“Write about the ghosts in your life. Those people, places and images that you just can’t seem to shake, that seem to cling on no matter what. I’m not talking in terms of real people you can’t get rid of, I’m talking in terms of what is left over from those who left or, perhaps, were never really there to begin with.”
Wow. I had to think about this one. I think I will address one ghost of each type.
People. There are a few people who haunt me. There was this girl named Mary from Virginia who moved to my school in the sixth grade. She had a Southern accent. She was nice. I was friendly to her. She asked me about Girl Scouts. I gave her information about my troop. Then I was confronted by another person who haunts me. Her name was Kim. She was “cool.” Popular. Liked. She had long, thick curly hair. Her mother was our troop leader. She didn’t like Mary. Thought she was a nerd. Why would I tell Mary about the troop? She wasn’t wanted. God, I had been in her shoes. I had been so unwanted. And Kim had been one of the ringleaders, one of the main ones who made me feel hated. Then, gradually, she sort of accepted me. Why I cared, I don’t know. So you see, I know what it felt like to be rejected. I had been there. I knew. And I didn’t want it to happen to me again. So even though I knew how it felt, I rejected Mary because Kim didn’t think she was cool. I treated Mary exactly how Kim had treated me. And for what? Kim was never nice to me unless it suited her. But Mary was nice to me just because. I’m very, very sorry, Mary, wherever you are. I don’t like what I did. I know how it feels to be treated that way. It really hurts, and I did it to you. There are others who used to haunt me, but haunt me no longer. But these two girls stay with me.
Places? I suppose that there are a few. One is the town where I attended college — Athens, GA. I loved that place. I had my haunts, some of which are now gone. The Spaghetti Store. This little coffee house on Broad Street — Espresso Royale. The main library on campus. The Tate Center. A water fountain surrounded by ancient wrought iron benches on North Campus. And my dorm room in Reed Hall. I really just loved the place, especially in the fall. One of the best falls I ever had was the fall I spent taking Southern Literature and Ballet, along with a couple of other courses. That place stays with me always. I think it is because many of my ancestors took root in Oglethorpe County, which is the next county over. Perhaps they came to Athens sometimes for various reasons. And perhaps they passed on their memories of the place in my DNA. Maybe that is why it feels more like home than anywhere I’ve ever lived. I really can’t think of another place that haunts me like that. There are places I remember, all my life….though some have changed. Some forever not for better, some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments, with lovers and friends….I still can recall, some are dead and some are living…. In my life, I’ve loved them all. (To quote the Beatles). There are other places, but none of them like Athens.
Images. Hmm… Perhaps the image of my sister dancing in the sun in my grandmother’s back yard. Or maybe the picture I carry in my mind of my cat. He consoled me when I was very sick in high school. He’s been dead for more than 10 years now — longer even than he lived. And if you want to talk really haunting images, then seeing planes fly into the World Trade Center towers will never leave my mind. That image will be more indelible, I think, than seeing the Space Shuttle explode.