Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Griffin Wooldridge
I don’t believe in ‘forever’. I used to, but not anymore.
The smell of heartbreak always lingers, close enough for me to detect and regret everything I’ve ever done. It was my fault, really, for trusting people. I could never tell liars apart from those who told the truth. They all wore deceit plainly on their faces like smudged ink, but all I saw were happy accidents, art to transform and a story to fill in.
“Best friends forever,” one claimed.
“I’ll never leave you alone,” another sang.
“You are the most important person in my life and I will never break your trust. You can count on me to be there always,” the last one murmured.
And they all flew away, vanished the instant I needed them. I still remember them, fragments of them scattered throughout my life. I cannot forget their birthdays, my mind retracing their faces and replaying our last conversations on those days. A nightmare, a dream, maybe both. I’ll find myself looking too fondly at old movie tickets taped in notebooks, marking the days I was happy or, at least, convinced myself I was happy. And then there’s the old photographs, mostly the blurry ones, like the one where we dressed up as ghosts for halloween, and I’ll wonder what could have been of us if we hadn’t become strangers.
I pretended I wasn’t scared that day the picture was taken, that I didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits, but I do. I see them now wherever I go.
Standing in line at the supermarket, their shadows fall behind me,murmuring old lines. During my afternoon jog, I hear ghosts crying invisible tears and whispering the phrases I most liked to hear when we were happy. And if I put the radio on, and one of our special songs plays, the ghosts sit right beside me on my truck, singing along. Ghosts never haunt places; they haunt people and stick around indefinitely like bad sores and stubborn itches.
It was a full moon the last time I believed somebody, right by the river where the trees wore crimson and amber blankets. I was careful—thought I was careful—by remaining silent when they repeated the phrases the ghosts from my past had said before. But I was too blind to see the monster in front of me, too kind to care about me and instead, embraced that monster as if they were my family. Despite how long it’s been since that embrace, I’ve still got their hug tattooed on my skin. Their fingertips are inked on top of my veins, cursing me to the end of my days.
It’ll never be easy to trust someone again, especially since all I’ve ever gained from trust is pain.