March 12th, 2016
Tonight is restless. I haven’t been this bad in a long time. Spring brings with it a humidity that I can’t stand; the flowers and the insects and the smell of grass haul along with the dampness in the air that latches any fabric I wear onto my skin. It’s like my sweat is an adhesive, and as I try to rest, everything just sticks to me.
I look over at the digital clock on my bedside table. The numbers glow green, and I squint to get a better look at them. I make a note to renew my contact lens subscription, before rolling myself over to lie flat on my stomach. I got into bed 2 hours ago at one in the morning, and I haven’t slept since. The blankets are in a heap on the floor and I took off everything I was wearing except for my boxer briefs.
Before I know it, nausea takes over. I’m not quite sure why - I haven’t eaten anything since the evening, and even then, it wasn’t something I had a bad reaction to, or ever have. After a few minutes, I indolently rise from the bed and trudge to the other side of the bedroom, shoving the window wide open and sticking my head out to get some air. The breeze outside is almost non-existent, and my stomach doesn’t like that at all. I try taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out. I stick my head back in the room and start doing push-ups. This doesn’t help with the sweat and heat, even if I thought it would take away the light-headedness and the empty feeling in my gut. I eventually collapse on the laminate floor, staring ahead into nothing. I close my eyes and try to make comfort of the slightly cool surface below me, despite my bones in my back rubbing it, skin irritated.
A fly lands on my eyelash, and I flick it off. A small beetle crawls between the crack under the door; the pressuring silence allows me to hear its presence. The world moves around me slowly, and my room tilts a few angles to the right. Well, at least that’s how it feels. My head throbs, like my brain has been replaced with my heart, blood rushing through my ears and my neck. Tonight is restless.
When I finally fall, I see her.
It has been years since she showed up in my dreams; maybe six. Back when I was twenty-eight and there was a period where she constantly visited me. My heart races and I’ve lost the ability to swallow. She stands ahead of me in a light blue swing dress and white tights; the one she wore on the last day we ever spoke to each other. She’s draped in the oversized beige cardigan that I gave her one night after a football game. She never returned it. She stands with her hair down in waves, arms by her sides, still. Still.
“Rose?” I call out to her.
She smiles that wide, dimple-cheeked smile. “Brighten up a little.”
“What do you want from me?” I ask.
“I want you to know that I know, Bret. I know. You can’t escape it. I know what you did. I know what you didn’t do. I’m not stupid. I was never blind to it. I took it with me, to the grave.”
My chest tightens up, heart sinking, anchor attached, hooked onto my stomach. I didn’t know guilt could hold a pain so physical, to the point where your insides can be in complete turmoil.
“I’m so sorry, Rose.” I choke. “I’m so sorry. I mean it. I’ll always regret it. I was so stupid for it.”
“Don’t worry about it.” she winks, smiles. “It’s your problem now and forever. You might as well let it go. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. It’s been almost eighteen years and you’re still hung up over it; I guess nothing will work now.”
“It’s your problem now, Bret. You can’t keep secrets forever. Do you know that?”
“I know…” I swallow. “I know. But I don’t know what else to do.” And I start crying. Me, a grown man in his thirties, brought to his knees in tears by a girl who hasn’t been alive since I was eighteen years old.
“There’s nothing you can do about it, Bret. I just wish you could have done something about it. I wish you could have stopped it. That’s all I ever wanted.”
I wake up with a start. Heart racing, I get up frantically and stumble to the bathroom. It feels like I’m throwing up for a long time once I finally do, but not much comes out. I flush the toilet and look up at myself in the mirror, feeling out of place. My skin is grey, washed out and oily. My beard is already growing through again. I brush my teeth, have a quick shower and get changed. I rummage through the box of old photos that I keep in the bottom of the bookshelf in the living room and I take out the stash held together by elastic, with the label 1999. The first photo is of Rose, smiling into the lens of the disposable camera. I don’t hesitate to rip it up to the point of her face being unrecognisable. I do the same to the rest of the photos with fervent frustration. When I’m done, I collect the small pieces and dispose of them in the bin. I hope it’s the last time she haunts me; like I thought it was years ago.
I hope she never returns. I hope one day I can find some form of redemption, even without her.
I just don’t know if I’ll ever escape her, for whatever reason.
She’s a ghost that just won’t leave.