The creature walks, the ghost, the spirit from the vacant house that youngsters see at dusk, over their shoulder or their father’s arm, watching from a cracked window, a curtain moving slightly in the breeze; it walks in autumn cold, clear autumn sun in a new winter coat and realizes, this is what color was made for, a crisp fall day – gold, orange and yellow against a sky of jigsaw-puzzle-blue, birch trees knitting it together with white and black and children in red jackets. The creature is eating lunch, cookies that are not what they promised and something with penne and curry and chicken and it walks a different street, past the artist’s mansion, where the crows do not know its face, not to avoid sharing, but to avoid interacting, and not out of some misanthropy (or miscoronisy) but because this afternoon demands one’s full attention. Pavement, dead leaves, brown grass, hand rails, green grass, tree bark, tar, a scrap of paper, apartment house facades, a mother speaking on a mobile telephone in a back yard while a small bundled toddler plays, facing away from her at an angle of 45 degrees, staring at something. One crow says something to another crow in a friendly voice, not a warning voice. A black limousine tailgates a black SUV. A man jogs past wearing a light summer jogging outfit – shorts and a white t-shirt. The creature walks.
Tag Archives: ghost
Stuck in bed for two weeks (dr.’s orders) with bronchitis (bronchitis taking up most of the mattress, stealing the covers) I finally get bored enough to attempt a blog post and find the below already written in my drafts folder.
When I die, I typed with my thumb into whatsapp, spread my ashes in the used camera place on Bennogasse. You might have to make a few trips so the guy doesn’t notice what you’re doing.
Ok, said my kid.
I thought you didn’t want to be cremated, said my wife.
It was more the idea of dying I objected to, I said, than cremation. Also Westbahnstrasse from the vintage camera stores to the apnea diving cafe, and on Kaiserstrasse in front of another camera shop and the photo processing place. Oh, and save some ashes for Powell’s Books in Portland (fiction and poetry section) and the university book store in Seattle (nonfiction).
I was only partly kidding, mainly about being cremated, as my wife figured. But we all have special places we’d like to haunt, or maybe just the ghostly among us.
It occurred to me at lunch that we can also haunt them while still alive, so I took the subway to the 8th district and walked over to the camera shop. The owner is retired and just runs it in his free time because he likes it. He had time for me today and showed me old Leicas THAT WERE POTENTIALLY WITHIN MY BUDGET and a Hasselblad and a Rolleiflex with tilt-shift and a wide-angle lens that focuses as close as you want, I mean, I was focusing it on stuff about a centimeter away before I got tired of that.
The place is in an old shop with old wooden floors and shelf-lined walls covered with the history of photography, all the best stuff locked behind glass.
I’d be happy just standing there, breathing the air, maybe holding out my arms, spinning slowly with my eyes closed but that would look weird and he was there showing me cameras and telling me stuff and even when he wasn’t there, there could totally be a hidden camera somewhere.
Anyway, lovely gear.
Same with Powell’s. You just want to lick the floor. So many books. You want to get locked in at night and sleep in a book fort. And the last time we went to the University book store in Seattle, they had to throw us out. My wife and the kids and I all wandered in different directions and met at the cash register at last call, all with armloads of books, each of us holding a whole different world and wondering how the hell we would get all these books back to Austria.
Other places to haunt: the Virgil chapel in Vienna (at least it was nice before they remodeled it, I haven’t been back since, but I will never forget being all alone there, underground at the Stephansplatz subway station, and the meditative ambient acoustics and dim light). Or wandering the streets of Vienna in miserable winter drizzle.
Or lots of other places, at night, in the early morning, whenever the light’s not too bright.
And in the foggy fields at sunrise. Or right there with you, when you feel alone.
Look for me there.
Sometimes he wakes deep in the night, old Shrimpbox, and wonders what noise woke him, but the only sound is his tinitus blaring and he wonders, did my tinitus truly wake me up just now? Will it just get worse and worse until I die?
Already, he reminds himself of – or he has entirely become – his father, shut off from those he loves by his deafness, close by but behind a wall.
When he’s alone in the house, wife away on business, kid on a field trip or something, he realizes it’s not solitude he wants. He wants his loved ones near, just in the other room.
He wants to be a ghost.
Does he want to be a ghost?
It’s what his father wanted. And when his father died, halfway around the world, Shrimpbox was playing dice with his daughters at home, rolling handfulls of dice on green felt. The dice all stood on their corners, balanced there, throw after throw.
Never have since.
His father was an actual ghost. His father visited upon his death and made the dice stand on their corners. For Shrimpbox this is an unassailable fact.
Shrimpbox sits this morning and drinks his coffee and writes into a journal and looks around his room at paintings on the wall, by himself or given to him by friends. A glass of quills, electronics, tools, instruments, obituaries and postcards. He listens to the sounds of morning rising – the central heating coming on with its hum of warmth, the bell-like hiss of the radiators, footsteps two floors up, plumbing doing its thing, and drowning it all out, tinitus and the scratching of his pen.
If all a ghost can do is balance dice upon their corners, he has been insufficiently rewarded for spending a lifetime hiding in another room. Not even if you could stand silent, Shrimpbox thinks, stand silent in the corner and watch them always at their happiness, those you love.
He shuts his journal and goes upstairs.
Listen: maybe your big chance is a lot of little chances.
Listen: Maybe this is as good as it gets.
Here try this: open yourself to the awesomeness of your existence. Throw away your garbage. Give time. Love. Listen. Tenderness. Care. Listen. Pay attention.
Do it more slowly but without interruption and until it is finished or the bell rings. Like building a bird house, and if no bird would want to live in it when you’re done THROW IT AWAY and do something else.
Listen, said the werewolf to the trapper. That ain’t silver, is it?