One of us had to go and I found her to be the weaker. I couldn't live with her constant nagging, the bitter complaining. What else could I do but silence her? She'd never have lasted anyway I am sure. I was ashamed of her, I admit. Though I tried to be brave to the stark world I couldn't hold her to their harsh light, couldn't bear their scrutiny. She grew grayer and grayer, until there was no life in her and it was just as well.
Into boxes she went and we carried her corpse from house to house. She haunted basements with her sighs. I ignored her and stacked more boxes on top of her.
A relief when her voice was drowned-out by children.
Little by little I began to part with her pieces until there was only one box left. One quiet, unmarked box that could easily be lost among the others.
But lately at night, when the babies are sleeping, I hear her knocking.
I ignore her, refuse the very thought of her. I avoid the basement because of her.
Until more and more I cannot escape her presence . . .
Glowing patterns on a quilt.
A glimpse of something turquoise.
Today, it was an old letter in my grandmother's gliding pen; instructions for my mother's first turkey.
I don't believe in ghosts.
But I've found myself saving pickle jars.
. . .
I try to reason:
Yes I hear you but really I am just fine without you.
Yes I hear you but you've been replaced and there's no room.
Yes I hear you, one day, maybe, we will talk.
Yes I hear you.
Yes, maybe today . . . if the babies will sleep . . .
An ordinary Tuesday and I pause on the basement step, turn-on a single lamp and open up the box.
I begin, picking through bones.
And there she is, alive before me. Not, the old grey woman I remember . . . she is young and wearing red and I know her now, the way she once was.
. . .
Out of a pickle jar comes a dripping brush. Hurry. I can't find my pallet, this box lid will do. Our old kitchen table is the sacred space. I watch it become spattered by paint.
Now a third voice, from somewhere, telling me we may need that old table one day and look I'm getting paint on my clothes. I recognize her as myself now Mother and tell her there was a day when that was all I wore and as I shmutz out the yellow I remind her how wonderful are paint-spattered clothes. The mother laughs and remembers.
. . .
Once more, now one of us must go.
We look at each other,
one wearing red
one, a mother
one in grey paint-spattered clothes.
This time it is the cautious one,
the one so very afraid,
growing weaker and grayer,
who steps into the box.
The mother, wearing red, shuts the lid tight.
This post was written as an entry in Scribbit's October Writeaway: Ghosts