The Ghost Lover
Nathan leaves tomorrow to cover a coup in Africa. How I admire his fearlessness. I want to become fearless too, for him. I want him to feel . . . .
“Feel?” Morgan asked in his low voice. He pulled at the sheets, nestled against Emma’s arm, his eyes peering over her journal.
“Then stay in bed and contemplate. You have your way with me and then you’re gone.”
“Taking advantage of my physical gifts, tossing me aside.”
Morgan sighed. Emma eyed him suspiciously.
“Physical gifts? Oh yes, you have excellent eye sight for a man your age.”
Morgan grabbed at his heart, but when she leaned in to tease him, he swung her effortlessly, swaddled in bed sheets, on top of him.
“It’s my ears, you know, that you are really after.”
“All ears and lucky for you because I doubt your Nathan ever hears your journals. Maybe in the dead of night, maybe when he is sound asleep. Hence, your need of me. But I don’t mind because I admire you as much as you admire Nathan. Of course, we all admire Nathan.”
“Is that irony or sincerity in your voice? I find your true feelings quite ghostly. I could put my hand right through the fog of your intent.”
“Nicely put, my love. Ghostly.”
“I mean it in the best possible way.”
“You are capable of nothing else.”
“I find your ghosthood a comfort.”
“Comfortable, old, ghostly Morgan.”
“You, this, our . . . ”
“Purposefully shocking, ghosty that you are. No. What I mean is that we are less real than my marriage . . . ”
“Exactly. Less defined, more spectral. And still I often think that we are more knowable because of it, more re-creatable. Like many a ghost. We can always conjure us up.”
“Unlike the Nathans, the marriages, the institutes, the bloodlines. Do you see?”
“Larger view of Platonic, my dear. Nathan, the ideal, versus Morgan, the ghostly copy.”
“Yes. That’s it. We can’t recreate the specific carrot but the idea, the ghost, the spirit of the carrot . . . you know?”
“Thank god that I do. As a biographer I suppose I chase the spirit of carrots for a living.”
“And so well too.”
“So, the people I write about are . . . ”
“More tangible, more graspable in print than in life. Extraordinary people, like Nathan, are like that, don’t you think? Utterly unknowable.”
“Or unutterably knowable and so we needn’t speak of it again. Sweet, deep Emma.”
Emma found her journal and patted it gently.
“And there was really nothing to write of before Nathan?” Morgan asked.
“Nothing beyond me. I’m not very interested in me.”
“Interested in me or yourself.”
“Both at once.”
“No. Wicked would be me not adoring you enough.”
Emma gave Morgan a dubious look, which turned into a smile under the crook of his grin.
She blushed, gasped a little for air.
“What I mean is your wit is wicked.”
“You are so kind. And so I am wicked, but perhaps you mean well-wicked, as a candle, burning bright, waiting to be extinguished by your tongue upon my flame. A sizzle, flesh on flesh, my wit and wick sanguine, my sarcasms all honey-hued.”
Morgan held Emma’s hand to his lips. Her eyes stared blankly, her forehead softly furrowed, eyelids caught in an extended flutter.
She regained herself and pulled free. He laughed and tightened his grip about her waist.
“You said you wanted to know variations on a theme. Do I, in general and on the specifics still instruct? Is this not what you wanted?”
Emma nodded, her hand falling limply upon Morgan’s chest.
“Do you want it to end?”
She nodded, fighting back tears, trying to smile kindly.
“I don’t please you then?”
“Yes and no. I’m here to become more desirable. You said you sympathized, but I’m afraid of losing my way.”
“I thought it, you, this, wouldn’t matter to my world of Nathan.”
“The ideal to my ghostly rendition.”
“Or, I thought, it would help. Although, admittedly my Nathan-world may be more of my creation than I suppose, but it’s what I’ve always wanted, known. I find the surety of that world slipping. I think too easily of you.”
“Oh well, that won’t do.”
“Because I’m not in love with you. This makes me doubt, sometimes, whether I am with him.”
“Oh, Ems, I’m not Nathan, true enough. We needn’t carry on if you don’t want. But my counsel and your befriending, well, I must beg your continued indulgence. Don’t forsake me completely. We can go to the theater, visit friends. As always. As before. You can continue to read yourself, your Nathan, your romance, into ghosthood for me.”
Emma tried to study Morgan’s face, to read the pathos in his eyes, in the heavy timbre of his voice, but it was all as she had said, ghostly. Still, he drew her in.
Morgan reached for the journal, caught in the tangle of their legs.
“Perhaps we could work on this together, in celebration of our new relationship. Your voice, my wicked wit. First, however, I should read it myself cause knowing you, you and your shadowy ways, you’ve probably been throwing old Morgan a bone or two but saving all the meaty sections for yourself.”
She laughed and reached for her journal, but Morgan moved ever so slightly, forcing her to lean against him as she reclaimed it. He moved again, pressing her body against his. Her confusion, a sudden calculation of defenses, made her struggle, and so she made the mistake of meeting his gaze. Her heart beat wildly and her resolve to disentangle, so real and sure earlier, quivered for a moment in the space between and vanished into thin air.
About the writer:
C. R. Resetarits has had work recently in Litro #159, Crannóg (Pushcart nominated story), and Stand; out now in Reed Review and Jelly Bucket; out soon in Columbia Review and Backlash #3. Her poetry collection, BROOD, was published by Mongrel Empire Press in 2015. She lives in Faulkner-riddled Oxford, Mississippi.