Before you died, you made me promise that if you died I would never ever forget you. Funny how it’s only now that I’m remembering you said “if” and not ‘when” as if you thought an exemption could be made.
Or maybe it’s just that we were so young, and so were allowed to say ‘if’ and not when without fear of godly reprisal, because the gods know that the young’s inability to conceive of their own death is not arrogance so much as innocence, a naïveté that comes from thinking that the scenes on old album covers depict the kinds of things that are actually going to happen except with better hairstyles and no bellbottoms or sideburns, things like picking strawberries or running through a field of tall bearded grasses holding hands, or perching on a windowsill looking out through a rain-spattered window pane and looking dreamy and bravely sad.
After you died, I didn’t really think about whether or not I’d forget you. I mean, you’d just died, it’s not the kind of thing one thinks about while the body is practically still warm. Plus it’s like an existential thing; to think about forgetting someone requires you to actually remember them, and remember what it is that can be forgotten. The whole thing gave me a headache so I smoked some pot and drank a bottle and a half of red wine until I passed out, so my brain would give me a rest.
Also, I kept hearing things. Everyone said it was shock, then they said it was because I needed to eat, then they said that it was exhaustion, and if I’d told them about the pot they would have said that was the reason I was hearing the voice coming from the toilet.
So I drank up all the wine and asked them if they heard the voices and they said there were no voices, it was just my mind working overtime, it was just the wine which is what I knew they would say, so I guess I must have wanted to hear it. I guess hearing it made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy.
The voice in the toilet was you. It sounded like running water, the way the toilet does that when you flush it and forget to jiggle the handle up and down. It sounded like running water but it wasn’t, it was you, it was you saying “Have you forgotten me” over and over again.
At some point after I passed out someone must have jiggled the toilet handle because the sound had stopped by the time I woke up. I was glad but the gladness only lasted a short while because the automatic drip coffee machine started in on me, have you forgotten me, have you forgotten me, only this time your voice was disguised as a steamy hiss instead of a watery whisper.
I went outside and the tree shook its branches at me and the leaves rattled have you forgotten me? That funny bird that starts singing at four in the morning, the one with the three note song? Now sings a six note song, emphasis on the fourth note: have you for GOT ten me?
I had dinner with mom and dad and dad was doing his usual chewing thing, where his mouth is closed but he’s generating too much saliva or something, so that he sounds louder than a cow chomping its second stomach full to the breaking point and there it was, in that gross fucking moist mastication, mashing out the unmistakable rhythm, have you forgotten me, have you forgotten me.
I pee and the drops splatter into the bowl with a kind of symphonic uremia, a tinkling question, have you forgotten me?
But the worst thing of all was with Jimmy. I know he’s your best friend and all but it’s not like we’re cheating on you. We were just comforting each other – that’s all it was, comfort, nothing more. And it wasn’t any good, not that that should matter but I suspect that for you, it does. It was the last straw, really, to hear him panting away in my ear with his breath that smells like unfiltered Camels, panting like a locomotive and goddamn it, motherfucker here it comes in his breathy exhalations, have! You! For! Got! Ten! Me! No way could I come.
So I don’t know what it’s going to take. I mean, really, what is it, exactly, that you want with this haunting business? Do you want me to remember you, or would you prefer for some reason to just remind me to remember you for the rest of eternity? You always were insecure. You were always suspicious if I really, really loved you. You could never just take what I said at face value. No matter how happy we were, you could never relax into it. You didn’t want to believe. You wore your anxiety and uncertainty like handcuffs. You could never forget to remember to be unhappy.
All those years I tried to saw through those metal bracelets that cut off your circulation and made you walk like a sleepwalker through your own life, hands held out before you looking for something you wouldn’t recognize if you found. All those years I poured my love and reassurance down your empty well. Have you forgotten all of that, already? Have you?
Don’t you remember how you’d wake in the night, and I’d reach over and touch your face, knowing just where the line of your jaw was even in the dark? Was it all so ephemeral, my love? Are you still so cold in your memory? Wherever it is you went, have you forgotten me?
thanks Natasha – toilet ghosts aren’t for everyone…
Well done 🙂
thanks! that means a lot coming from you!
‘Gross fucking moist mastication’ is the best line I’ve heard all year
thank you, she said modestly 😉
This is very beautiful, very flowing, and very poignant. I love the stream of consciousness taste of it and the depth of insight and perception that permeates the entire piece. Absolutely beautiful.
Thank you, Phil!
This is a great story. Wonderful raw sentences. Congrats.
thanks Bob, that’s very kind of you