It is a whip-o-will that awakes me at 4:45 or so. This bird chants for fifteen minutes before giving up for the day. It’s like his declaration, his minute convergence from the whole of himself, or herself. How does one tell the sex of a bird. It is one thing that I wished I’d learned. In any case, this bird, I have no way of knowing is it’s the same one each day, but something in my oblivious awareness tell me that it is, has been chanting for weeks now outside my asylum window. It started one Saturday morning. This is fact, not fiction, because it was the day that the dead girl, Julia, started to visit me.
(What is a dead girl but a shadowy ghost…Or a dead man’s voice but a distant and vain affirmation…Like dream words most. ~Archibald MacLeish)
She was once so beautiful, still is in many uncharted ways, but the bump and grind of being dead is taking a toll on her. She miss-spells words, when she even tries to spell, and miss-pronounces my name which isn’t hard pronounce, and of late she is looking more and more…worn…haggard…dark. It’s hard to describe. She still wears her golden hoop earrings. She still wears the dark flowered dress with the plunging neckline, even though she was buried in a pure white sheath of satin, a virgin’s dress. Julia was far from that.
So this is what happens after you die. You haunt your last haunt, you live out your dead life in the last shit hole that you graced, the last place you breathed the air on this side. How unfortunate for Julia. She didn’t know. Had she known I think she would have waited, waited to off herself in the more opportune place, on some excursion we’re permitted to go on – the mall, the amusement park, at some museum, even at the damn Baskin Robbins. Better to haunt a bin of cookies and cream than here. Better anywhere than here.
So Julia once again sits on my bed and folds her long legs in lotus position. I see the bare bottoms of her dirty feet, chocolate colored nail polish on her toes. The flowered dress flows around her, a puddle of chiffon. The blood stains in her lap have sort of dried. At least they’re not glistening anymore. It was hard to look at her ghost at first. How she got the mirror is the immaculate mystery, and how she got it into her vagina and moved it around so well is the other. She told me she had to see the things crawling around inside her, the things they’d implanted in her. She told me she was part of some nameless government experiment, years ago, that it took a few eloquent years to grow. So she said. It was our secret. I kept her secret. Hell, I didn’t want her to think I was one of them. I loved her. I think.
Her eyes look very dark today, but the rings bring out clear blueness of them. She’s an artist. Was an artist. We were allowed to view her art online when we found out that she was slightly famous. A series of self-portraits that hedged out the art world. She titled them Re-numeration, Bone, Time Culminating, Drinking Poison, Dying in Disguise, Wisps of Wind, Edges, Fairies and Faultlines, and Julia Apparently Dead. The images were full of color, illumination, and desolation. I thought they were weird and seductive.
James always came to see her. The boyfriend. This is part of Julia’s problem now. Since she died he doesn’t come anymore. She doesn’t get it. She suffers from rejection even in death.
Have you seen him? I was napping. I may have missed him.
No, he wasn’t here, Julia. He doesn’t come anymore, remember?
Well, you know…You’re sort of dead.
She stares at me. She seems to be forgetting what I tell her. I fear I’ve said the wrong thing. Am I too blunt? The truth, you know? It’s confusing to some of us.
We have a lot of work to do. I’m so behind. I have to have my collection ready by…
I sit down next to Julia. For a ghost, a wisp of a girl’s shadow, she smells pretty good. Like peonies from my grandmother’s garden, an earthy smell, pink, green, and mossy. The colors of her dress. There’s a lead smell there too. The blood. I try not to look at the dried puddle in her lap, at the stains on her fingers.
It could be paint, not blood.