Slaying Genre: Ghost Season
It’s almost that time. Next week, we stuff ourselves to bursting and look toward the flash and familial insanity that ends the year with an overabundance of tinsel, torn wrapping paper, and midnight champagne toasts. For many of us, it feels bittersweet, especially because this time of year is so haunted with the people, places, and expectations we’ve left behind (or have left us behind).
As the weather grows colder, my ghosts grow bolder. The spirits of those sometimes dead but certainly gone come back to me en force. Lovers like Dickensian spectres in rattle-chains demand I wake from deepening winter-coming-on slumbers and remember them. An old-looking woman who wasn’t really that old when she stopped breathing sits quietly beside me as I type at my kitchen table, ashing one Newport after another in a quahog shell and mixing more coffee brandy into her tall glass. My mother’s mother, whom I never met but am near identical to (at least physically) stands behind me, staring into the bathroom mirror as I brush my hair, darker and longer than hers ever got to be. As much as I love the idea of these apparitions in stories and films, I usually find it difficult to acknowledge them when they appear in my own life. I almost never sit down and share a cup of tea with them, ask them why the cold weather still brings them on, even after so many years.
I’ve lived in many cities, towns, rooms bright and dark and it’s only recently that I’ve realized that no matter where you go, your ghosts will find a way to follow. Even if you could banish them from the physical plane, there’s no exorcising them from your mind, the dreams that they invariably inhabit when you least want them to.
I wonder, as the burned gold leaves tumble to the cold ground, why I don’t finally turn to the old-looking woman, take her cigarette from her stained fingers, and sip her coffee-brandy with her. Why don’t I turn around and press my palms into the cheeks of my mother’s mother, kiss her forehead, offer to brush her hair?
Is it the story I’ve sold myself, that if I acknowledge the ghosts too much they’re like to fade away? Feel like they’ve done whatever task they’ve set out to do before eternal rest takes them? Or am I simply afraid of what they’ll tell me, a truth or lie I’m not likely to ever be ready to face? Or is it because their fact of being (or once having been) drives something deep within me that makes me keep accumulating years, collecting ghosts?
Whatever my reasons, whatever your reasons, my hope for this ghostly season is to encourage everyone to get a little closer with what haunts them. Raise a pint with the old-looking woman and remember that though they may be mostly metaphor, what haunts us has the power to drive and inspire us, to go to the dark and difficult places and come out on the other side breathing.
*Photograph by Fleuret and used via Creative Commons License.
KL Pereira's chapbook, Impossible Wolves was published by Deathless Press is 2013. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are forthcoming or appear in The Drum Literary Magazine, Shimmer Zine, Lightning Cake, The Golden Key, Innsmouth Free Press, Innsmouth Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, The Medulla Review, Bitch Magazine and other publications. Pereira’s work on fairy tales, sexuality, Wonder Woman, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are featured on Studio 360 and other radio programs, cited in numerous publications, and assigned in courses all over the United States and Canada. Find Pereira online on klpereira.com and @kl_pereira.See other articles by KL Pereira