You know me: I don't believe in ghosts. Let them walk through the bedroom while we are together, let them wail on the walls. I treated a woman once who did believe -- she believed in them absolutely, so of course they really did her in: for half an hour a day they lit their ghostly penises on fire and slooooowly pushed them through the western wall of her room, just as the sun was setting. Well you can imagine how that went. One held the door shut so she couldn't run, so she had no choice but to ball up arms around knees, shut her eyes, and scream until it stopped. They always stopped; but not in her mind, and no matter what I gave her -- a holding environment, stability, psychotropic drugs -- still they kept coming, pushing through the wall in her minds' eye, which is the eye that never shuts not even to sleep or dream so for her there was no peace. Her name was Lori, and mostly I felt sorry for her, but she made her choice: she needed to believe, and ghosts got what they wanted: her life, which came sceaming from her mouth, half an hour a day.
You know me: it is not what comes after that worries me. I heard a story once about a man -- a man you loved, actually -- who was the softest, kindest man you had ever met; and swept you off your feet with his quiet words, over dinners and from across the sheets; until you told him you were having his baby. Was it you who told me? How badly he beat you then? I had heard about men like him: who transform, as if triggered by scent or idea of their child, into monsters. Who torture their women, too shocked and ashamed to believe-- who in many cases end up killing the baby before it ever sees the face that ended its life. I am glad you got away. It seems like another life ago, yet here you are, a whole new you -- is that how you feel, too? How different, the many ways to transform yourself! Once I was a pirate; now I am a social worker. Once you were little girl; then you were getting pushed down the stairs; now you are lying next to me, and if I wanted I could reach over and touch your face to memorize its curves in the dark. I could learn the topography of your skin and commit it to memory: dip, curve, lips, chin... Would that keep you safe? Well you know me: I don't think so. There is at least one more change waiting for us up ahead, like a tree in the road and for miles we can see it coming. Some nights I wake up and don't even know where I am. Is this my first home, or my last? Are these really my hands? I touch your face anyway; I do it so the ghosts can see I am not afraid of needing you. I can listen to your heart and breathe deep in the silence between beats. This gets them angry, I know that. The tree! The tree! They keep shouting it. But I do not believe in them; their failure will not keep me from holding you, even as you turn and toss through restless dreams, even as you become a thousand different things before day finally comes to push you through the wall and back into my arms.