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.