It begins as a nagging tug that borderlines on a tickle. I brace myself, but no amount of armor or camouflage can save me now.
A hooded figure slowly materializes. Often, it wears the face of someone loved and lost. Sometimes, it appears as a place, experience, or feeling. Regardless of the ghostly form it takes, the outcome is always the same.
Reality blurs. Lies swirl in a cosmic, rose-colored cloud before me. Bewitched, I offer up my heart–the sacrificial lamb. Mental hijacking and emotional carnage are inevitable. I am already in its sway.
Nostalgia. You sublime beast. With little warning, you bring me to my knees and make me a slave to memory.
It was a chilly November night–morning, actually, but the sun had not come up yet. I was racing along State Road 9 in my pajamas after receiving a phone call that his truck wouldn’t start. “Can you come pick me up? I don’t know what else to do tonight. We’ll figure it out in the morning.” My parents were out of town for most of the weekend. Of course, of course…
My heart was racing even faster than the miles under the tires. Had I ever felt so alive than in these crisp autumn days?
As I pulled into the dark and vacant parking lot, rain had begun to fall. It was the kind of soft ambiance that makes new lovers fall in love and teenage girls do foolish things. He eagerly jumped in and put his hands to the heaters for warmth. I may have been young, but I knew trouble when I saw it, and, boy, was he it. Seductive, mischievous trouble had just hopped into my car, and I was taking it home with me. My heart began skipping beats.
I don’t remember the conversation during that 15 minute car ride. The only things I remember thinking were “What the fuck am I doing?” and “Why the hell did I wear these stupid pajamas?!” In the blink of an eye, we were in my driveway, up the sidewalk, and in the front door.
He took his coat off and immediately hugged me tightly–the kind of embrace that somehow feels permanent, like 30 years from now, I’ll still feel those arms wrapped around me. “Thanks for coming to get me. I didn’t know what else to do or who to call,” he broke the silence, “I don’t want to get you into any trouble.”
Oh, but it was too late for that, wasn’t it, love?
We stayed up until daybreak in that fiery embrace, a moment that seemed frozen and protected from all intrusions of the outside world. There were words that I don’t remember. Mostly, words weren’t necessary; the exchanges were beyond the realm of verbal. It was like tasting chocolate or seeing a sunset for the first time. Is this what they sing about? Is this what tortures hearts and unites souls? Bliss. Dangerous, sweet bliss.
And, like most romances that burn so brightly, it wasn’t meant to last. It didn’t even make the new year before life got in the way and snuffed it out.
One night in mid-December, I walked to my car after finishing a shift at the mall. He had placed a heap of beautiful flowers and a letter under my windshield wiper. I let that letter burn in my hand for a few minutes, sensing the weight of it before I had even cracked the seal. I got in my car and gently pried open the flap. Handwritten pages of an aching goodbye tumbled out, followed shortly by hot streams running down my cheeks.
I never saw him again. But I still have that letter and the company of November’s ghost.