At night I’m visited by the three Ghosts of Friendship. The Ghost of Friendship Past arrives first in a form I know well, a friend whose absence remains an unhealed wound which aches most on long, textless weekends. Friendship Past brings me bittersweet dreams where we are best friends once more, no awkwardness or years of unexplained silences between us to dampen the laughter. I wake wondering what happened, why and where it all went wrong. Was I found lacking in some way?
The Ghost of Friendship Present shows up next, cycling through the guises of current friends who seem to be slipping through my clenched hands like fine sand. They spirit me from my bed to deliver us to parties where I’m not acknowledged, game nights where my presence is needed only to fill in for someone absent, group events where I am at best the tolerated tag-along. I wake angry at slights that never actually happened.
Finally the Ghost of Friendship Future appears, taking the form of someone who doesn’t even exist. It’s a face I know well, though; I’ve been watching the show for months, start to finish and back again, out of jealousy or perhaps just yearning. I confide in him that I wish his study group could be my friends as well; I don’t have a gang of my own anymore and I fear I never will again. Maybe fictional friend groups are all my future holds.
Unlike Scrooge, when I wake from this third and final visitation to a new dawn I do so without any real lessons imparted, no resolutions burning in my chest. Either the Ghosts of Friendship aren’t interested in redemption arcs or I’m not worth the effort. When they return the next night it’s just more of the same and I’m left to face the morning weighted Marley-style by chains I won’t acknowledge.
No exes in my graveyard, instead I’m dogged by the ghosts of friendships abandoned, bodies left to rot where they fell in the undergrowth because neither of us bothered to give them a proper burial (can’t honestly say I even checked for a pulse before I ran, fearful of either outcome) and while watching yet another love begin its slow anemic decline I feel your specter sit beside me and I rest my head on her shoulder like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
The only time you deign to admit we share anything in common is when you’re trying to plant in me the worst seeds of yourself. I can almost feel your hand on my shoulder and your breath against my ear as you whisper, You and I, we can never give them everything they want and they will always resent us for it. It’s better to be alone than to live in the shadow of their constant disappointment. Trust me, they’ll die or leave you either way. And your seeds find rich earth ready for the planting in me because you and I are no better than compost heaps inside, full of rot and mold and festering emotions. Something might take root, who knows; in the meantime I’m just grateful for your attention.
1. Not corporeal or material; insubstantial.
2. Of, relating to, or characteristic of nonmaterial beings.
Ghosts are incorporeal. Incorporeal means no hands to hold, no fingers to clutch, no mouth to bite and swallow. Incorporeal means ghosts cannot have or keep. Give back, then, the songs you took from me. Give back the books, the movies, the places and people and names. Ghosts are not allowed to lay claim to the corporeal; only the living can, and I am so very much alive. I grow more alive by the day, while you grow deader and deader. I bet you’ve already forgotten what it feels like to be made of flesh and blood, sensation and experience, haven’t you? What a pity. All those wonderful things you’re trying to hold onto are wasted on your scrap of weightless soul – so why don’t you give them back to someone who can fully appreciate their worth?