After André Alexis
A girl in the garden says she’s haunted by water: by the leaks in her roof and under the washing machine. How can I tell her that water haunts everything? That our cells are packed with it, and our sky is filled with it, and our eyes, and our bathtubs, and now her attic, too? How can I tell her we are constantly haunted—that the people we love are eighty per cent water, and carry more than their weight in ghosts? I tell her: recipe books are haunted, second-hand clothes are haunted, mirrors and windows and doors are haunted. I tell her the lake is haunted by her grandmother, by the chips of bone that could or would not burn when the funeral home turned her to ash. I tell her the apple is haunted by the seed it once was, that the cherry is haunted by the knot in my mouth, that pies are haunted by the thought of a knife. I ask her: is a dark room haunted by the light it once held? is a Manx cat haunted by the lack of a tail? is lemon curd haunted by lemon, or merely inspired? I tell her mouths are haunted; hands are haunted; the mouths and hands of dolls are haunted, which is to say that anything with a face is haunted; clocks are haunted, the moon is haunted, and she and I are haunted, too—by the things we make and lose and do. These words are haunted, and so too should every word be haunted, and what else to do with a ghost story but stand at the window and shout it out into the garden? Where else are we to kneel but here, crouching under the haunted jasmine, with the hum of bees and wasps around us like so many spectres of things unseen? Every wing warns us that this life is as thin as paper, and yet just like a wasp’s nest it builds up to something—something beautiful and yet dangerous, something fragile and yet eternal—lasting, like honey, for thousands of years. I tell her she is haunted, yes, by water, and now by the story I am telling her, a second-hand curse tipped from my face to hers. It curls up and into us, into anyone that listens, rooting us into the flesh of the world until we are nothing more than the seeds at the heart of an apple: haunted by the tree we once were, and are, and long to be again.
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