“Claim Your Ghosts” by Iron & Wine from Beast Epic
The whisper pulled him from a dream. Less a whisper really. More of a breathe. An impression of words.
He sat up and scanned the room in the pale pink light of dawn. He had forgotten to draw the shades again last night. He hoped he had at least locked the door.
Nothing was in front of him. Just the dresser. The old guitar. Her old guitar. And a set of pajamas. The ones for him. The ones he would’ve wore that night. Should’ve wore that night. But no one. Just a room of stuff. Empty except for the stuff and the pink light and himself.
Again. Thin. Certainly there but somehow…translucent. Can a voice be translucent?
This time more substantial. Firm. Her voice.
He sighed. Not the first time he’s heard things. He’d be worried except, well, worrying required caring.
Fluffing the pillow he thinks if there’s a reason to do anything. If there’s something to do today. Nothing occurs to him. He resolves to lay back down.
“It’s past 9 in the morning. It’s a Tuesday. Get out of bed, lazy bones.”
Now he’s very awake. Upright and rigid in bed. The voice had form. Full form. All her. All his wife.
But no one in the room.
Could grief cause auditory hallucinations?
“No, you dope,” the voice chuckled.
“Bonnie?” he tried again, dizzy with fear. No, not fear. Shame?
“Who else? You haven’t left the house in….a month? I don’t get the impression you’ve met another lady yet.”
“No. What? No, of course not,” he said.
“Why not talk to the voice?” he shrugged in his head. Couldn’t be worse than the silence.
“Too bad. Karyn looked cute at the wake,” she teased.
“That was weird,” he confessed. He had wanted to point it out to his friends, that his high school girlfriend had shown up, but he was worried it would seem…unseemly. Like he was already thinking about the next step.
“Nothing wrong with a little fantasizing,” she replied to his unsaid words, “You certainly thought about her while I was alive. While I was, you know, not facing you,” she giggled.
He grimaced, “Maybe. Sometimes.”
“A lot,” she shot back, sounding…delighted?
“Don’t worry, I thought about Frank almost as much. If not more.”
“Like Frank Frank? The landscaper.”
“But you hated him?”
“Hated his work ethic. Quite liked his shoulders.”
“Jeez,” he sighed, running his hand through his hair.
Her giggles became a guffaw and it became infectious. Soon, he was laughing. Then he was crying. Hard.
“There it is,” she whispered. Sad. Sympathetic. “Been avoiding that since huh?”
He nodded, face in his hands.
“I miss you too,” she said, just over his low sobs.
“I’m sorry,” he managed, gulping air to make it happen.
“Being late. Too late.”
“You weren’t late. That bus was early. And going too fast.”
“If I had been earlier…”
“And if I had told Josh no to playing in the puddles…”
“You couldn’t know.”
“And neither could you. You didn’t kill us. An impossibly large vehicle, hydroplaning, poor city planning, and bad timing did. You have to stop.”
“If I stop though…”
“I’m already gone Kevin. We both are.”
“You’re here now.”
“This is kind of a limited engagement thing.”
Quiet. He swears he can hear her breath.
“So are you both…ok?”
“A fair bit better than ok, Kevin. Certainly better than you.”
A smile dances lightly on his lips.
“I’m not stellar these days.”
“No you aren’t. But that’s ok.”
Deep breath. Finally asking.
“Can I…is he…”
Then he feels it. The bed sink ever so slightly. Smells him. Feels his little arms around his shoulders again.
“Josh…” he hisses.
“Love you Dad.”
Then her hand, on his face. Then both gone.
“Love you Kevin,” that empty barely there sound again.
Silence again. All alone. For good. For now. The light has gone from pink to yellow. He hears birds. He sits on the end of the bed. Tries to clutch the smell of his son to him, to his heart. Tries to hold it all in even as he knows he’s losing it. It’s letting go of him, even if he won’t.