I Saw a Ghost

 

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This afternoon I saw a ghost.  I turned a corner and there it was. The sight of it jolted me to a not so distant past; there was ice on the windows now. I shivered. I shook my head and walked on by.

It wasn’t the first time I had been visited. Recently I have encountered a lot of ghosts. New York. London. Montreal. And now here, in Chicago. I see them every time I walk down my old road, or unexpectedly find myself somewhere I have been before. Not even somewhere memorable. It could be an alley I once walked down, thinking nothing of it, only to find myself returned five years later. I wonder why they are coming to me now? I never used to see them. I just don’t think I opened my eyes.

I’m back in Chicago. I didn’t plan this, it just happened, my life has changed since I was last here in the dead of winter in 2016. A red haired girl with her boyfriend and his brother, sharing a bunk-bed in a hostel uptown. We drank beer from cans in our room and rode the Chicago Transit. This time I arrived for a press trip in a private Limousine. I am staying in a luxury hotel with a king sized bed and views of the city and lake. After I set my bags down I was greeted with a knock at my door. In came a platter with a bottle of whisky on it. Welcome Rebecca, we’re pleased to have you. Two years, five months. My life has changed.

Today’s haunting happened in the Art Institute when I came across the sculpture of a pink woman made of giant shells standing with a dog. It was the second time in my life I had encountered “Woman With Dog”. The first time I saw them I stared, then captured the moment on my old phone. I still had that picture in a folder on my desktop titled “Memories”. I don’t open it much anymore.

Oh, but if I did.

Once you see a ghost, you see them everywhere. She was there again reflected in the Bean, Chicago’s iconic sculpture that absolutely no one calls Cloud Gate. The last time I was there I pressed my nose to the metal. It was so cold it burned. Minus 40 degrees celcius. Today was a Spring day. My hair was loose and I wore yellow, but I still saw red hair under a thick hood and pink cheeks. I think even our eyes would look different. I had forgotten what sadness felt like then. I don’t think I will make that mistake again. I AM happy now. I am on my way. I am trying hard and I think it’s working. But it is different because now I see ghosts. She never saw me, though. She never saw a girl, shit, I think now a woman, in yellow, with a fierce determination and a mad passion. I suppose she was always there, on that day too, I am just becoming now.  The clock ticked. I stepped in sync with the second hand and somehow ended up miles away, but somehow also back where I stood. 

Last week I saw myself all over Montreal. I wasn’t alone then, nor was I on my first trip. Three and a half years. An old love and a new one. Both times I laughed and smiled, but this time I was more afraid. That is the thing about ghosts, they don’t know they are gone, but we do. I do. I know what I lost and it still haunts me.  I want to hold on to this one, but I know that nothing is certain now. There were so many new places for us to haunt. I wonder what I will see the next time I return. We return, I hope.

I am alone right now. No one tells you that in becoming successful you are alone a lot. But it’s okay. Right now I think I like it. I’m drinking iced Dunkin Donuts coffee mixed with whisky. I am wearing a black plush robe and staring out of the window across a city that isn’t mine, but has come to mean something to me. Perhaps I’ll be back again and I’ll sit in another window across from here staring at the ghost of myself typing, remembering what it was like to be on the cusp of something great, remembering what it is like to taste single malt blended with cheap coffee, remembering the time I lived two lives, poor and rich at the same time. So many possibilities in the same breath.  I can almost see her looking at me, a vision of who I am going to be. Every finger on my keyboard brings me closer. I’m writing my way to you, Rebecca. I hope that I will make you proud.

 

I Have No Idea What I am Doing Or Where I am Going…

I was sat on a plane from Toronto to Calgary amid my first proper business trip and I was filling my time with an overdue image purge on my phone. That was what I told myself anyway, it was actually a bit of an excuse to go through old memories from the past year and beyond. Flying makes me a little bit nervous, even now, and indulging in old memories is kind of a cornerstone to swerve me from in-flight anxiety.

It was all there. I got this phone exactly at the same time as I broke up with Will and so it really does accurately document this chapter that I am living in. As I was scrolling through fancy meals, camping trips and photos of my niece dressed as an astronaut, I found a picture I had taken last year during an interactive performance art night at the Anndore House, a hotel in Downtown Toronto. One bedroom was strung with string and pegs. A paper and a pencil were laid out and we were invited to write down a secret. Any secret. Get something off my mind, they said. At that time, my mind was swilling with too much something that I had no idea what exactly to get off. Still, I put pencil to paper. I took a picture of my secret.  The date on my photo was April 25th 2018. Almost exactly a year ago. This is what I wrote:

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“I have no fucking idea what I am doing or where I am going. I’m not even sure if that’s okay.”

I pegged it up there. I looked at it among the others. There were some messages of hope, some messages of heartbreak, some of promise, others of love, and then mine. I had no clue.  I really didn’t have any idea. My life had just shifted and shook and I could no longer see a future. For the first time, probably in my life actually, I had no goal I was working towards. Flux.

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I remember the rest of that night clearly. Ruth and I drank cocktails and took pictures of each other wearing glittery jackets. I’m smiling in the pictures but I know I am not well.  I walked 5 kilometres home in the rain in ballet pumps. Squelching my way through the door of my one bed rental, I drained out my shoes and left warm wet footprints on the kitchen tiles. I laid down on the living room floor and stared at the ceiling. A year ago from that moment and I could have walked home to find Will playing guitar in the old bank vault, a weird secret extra room in our house that he used for music. He would have asked if I wanted a beer, we would have cracked an Upper Canada Dark Ale and listened to Roxy Music until I fell asleep on the terrible IKEA couch we had panic bought in our first month in Canada. That terrible couch is about the only thing from my former life I still have; it was oh so generously bestowed upon me when I moved out.  Thanks, Will.  Before I had even left he had bought a new couch for himself; gold, plump and glorious. He had also bought several big house plants and some new artwork. When I walked through the door to pick up my bags on that long day from the London, things had already changed. He had begun his process of erasing me and I understood why. I wish I’d of had the budget to do the same back then because maybe new things would have filled the burgeoning void. But here, in April 2018, on this new floor of a house not yet built up with memories, I felt lost.

Today my house looks different, I look different and…well… I don’t know if brains can ever really look too different, but it feels different inside my head now. I’d say I’ve redecorated, but I think remodeled would be a fairer comparison. I’m comfortable in there now. I daresay I am even happy. As I looked back in April 2018, at my pencil note pegged to string stretching across a hotel bedroom, I realised for the first time that I am not that person anymore. I am sure Ruth and my other friends could have told you that, but I didn’t really know. Since I walked out of my old life and tried to make a new one happen, at the back of my mind I was always carrying a sadness. I could see it in so many of my photographs from the year before, but as I sat there on the plane I realised that that sadness had gone. Without knowing it, I had started a new chapter.

As the clouds flew by my window, I flicked through more photos, trying to pinpoint the moment that it went away; the moment I stopped being sad and started being, well, whatever I am now.  Pouring over the images of me charging glasses with my friends, swimming in lakes, taking trips, I tried to find the shift. AND… I think I found it. Only it wasn’t just one moment, it was two months of moments, forged from placing one foot after another. The moment I stepped on the bus to Manhattan in December, the day I was stranded in Budapest, my niece on my lap on Christmas Day, my mum, my sister, the flight back to Toronto, a bad New Year to knock me down again, an excellent birthday to bring me back and a commitment to being better. Somewhere in the middle I had found who I am now, the girl on the plane about to spend four days in the mountains.  

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I had the most incredible four days in Banff.  It felt right. I felt like me. I was where I was supposed to be. Instead of sadness, it was gratitude I carried at the back of my mind, and determination to make moments like this my life. Perhaps when I look back at the pictures I took in Banff on one day in the future, I will realise that the girl in the mountains isn’t me anymore too, but I’ll always love her, like I love April 2018 me, even though she was so sad.

Time. Fucking hell, time. Time is magic. Time is spring. Time is ebb and time is flow. If learned anything from looking back to April 2018 it is that time is always working, ticking away carrying you from one second to the next. If I ever feel like that girl again, I will put my trust in time.

There is something else I didn’t tell you about that night and that room with the pegs, but it is probably the most important. Ruth, a babe for the ages, my forever love, had written her own message and pegged it up among the rest. She had a smile on her face so I went over to read it. It read:

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“My best friend is the kindest most inspirational woman in the world (not even a secret!)”

Time. It has your back. But in the meantime, your best friends have got you. Thank you, Ruth, for believing in me and for being there. All of the time.

Oh, and… I still don’t really know what I am doing or where I am going. But I have decided that that is more than okay.