybe it was just a trick of the sun, he would say, if I told him I was talking with ghosts.