Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baby Ghost

Baby Ghost is a holiday, but not like Christmas or New Year’s. It’s more like President’s Day, or Martin Luther King. The days you have because someone died. Because maybe you’d forget exactly when they died it if not for the holiday. The holidays don’t give you a chance to forget.

Baby Ghost keeps on going and I wonder when it will end. It’s still going on the day I go back to school. I think it’s on something like it’s second week now. I can’t say Happy Baby Ghost to anyone because no one would know what the hell I’m talking about. And I’m not quite sure if it’s a happy holiday, either. I’m waiting for someone to tell me.

Sydney’s oboe is hanging from my hand. Of all the things she’s asked me to do so far, this is the one I’m least looking forward to. Oboes are gross.

Someone has to play in the concert, she said. It’s not like I can.

Sydney’s the only person who really talks to me anymore. Really talks to me, I mean. Beyond asking how I’m feeling. Baby Ghost is her holiday. I don’t know if it’s good or not. She hasn’t told me.

I guess it’s good that my dead girlfriend’s talking to me.


“Happy Baby Ghost, Baby Ghost,” I tell her in the mornings.

Thanks, she says back.

I’ve only been out of the hospital for a week, but supposedly it’s time to go back to school. My parents hugged me extra tight before I left. They’ve been touching me a lot lately. Mom has this way of cupping my cheek and stroking I wonder what she thinks of me. It’s impossible to tell anymore. I’ve lost my ability to read my parents. I don’t think that has anything to do with the accident. I think that has to do with being sixteen.

I have to carry this oboe inside. I have to remember my locker combination that has fallen out of my head sometime in the past two weeks. I don’t have a choice about these things.

4 24 19. That’s my locker combination. I remember now.

Leif claps me on the shoulder. “Nice to have you back.”

He’s the one person I’d tell about Baby Ghost. I suppose I could. It’s not one of the rules. It’s just something I don’t think would be smart.

I hitch my backpack up my shoulder.

“How are you doing?” he says. He’s making those eyes like a mother animal.

“I’m okay. Walking to school was kind of hard. I got lost.”

“How’s your chest?”

I fractured some ribs. I keep forgetting about them. They don’t even bind broken ribs anymore, because they’re afraid you’ll get pneumonia. Broken ribs just hang out there in the morning and feel very unimportant.


I’m sort of a dick to Leif lately. It’s not fair. He’s trying. He’s come over every day since I’ve gotten home, but I’m so boring he usually ends up helping my sister divide fractions or sorting through the homework the school insisted on sending over starting like an hour after the accident. He did some of it for me. Leif’s most likely gotten smarter off my family’s dysfunction.

He guides me down the hall, his hand on my back, after I don’t answer. He keeps looking at me, and I know he’s so worried. Leif has these green eyes that crinkle all up. Worried looks lonely on Leif.

We’re not normally the touchy-feely types.

“Wait,” I say. “I’m supposed to go to the band room.”


I hold up my new schedule. “I have band.”

“Why in God’s name...shit, you’re playing oboe?”

He looks at the oboe like I have a choice in the matter. Like I have a choice about any of this. I’m just the messenger, I want to say. I’m just the ghost of a ghost.

I got to choose one thing. What to name this—this holiday, the remainder of my life. I don’t know how long it will last. I don’t know how long Sydney’s speaking to me will even be noteworthy. But I got to name it. I called her Baby. So I call this Baby Ghost.

Except when I’m talking to her, I call her Sydney.

“Sydney,” I used to say, my hands on her shoulders arms stomach thighs, kiss me listen to me hold me complete me “Sydney.”

Ghosts don’t touch. She laughs at me when I ask if she will.

Her laugh still sounds like an oboe.