By Natalia Hero
It was totally fine that you killed me because then I got to be a ghost. I remember your knees crushing my windpipe, my lungs collapsing, I remember feeling my eyes bugging, inflating like little birthday balloons sprouting from my pink face, and I remember wondering, does he think I’m pretty now? But then my body let go of its grip on me, it fell to the ground and I stayed up and I rose higher and higher and eventually my legs sticking out of your bedroom ceiling I looked down and noticed the transparency of my thighs and I knew then, or at least I figured, that I was finally gone.
Of course I stayed to haunt you, but it wasn’t vindictive or anything. I closed cabinet doors so you wouldn’t hit your head, I tidied your living room and cleared empty bottles off the coffee table. I made room for you. I even made room for her. I mean, I didn’t watch, I never watched. Of course I didn’t watch. I always gave you privacy when you were together. But I was present, always, and you always knew, and I knew that you knew because you too are transparent, like my thighs I could see through you and I saw that you knew. I think this is why I stayed. I wanted to watch you grieve. I wanted to see the aftermath, I wanted to see my legacy. Did you ever look down at your hands and remember the sentence they passed. Did I ever cross your mind when you sat watching TV at the scene of the crime. Did you ever look back fondly on our last night together, our last kiss before our final goodbye, my last hot breath in your frigid apartment—I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go. Your hands on me, your touch, your warmth.
I remember the way you tenderly dragged my corpse across the floor, I remember that because I worried about your form—you really need to take better care of your back, you know, you aren’t getting any younger. You should lift with your legs, like I showed you when I helped you move, remember? I didn’t want you to get hurt while disposing of me. I remember your gentle touch when you propped my lifeless body up on a chair on the back porch and got us each a beer and clinked the bottles together, toasting farewell. You sat down next to me and had a cigarette, keeping your hand on my cold thigh until the very last drag. I was so happy in that moment. Watching you, watching us, seeing how perfect we looked together. And then you got to work, and my body sat there waiting as the beer perspired on the table next to it. And I was there too, watching you dig. You dug deep, all night, you worked hard for me, and in the early hours of the morning you pulled my body by the ankles into my grave and poured my warm beer all over it before covering me with dirt until my shape was just a memory. You moved the picnic table over the mound to hide it. A skunk sprayed you when you went to put the shovel away, and you went to work in the morning exhausted, covered in dirt, stinking of guilt and free from me at last.
I tried to haunt you, I tried, but I couldn’t. At first I tried to scare you out of the house, to make you drop everything and run like in the movies, I tried to drive you to the edge of madness hoping you would leave your home to me and move on to somewhere else. I wanted to stay in that apartment forever. I wanted to sit in the memories and fester. But I didn’t want you to die or anything, I didn’t want revenge, I’m not that kind of ghost. I didn’t want you to die because I knew you wouldn’t leave any business unfinished. I knew you couldn’t join me in my purgatory. I knew you’d have no one to haunt but yourself. And even so you would find peace very quickly, you’re quick. You could never be a ghost like me. You don’t have the patience, you don’t have the dedication. Me, I never give anything up. Me, I never drop anything. I hang onto it all, I marry it, till fucking death do us part.
But like I said, it was fine that you killed me, it was fine because I genuinely liked being a ghost. It was nice. It suited me. I liked embodying the nothing that I was to you. I liked no longer being a weight on your shoulders, I liked being light. I liked being something shameful for you to tuck away in a dark corner of your mind and try to forget, like an embarrassing old photo from high school, or like that vortex of garbage in the middle of the Pacific. I liked organizing her toiletries in the bathroom, all her makeup, all her soaps. Colour-coding, alphabetizing. The Dewey Decimal of her beauty. I was happy to clean up shards of broken glass and ceramic from the kitchen floor on those nights you’d get angry. And I loved changing your sheets and making the bed and watching how much faster you’d fall asleep on fresh linens, how much more peaceful you looked when you dreamed—maybe of me, maybe of the future we had talked about, that’s the story I like to tell myself, I like to tell myself that what you told me was true, that it could have been real, that you had really believed in us.
But as the years went by I got so bored of haunting you. Watching the two of you eat dinner together in silence, listening to your monotonous grunts of acknowledgement when she talked about her uneventful day at that job she hated but could never leave. Hearing you tell her about projects you’d never finish, things that in a month you’d forget you ever wanted. For years, the same routine. Can something bore you to death when you’re already dead? It felt like being killed all over again, only slowly this time. Like roadkill dragging its flattened remains to the shoulder to die. And as boredom overtook me I felt myself fade, I felt something pull me away from you, as though I’d served my sentence and was being released. Or maybe I’d done a shitty job as a ghost, maybe I was supposed to be spookier, maybe I totally blew it and was being fired. Whatever it was, I tried to fight it. I tried to hold onto doorways as I blew away. I didn’t want to be ready. I didn’t want to be evicted. This was my home too, goddammit. I’d put so much effort into maintaining it. My final resting place. My sacred tomb.
I remember you walking in just as I was about to be blown out the front door for good. You were home early—I wondered why. I wondered why you had that look on your face, I wondered if something upsetting had happened at work. And I wanted to ask you about it, I wanted to let you confide in me, I wanted so badly to be the soft couch you collapsed on at the end of your rough day. But everything happened so fast. I was shapeless, I was only air. And so as I blew by I aimed for your nostrils so you would inhale me. It was all I could think of in the spur of the moment, it was the only way I knew how to say goodbye. And you did. You breathed me in deep and held me inside you for a little bit like you were trying to ghost a bong hit. I tried to cling to the insides of your lungs, thinking for a split second that I could feasibly make this my new home. A bit of a fixer-upper, but it had potential, I could make it work. But of course you eventually exhaled. Of course you did because if you didn’t, you would die, obviously. So I went flying out your mouth. It wasn’t graceful. I was split into an infinite number of pieces; I was so broken up that I was everywhere, I was everything. And I found that I could move a little easier out there. It felt different. I was something else. Something you didn’t make.
So anyway, it really was fine that you killed me, it was actually nice of you. I figure it probably weighs on your conscience a little, the whole murder thing, but if by chance you still think about it I hope you know that I’d just be happy to be on your mind at all. Even if it’s as a victim, even if it’s as a carcass rotting away like the month-old takeout at the back of your fridge that you never get around to throwing out (I took care of it before I left, don’t worry). I was a little sad when I felt my business wrapping itself up. It would have been so lovely to keep sharing a home with you. But I got in the way, I understand, I didn’t fit in your tight space and that’s why you had to get rid of me, listen, I get it. It’s okay. I’m gone, for real this time, I won’t come back. I hope I remembered to turn the stove off for you on my way out. I’m pretty sure I did.
Natalia Hero is a writer and translator from Montreal. Her fiction has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Peach Mag, Metatron’s ÖMËGÄ, and Shabby Doll House. She was recently shortlisted for the 2017 Metatron Prize. She is currently completing an M.A. in Literary Translation at the University of Ottawa.