It’s Not About Ghosts, I Promise

Zoe Bocek ‘24

            It’s silent in your house. Or at least, it’s silent to you. There are sounds—but they are the sounds you’ve known for as long as you’ve lived here; the washing machine, the fridge, the buzzing of lights, the dishwasher, the creak of that one floorboard, or that one door hinge. It’s the lovely quiet. And you turn on the television, or your phone, or your computer, and you add some more quiet sound. You sink into it. Because you live in a city, it never gets silent.

            The few times you’d camped, or hiked, or been truly alone in the wilderness, the quiet was so quiet that it was loud. It pushed in on your eardrums and into your head, compressing your skull. You prefer the loud quiet. You prefer the quiet that doesn’t make you jump at a noise. And yet, curled on the couch, you startle. You hear a crash in your kitchen.

            I make as little sound as possible. Things are already so loud. The flushing of a toilet, the crash of a door, the drop of a pencil—catastrophic. They rattle me to my core. Your voice rattles me to my core. I feel the blood in my body jump, stop moving momentarily, and continue. Even with headphones on, your voice crawls up my spine and into my brain, pinching nerves along the way.

            There’s nothing I can do to block you out, even with pillows stacked over my head. You leave your lights on when I’m trying to fall asleep—the doors are glass. At some point I became afraid to ask you to turn them off, I became afraid to ask you to turn it down, to be quiet, to stop. The music rattles my windowpanes. The sound of my steps vibrate up my bones. The softer I step, the less of an earthquake I leave. But it’s not for you. It’s for me.

            My tongue writes words on my inner cheek because I don’t bite it. I am so tired of talking to you. I talk to you all day in my mind. I’ll never say everything I want to. It would take me more years of energy than I’ll ever have. I need to use that energy on other things, like breathing, and like walking, and like thinking. But even when you say something that twists my stomach, pinches in the middle, and turns, like when you tie-dye a t-shirt, and I don’t respond—I keep my mouth closed—it still takes.

            You aren’t even trying to take from me and yet you do, I don’t know where my energy goes. I don’t think it goes to you. I think it just disappears.  It takes from me to respond, but it also takes from me not to. I don’t want to pick my poison. I want to go to bed.

            You’ve never tried with me. And what hurts isn’t your mistakes, and it’s not even that you’ve never apologized—it’s that I’m certain it’s never even crossed your mind to. I might be wrong. I might be right. You might lay awake thinking about me. You might not. If I speak up this time, you’ll ask me why I never did. I don’t know how to tell you that I can’t.

            Ghosts are silent. They do not remember how to speak. They float through life, and they don’t even make noise when they brush past fabric. They go right through it. They have so many things to say if they could only remember how to say them, how to write them. But because you cannot see them, and you cannot hear them, you do not know they are there, and you do not know they have something to say.

            Maybe, if they tried hard enough, and practiced, they could remember how to speak, and tell you. Maybe that takes too much energy. It thinks like you do. It looks in the mirror and cannot see itself and it is upset—it wants to be normal. It wants to speak. It fears using its voice because it fears failing to make a sound. Maybe it fears it can never be loud enough.

            So sometimes, when you are sitting alone in your room, and the ghost is in your kitchen, not wanting to disturb you, not wanting to disturb itself, it remembers something. It doesn’t remember how to speak. It remembers how to push.

            You hear a crash in your kitchen.