Image by Maggie Smith, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ghosts like shadows lie, all around, their faces aching towards the light.
Where you see only shadows I see shapes. The people with the wanting faces crowding round the living like beggars for scraps of life.
You say they belong at night, in the dark, in old folks stories but I say different. You can’t see them like I can.
When you were small and you looked up at the night sky, what did you see? Stars. Thousands upon thousands strong, and many, many more besides. Did they tell you the stars were like grains of sand on some celestial beach? What happened when you went to bed, did the stars go out because you stopped looking for them?
What happened when you awoke in the morning and stepped outside your door, were there stars then?
You saw none, but they were there all along.
Just because you cannot see them, does not mean they are no longer there. Just like ghosts, or beggars.
When I walk to work I see them. They are crouching in the corners, they don’t walk like the living do. They are afraid I think. Imagine what it is to live like that, in the half-light?
But the dead want nothing tangible. They want to watch, and yes, they strive for relevance, because there is none, where they are.
I remember the first time I saw them. I was a child, playing in quiet sunlight. Slowly I felt them watching. I looked to see the shapes gathering, not menacing just mindful. They stayed all afternoon, flickering on and off like blinking strip-lights. They smelt like snuffed-out, smoking candle wicks.
I’d know that smell anywhere now, and I never burn candles in the house, never.
One day I wonder if I will become like them.
Surely if I am aware of them, then I must have some kinship with their own kind of magic.
But I don’t want to be like them. No one does.
Not when their eyes are so hollow, hollowed out like some notch in a tree-trunk. But still, the expression of their eyes remains, and isn’t that all that really matters? I know what they are feeling.
Sometimes it makes me sad to see them, but other times I see the gift for what it is. These shapes that follow me let me feel their presence, so that I will never be alone. I know I am always needed, wherever I go.
For every time I look up in the street I see them, hiding in the folds of life, but with their lost eyes gazing out at me.
I know all they want is to be noticed, once. Just like beggars.