the ghosts

We used to think about living on after our death: in our children, in the warm memories of our friends, in our works. Of course this transmigration does take place, in a way, but what lives on is our ghost, in however many instances we've managed to implant — each slightly (or greatly) different from every other, like handwritten copies of a text — and each mortal: when the last host of our ghost passes out of existence, we too are gone. Think of Ozymandias. [The reference is unknown — Ed.]

There were those among us, and ourselves from time to time, who believed in real ghosts (whatever that could possibly mean): immaterial forms of ourselves — if that's not a contradiction in terms — which we often pictured as hanging around in the living world on account of some residue of strong emotion, like longing, remorse, or vengeful rage.

I don't know what ghost of me this Boy will carry with him when he leaves what's left of me behind; he can't remember much of the world we shared unawares before we met in this terrible afterlife; certainly he had a mother, likely a father, even brothers and sisters... — do you have *friends* when you're however old he is? — so, perhaps friends.

All of them ghosts now. All the world a swirling cloud of ghosts.

No. That's what the world was. *Before* whatever hit us hit us. Now the world is cleansed — well, except for the two little ghosts living in this ruin along with the Boy and me: my ghost and his ghost. When he goes out in the morning, he leaves his ghost behind for me to talk to; whether my ghost goes with him or not he doesn't say.

Well, we can't keep track of the ghosts: not our job. Not any more. But once upon a time, it was all we did, or tried to.


Mourning. Once you begin, it never ends, but you go on living with it, in spite of it — maybe in mere spite: a perfectly sound reason to go on living, I've found. You get something when you lose something, even if it's only confirmation that life's a bitch. [The idiom is obscure — Ed.] Something to go on.

So: going on. Looks like a beautiful day towards, as they used to say it. Cold, but bright. Boy's still asleep, but as soon as the light touches his little corner, he'll get up and set off. Sometimes he's away all day, only appears when the sun's already down, but the sky's still light enough to see his way back.

I love to think of him tromping through the woods, exploring. A stick in his hand, whacking tree trunks with it. He'll take his sling, of course — he brought home a rabbit last evening, very proud of himself, as he should be. Yes, we had a regular banquet — it's why he's sleeping late.

See? after all that I've lost, that he's lost, all that's gone forever, we go on. We even took time for a little blessing over the rabbit, to give thanks to its ghost for the meat for our supper. Today, life looks good.

So while I'm in a mellow mood, I'm going to try to puzzle out something that's been gnawing at me for days. Not much else to do but think, now I can't get around.

Meat. What's left behind when you take out the ghost. What the ghosts use (or used to use) to talk to each other.

Face to face, you can always tell what people are saying, if you're willing to listen to the music of their voice, to mark the light in their eyes (or lack of it), the way they sit, shift their weight, gesture with their hands and head. You're too good at reading faces (the first thing you ever saw was a face) to be fooled by the words coming out of it.

Sometimes, when you're not hearing or seeing what you want to hear or see, you pretend that you are, just to be agreeable, or to ward off a scene. Most of the time what's being said doesn't matter enough to make a scene about, because most of the time whatever you're saying or hearing is *just* music, just to pass the time, like your cat walking into the room and yelling at you because she feels like a little conversation before her next nap.

Then there's text...


Plenty of theories about where text came from, when it first appeared — but those theories are all texts, so they can't be true in any absolute, eternal sense — nothing is true anywhere or ever but here and now, and text only exists elsewhere and elsewhen, or else it couldn't fulfill its ghostly mission — anyway, how do you prove a theory's *true*? You can demonstrate the likelihood that this or that happened, but the demonstration would just be another damn text. The evidence doesn't lie, we've been told, but that's only [true] because the evidence doesn't say *anything*. It just lies there, like the dead body on the floor; it can't speak any more than that dead body can, because the ghost has absconded. Facts never speak for themselves; we make them speak; we make them: that's what "fact" means — something *made*. What we speak, when we're ventriloquizing like that, is text.

The Boy does the same, when he's talking to himself — in whatever tongue he speaks — taking the voice of each of his associates in turn: the bird on the branch, the bunny in the brush, the stick in his hand, the stone in the sling. They speak through him, they tell him their tales, their worries, their woes, and he tells them his.

Or so I imagine he does when he's out of my hearing, since he makes not a sound when we're together. Well, except in his sleep, and what he says then has no words. But it does have music, and I listen with the deepest attention when he sings or cries out or babbles at length in his dream language. If he listens to me in like wise, when he's awake and I'm not, I don't know.

But I was talking about text. There's meat text and ghost text, just like we who make text are ourselves made of meat and ghost. And, just like us, as soon as text is created (I will *not* say born), it starts to change — to grow, to gain strength, to send out its tentacles, to reproduce, also to decline and die.

The meat part cannot lie; it's the ghosts do that — and they are lying all the time; they lie in what they speak, they lie in what they understand. They never say anything straight; they're always listening to something else.

But what do we expect? You want a straight answer? go straight to the meat. That's what it's for. It can't go far; it can't go anywhere, in fact: for the meat, there is no where but here, no when but now, and now, and now. To the meat, here isn't a word, a text. Now isn't a word. Meat is all there is, really.

What I've just said is, of course, a text. It has a meat part and a ghost part. The meat part will go with me — or, I should say, stay. The ghost part is already off on its own, headed for god knows where, for god knows how long, scattering its bastards throughout the five kingdoms... [The reference is uncertain — Ed.]