“I miss that stupid ache”- Fiona Apple
Ghosts don’t always come with shoes on, passing through hallways with shirt buttons off by one hole. The New York Times says that they come as smells, so it must be true. The word “phantosmia” is penned in a book that coughs up dust every time it’s moved to the bottom of a pile, so it must be true. Your smell stuck to sweaters washed long ago, so I sat up at night, window open, second mug of tea, inviting it to come visit. You never had to send an outline of yourself, green lace turned the color of dust, the smell of your hair would have been enough.
You left town again, and it hurt again. Why wouldn’t it? “Hurt” is a word I have packaged and repackaged. It is water, yellow food dye, and the light filtered though it when I set it on the windowsill. It is well-worn, dull pencil, a penny dropped in a shallow well. I miss you because I know how to miss you. You are the smell I dab on my pulse points in the mirror. You are the smell that enters rooms along with me.
Victorian scientists believed that disease filtered through pores along with air, so they covered a horse in furniture lacquer and led it to a busy street on a hot day. When the horse died, they turned around and tried to cover their tracks, saying that in a roundabout way, it proved that the pores need to give as much as they take. Those sighing in the background knew it was heatstroke, and looked down while the crowds cleared away. When it fell, there was no poetic justice, no way for it to leave its skin.
I need to leave the middle of the street before I’m trapped– skin covered in your phantom smell. I know how to miss you. I know how to write about you. So I don’t miss anything new or write about anything else. Repetition is easy while I sit inside this room, pores sealed from new disease, no giving or taking while the curtains are pulled shut. I can find you with my eyes closed. Can keep tying myself around the fishhook and vowing to return with updates from underwater.
This is the year I drink six cups of water a day and write about anything other than you. This is the year I bite my lip and let things come and go when they’re ready. My room is no longer a mousetrap. That ache is nothing but water and food dye. If my smell creeps into your room and sits at the foot of your bed, find yourself in it, laugh at the blind contour of something long-since washed out of my sweaters. Know it’s only creeping because it’s long gone.