Ghost Writer

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Everyone has a story, even those departed souls the world has forgotten, but that does not mean they no longer want to be told, or that they don’t have ways to make us listen...

She always writes at night. She likes the dark and the chattering of nocturnal airwaves . The glow of the lamp on her desk is enough to illuminate the keys on her old-fashioned typewriter. She has been working like this since she was eight years old, when she published poems about the changing seasons in local newspapers. She is far more than a writer now. She is a ghost writer. She knows every secret of the craft, hears every word spoken between the lines. All words must pass between her fingers. But to most of her friends and relatives she is just a housewife tinkering with a typewriter. Some have read her words without knowing it is she who has written them. But none has ever seen her face behind the words.

Her machinery is operated by skeleton editors. Most of them are in bed, and she can have the night and its stories to herself. This is when she is happiest. When she is alone with the clock-ticking voices of ghosts, sending their messages of sleepless breakups and desperate pleas of forgiveness through the invisible sound box of the night. One such voice is speaking right now. She calls herself Matchmaker.

Things always sound different at night. Voices too. They are passed between silences. The writer’s fingers move with the stillness and listen in the pauses between, summoning the invisible images by words of her own choosing. The Matchmaker is made beautiful. She is really. In a curios kind of way. She requests that her story is given a happy ending. She does that quite often. There must be someone to giver her that at least. And the writer types. “Are you there?” “Yes, ” replies the Matchmaker. ” I am here.” She types. The words bounce off her fingertips. They mark the blank page like black scars echoing a life that once were. “What do you think will happen?” The Matchmaker questions the writer. The voice takes on a different form:

I was brave when I lived. I put things together. It was something like enchantments, I weaved their threads around each other. It was their destiny, I just helped completing the tapestry. Of course, it wasn’t quite reality, most people find it difficult to see the world of other people. But I knew. I saw their faces. But I never let them see mine. I was born with an open cleft. My parents could not afford the operations, so I never learned to talk, and I had to hide behind veils. I knew there was no match for me. But it was okay. I had the voices for company, telling me to make things right, to bring two lights together to make something shine again. Have you ever wondered what happens to light that stays apart? It remains small, like an island, until it fades and disappears into labyrinthine corridors of space. Space and time. Until it is quite forgotten. Not like me. I took a different path. Did you know that owls have night vision? You probably do, it is quite common knowledge. I had light vision. No, I don’t mean that I could see in the daylight, most people can. I mean that I could see the tiny threads of light that connect us all, and I helped stitching together the places that were broken or torn. I brought a boy his lost toy. I reunited a grandmother with her lost granddaughter, but yes, as you probably have guessed, it was the lovers that took up most of my time. Sometimes I even had to mend time. But when my own turn came. I was helpless.

I know, I said there was no match for me. I was wrong. I met him in Central Park one afternoon. It was snowing and I was happy to hide my face in a blue muffler. There is an old wooden bench there, just beneath one of those old-fashioned lampposts next to the bridge, the seat is broken so no one ever sits there. No one but me. I come to feed those hideous pigeons. And on that snowy day that is what I did. Tossing crumbs to pigeons I did not notice him at first, until he sat down beside me on that old broken bench. “Damn snow,” he said and sneezed. I jumped and all the pigeons flew away in a cloud of feathers and crumbs and gray dust. He looked at me startled. “Didn’t mean to scare you there, love.” I looked back at him accusingly. His eyes lowered and fell down at his ungloved hands, “Sorry.” I shrugged. We sat in silence for a while. Strangers normally do. “Can I take you out for coffee?” he suddenly asked. I was caught off guard. Nobody had ever asked me out before. Suddenly the weather changed. The snow stopped falling. And then, the light. A thin silver thread reaching from his hands to my throat. Connecting us. And I knew what I had to do. I nodded. He took my hand and we left.

That was the first of many coffee dates. I was amazed. He never once asked me why I didn’t talk. I used my hands to communicate. Made up my own language. And sucked my cold coffee out of a straw the way I had learned to. He never questioned that either. His eyes were blue most days, but they changed with the weather. On sunny days they were deep brown and golden, but that winter was a cold one with hard snowfall. And his eyes remained blue. “I think it is going to be a wet spring,” he said one day. We were sitting by the window in my favorite coffee shop, Lalu, the one with all the fairy lights. He opened his hands and the clouds parted. He reached for mine. I hesitated. He smiled, “it’s okay, love, it’s me.” That was the first time he touched me, and I could feel the threads spinning, growing stronger, attaching us to the tapestry. The park outside blazed with color. I realized that it was time to end this little game. I had had my fun, it was time to face the music. Slowly I unwind my muffler, just a little bit, just for his eyes. I studied his face as I revealed my secret. But it did not change. Either he was a good actor, or….no….it was not possible. How could anyone love me? “Look,” he said, ” there is something I haven’t told you.” He stiffened. Here it came. That which always had to come. The rejection. ” I am not who you think I am, or who I appear to be.”

My hands stopped unwinding. Was this about him? Had he pulled some awful prank on me? Around us fairy lights danced on the twilit window and the rising moon glittered on the frozen lake. Light snow fell, softly, like comfort. ” What I am about to tell you will sound crazy,” he said. I nodded. I was prepared for anything now. But I was wrong, nothing could have prepared me for what he was about to say. ” I wondered if you suspected, but how could you. You just seem different. Like me. But how could you be? I am old, forgotten, I live in tales and myths only. You are so young and vibrant and so full of….light.” I stared at him, what was he saying? He wasn’t old, he looked my age, and what did he mean by light? Could he really know? No, that was impossible. ” I have felt scattered for so long. Unable to collect my parts, then you came along with your beautiful sliver threads.” I startled. He knew. He saw the surprise in my eyes and smiled. “Yes, love, I see them too.” He hesitated. Paused. Took a few sips of coffee. He looked nervous. Outside the twilight had turned into night and the ice skaters had gone home. “Refill, sir?” It was the waiter. “Ma’am?” I nodded. He did the same, and our cups were topped up. Then it came: ” I am one of those old gods nobody talks about anymore.” He stared into his coffee cup. His fingers were all in knots. Around us people were talking softly, the waiter kept filling up coffee cups, the cappuccino machine hummed loudly. Regular things happening. Thing that had nothing to do with us. I didn’t know what to think. In a weird twisted kind of way it made perfect sense. It explained everything about him. I raised my hands to my face, removed the muffler and smiled for the first time in my life. He smiled back at me, and little sparkles rose from his lips. ” Come, let’s go for a walk.” He took my hand and we left the coffee shop. “Can we do this again?” he asked. I put my hands on his face and the knots were tied. Silver threads sprang from my body to his. We laughed. We laughed. And our bodies joined together and the tapestry was complete. The stars took us back then, and the night embraced our light, and he looked at me and said: “Welcome home, love.”

She always writes at night. She likes the dark and the chattering of nocturnal airwaves . The glow of the lamp on her desk is enough to illuminate the keys on her old-fashioned typewriter. The Matchmaker is silent now. Gone most likely. She had her story. The writer seals the envelope with her story inside. Puts it in the red mailbox next to the old-fashioned lamppost. It is snowing, even though it is April. The roads are frosted dusty white. There are rises and falls like cream on a wedding cake on the waysides. The lamppost casts a soft yellow shadow. The wind is still and the snow comes together under her snow boots. The next day a publishing company opens the envelop and emails it to their most celebrated author. She responds right away: Great! Love it!

Boat on land

Easter is for me stories. All kind of stories really, but mostly magical tales of ghosts and fantastical creatures. So I have given myself a challenge this easter, to write and share as many stories as I can. This is the first. I hope you will enjoy it.

By the willowed banks of a black lake, between a grove of old cashew nut trees and a thick bramble hedge, someone has pulled a boat on land. The green paint is scaling off the keel and white prickly splinters poke up from the dried up wooden surface of the stern. A name tag on the side of the boat reads: Memory. I should know, I put it there, and yet, I have never seen the boat anywhere but on land. It is not my boat.

I first noticed her on a rainy day in April. I know what you are going to say, there is no such thing as a mermaid, and you are probably right. I never really saw a fish tail. Just a girl with long black hair and a blue dress sitting on a rock beside the boat crying.

I was a student, just months away from graduation. Life seemed like a broad pathway with opening doors on each side, every door revealing some new and exciting opportunity. I loved walking, especially by any body of water. I took immense pleasure in the play of light on expanding ripples, willows swaying against the blue surface, and the quiet pathways with tiny round pebbles crunching under my feet. I walked by that particular lake often, breathing the scent of the wind beaten lake, sweet and fresh. It was always quiet. People prefer treadmills in front of TV’s to cold and humid nature, vulnerable to shifting weather, these days. But that particular day there was one exception: the girl in the blue dress.

When I first heard her crying I didn’t know what to think or do about the situation. Had she come here for privacy, should I just leave her alone? Or was it my own awkwardness around strangers that prevented me from approaching her?
“Oh, I am sorry, have I startled you?” It was the girl who spoke first. I apologized for sneaking up on her, slightly embarrassed, and turned around to leave. “It’s okay, you can come and sit with me if you like.” Her face looked so vulnerable and imploring I could not get myself to decline her offer, so I made my way through the netted brambles and sat down on a black slippery rock beside her. She smiled at me through her tears and I could see that she had green glassy eyes, like an exotic fish, I caught myself thinking, and pale gauze-like skin. She was beautiful in an ethereal way. ” I love coming here to see my boat.” She sighed and gave me a curious smile. ” He used to take me out rowing all the time, ” she continued. I assumed she was talking about a man now. ” That was when he was still in love with me. ” I nodded, feeling her loneliness deep within my own heart, like a hushed sea in a conch you’ve taken back to the city after a day on the beach. Faint, but still there if you really listen for it. Much like her story:

We met in a bar. I know, not very romantic, but that is what it was. He bought me a drink, and I accepted. He took me home with him afterwards, and I guess I just never left. Oh, those first days together were like in a fairy tale, filled with roses and talk of dreams and late night kisses. And of course the boat. He gave it to me one day by the lake. He knew how much I missed the sea. Every day that summer we went rowing. I sat at the rear with my bare feet in the lake, he lifted and lowered the oars into the water, it was like a dance, how the boat rose and fell into the water by the touch of those oars. He was red -headed with purple-green eyes. His skin was tanned and smooth. Water made him dreamy and still, even the rain, when it beat steadily on our bedroom window. He was the last thing I saw before closing my eyes to sleep, and the first thing I saw when I opened them. Sometimes I could swear I could smell the sea on his breath. Salty and wild. Gradually he took the place of the ocean in my heart.
But summer came to an end, and he had to go back to his office job. His bare feet were covered up in black leather shoes, and he cut his red hair short. Long days I spent alone. First I missed him, then I missed the sea. Our flat was far from the lake and even further from any seaside. But one day I defied the distance and walked on the gray cold concrete to our black still lake. I took off my shoes and dipped my bare feet into the cool colorless water. I sat like that for hours, until a hundred tiny fish came and nibbled at my red skin, irritated by the uncomfort of shoes. I let them remove the layers of my hardened skin, until the soft glow of the water was restored. I came back late that day, and my feet were tired. He scolded me, told me it was too far to walk by myself, and I begged him to take me out rowing again. “Tomorrow,” he said.
Tomorrow came and went, and more tomorrows came and went, but he said he was too busy.
I took to going to the lake every day, timing the journey so that I would return before him. The fish nibbled and restored my skin. For each hour I was in the water I became more and more at one with all that lived in it. I learned their ways. And they, I suspect, learned mine. I whispered my secrets to the deep dark blue. My breathing slowed, my movement slowed. The lake and its many creatures was never too busy to listen or to love me. I pretended to myself that I loved him more.
One day I again asked him to take me out rowing, but the same answer came, he was too busy. Something broke in me that day. When I dreamed back to those summer days I saw a different man, not the one standing in front of me. I missed that man. The man that smelled of the sea and made boats dance on water. He was gone, perhaps spirited away by the lake itself.
The next morning I went to the lake as usual, but this time I did not sit on my rock. I pushed the rowing boat gently off the bank and into the cold autumn water. I did not bother about the oars, I just dipped my feet into the lake like I had in those first days of summer, and let the current take me farther and farther away from land, from people and houses, roads and the shoes we must wear to walk on them. It started raining and I smiled. When the boat was as far from the banks as possible, I let myself glide into the water. It welcomed me with its silence and its softness. I was home. At last.

I don’t know what happened to the boat that day. But a year later I resurfaced and found it here, the same place it had always been: on land. I still miss him, but I was happy to return to my family, I guess my love for my home: the sea, was in the end stronger than my love for him.

As her story ended, she stopped crying and stared longingly at the old boat. I got up and stretched my legs, walking slowly over to the boat. Was it really her boat? Or was she just a sad lonely lost girl making up stories? When I turned around to look at her once more. She was gone. I never saw her again.

By the willowed banks of a black lake, between a grove of cashew nut trees and a thick bramble hedge, someone has pulled a boat on land. It is almost invisible against the greenery. No one ever comes here but me. I guess everyone is too busy to bother about the life of an old dried up rowing boat.