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May 14th, 2016

He’s been waiting for me all my life. He’s been waiting in the corner of my vision and in telephone receivers and in the way no one understands me. He’s been waiting in the rooms of portrait studios with paper backdrops of rainbow lasers cutting through vague mists. Podiums are topped with carpeted mounds for newborns and a cube under a matching sphere are happily paint splattered, their stucco texture worn and tinged gray with the oil from hundreds of high school seniors’ forearms, their poses held strict for a moment in time I don’t give a fuck about.

And when I finally come to meet him, the Ghost Boy sits tucked thoughtfully into himself on a bamboo couch, the cushions Miami pink behind teal behind palm fronds. He’s a twenty-something Robert Downey, Jr. in a preppy, tennis-ready shorts and sweater combo, white with navy trim. Melancholy fights some determination in him, his demeanor defying the carefree outfit. How he feels descends the space we inhabit, and I saunter slow around him as the song begins like our meeting was always meant to be a music video. My arms are crossed under my chest, and as I circle him ever slower, his expression tracks me, overcome and challenging at once.

“You came,” he observes.

“Or did you?” I suggest, uncertain whether any encounters we’ve had were real or imagined, owed to my finding him or his finding me.

I call him the Ghost Boy for his spectral existence, the haunting tease of his pretentious, pre-collegiate drawl. For his entrances and exits of my life on the scent of girls prettier than me with needs simpler than mine. For the qualities he possesses completely which no other boy does but in slivers and glances.

“You left so soon last night, I… didn’t think you’d be back.”

“I’m not. Not for long, anyway.”

His name was once Noah, it was once Shawn, Clyde, Chase, Joshua. He’s present in a room the way I mistook those boys to be. He owns his space and what he says has weight he’s aware of. I can somehow feel that he’s willing to see his impulses through to their consequences and he would never let a moment die. Or maybe it’s just a projection of myself. Maybe his name was once Rosie. I can tell he wants to stand and reach out to me, but he doesn’t. I don’t want him to touch me as much as I’ve never wanted anything more, but until I know for certain that he exists outside of my fucking imagination… I will not let him near me.

Until I understand if he exists as a part of me, my little girl wishes, my dreams, my prayers, I have to assume he doesn’t exist at all.

“Why? Wh-why not stay?”

“I can’t stay here with you,” under my breath, I say to him, but his eyes…

But the truth is that I belong in this room. I don’t care what this room is to humans; the irony of the artifice specific to the era. This is another place you can never tell the time of day, the year, or whether outside these walls, the world still stands. That makes it a place I come from. And never before now did anyone ever meet me here. The Ghost would have to be someone who understood what it meant to me. He’d have to be an Angel. The way he lazes here, clenching his jaw and picking at the fraying pillows, the way he leans on everything like it doesn’t belong to anyone at all, makes me think he might belong here like I do.

His eyes are clear and open and trying to tell me there are things he knows that I don’t know. His eyes are strong while they plead with me, a paradox that tells me his insistence is to get something from me only he can understand. It’s like he’s silently begging me to remember him from a hundred other lives when we were lovers, and I begin to realize this is the scene in the music video where the boy comes for the girl and the girl…

Well, every girl in every video I’ve ever seen has always been bewildered by the romance with which our protagonist presents. The smarts ones, at least. The other girl's reservations are so thick, they can’t see through them. But inside every girl, the choice gets perpetually made, when given the chance, to let the Dream Boy give her the Happily Ever...

I pace slow and he keeps his eyes locked with mine like I’m his satellite now. Revolving me around him is an emotional gravity without content; the whisper of what is available for us to feel without a history, without a future, without so much as names to call one another. Regardless, nothing exists but this portrait studio, the two of us, and this moment. This moment that might repeat itself indefinitely if a few questions go unanswered.

Who are we, why did we end up here together, and what are we going to do now?

I don't know, but I do know I’m not a girl at all, and the difference between Dreams and Ghosts are their intentions. A Dream Boy wants to make all your wishes come true, and a Ghost Boy has unfinished business. But he isn’t a boy at all, and he’s not here for the kind of romance immortalized by a music video. It becomes clear that this is a still, our bodies forever this far apart, and a thousand words will go toward the simple truth of it: Neither of us are looking at the camera.

Something inside us is the same, and while I can’t understand yet what it is, it’s evidenced to me in our ability to face each other in the low context of this space. The clean blankness of our senseless and dramatic natures are ready for the improvisation we must do, as entities unknowing of what we once meant to the other, what we might mean now, or what we will mean later. As beings approaching some grand finale proceeding what all our pretending has afforded us. As characters becoming the actors who play them for the very first time.

As toys, coming to life at night.

“I love you,” he admits.

There’s a clock somewhere, the minute hand smoothly circling our time away under the glassy surfaces of his brown eyes, and I can feel the warm disappearance of something precious is imminent. He wants to tell me why I shouldn’t leave, but he can’t. I want to tell him I love him back, but I can’t. Anything we might say could become the story of us, were we not the inexplicable conduits for the invisible legends we allow to materialize on the vast stage of all the world. We could become a love story, right here and now, if it weren’t for the brutal reality between us that we only truly exist behind the curtain, backstage, at the end of the film reel.

“I love you,” he admits and admits and admits.

“Then show me who I am.”