“I am haunted by humans.” (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak)
Two young girls with long hair and freckled smiles.
I see them running across the back yard through the living room windows, their bare feet dirty with summer dirt and clover stains.
Stars whirl above me as I lay down in the dew-ridden grass, and I hear them a few feet away, curled around each other as they whisper their 11:11 and first-star-of-the-night wishes.
They skid around aisles in the grocery store, arms laden with candy and chips and random assortments of probably detrimental sustenance, if it can even be considered sustenance at all.
They giggle together in the backseat, singing at the top of their lungs to the radio. I have to look behind me to assure myself that they aren’t actually there cuddling their stuffed animals.
There are others, young children that run and play alongside those two girls, but they aren’t as constant as the two girls. There’s a boy, younger than them, with short cut brown hair and glasses perched on his freckled nose. He’s one of the more frequent figures, splashing in the backyard pool and dangling his legs off of the treehouse alongside the two girls. Two other boys cross the yards in between the neighboring houses sometimes, popsicle sticky fingers carrying footballs or nerf guns.
These memories should convey joy, but all I feel when I remember is sorrow and a severe longing for what’s in the past.
It’s been a month since she told me that they would be moving.
It’s been two and a half weeks since they left.
I still cry more often than I’d like to admit. I cry in the shower and I cry when I sit on the couch in the mornings, holding my mug of tea in the early light. I cry at work on occasion, but I try to make it to the cooler or the back room to pull myself together before anyone can see.
My tears aren’t angry anymore, though. I’m not yelling at God, asking why He would take away such a precious friendship again. I’m praying now, asking forgiveness for my lack of faith, and grace for those who need it far more than I do.
They’ve packed up their home and driven towards the east, following the sunrise like it’s a beacon, with a backseat full of bursting boxes and sleepy children and barking dogs. They’ve begun unpacking and job searching and making a new life in their new home.
She says that it’s difficult, but that she’s getting closer to “okay”. That each day there’s less space in between her and happiness.
No. Not happiness. Contentment.
Sometimes I don’t think that she’ll ever be truly happy again.
…I know it’s selfish, but I feel numb and I don’t know what “okay” feels like anymore.
When I used to hear ghost stories, I always imagined them being shapeless and cold shadows, things that instilled fear and had no distinct or recognizable features.
I didn’t expect figures from my past.
And I didn’t expect to be haunted by humans.
Happiness comes and goes in waves. I’ll forget that they’re gone and get caught up in the laughter, the joy of life. Or I’ll know that they’re gone, I’ll consciously be thinking about the fact that they’re not here anymore, but I’m not always sad about that fact. I’m, actually, excited for them. Hopeful. They are where they need to be right now, I think.
But then memories will come crashing down on me and I’ll feel smothered – like there’s not enough air in the world to fill my lungs. That’s when the missing them hurts worse than anything else I’ve ever experienced.
When that wave passes, I just feel numb.
Sometimes I can’t decide if it’s worse to feel nothing or to feel everything.
When my mind is empty and my heart is numb, there’s just one thought left.
I wouldn’t trade any of the heartache for never having known my best friend.