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You Told Me to Write You a Way Out

by Chloe N. Clark

When the ghost is twelve years old she believes in everything. This belief slips away like the barrettes that she is always losing, the ones that gently untug themselves from her hair and fall to the ground whenever she isn’t expecting them to disappear and so she never knows to double-check the ground for them. She spends this year having funny stories happen to her and years later she’ll only half remember and will say they happened in different years. She wonders sometimes if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have everything happen to you when you’re twelve. She reasons that at least it’s getting stuff out of the way.

When she is seven she falls down a flight of stairs and lives. She doesn’t think about it then but in twenty years she’ll suddenly wonder if there is an alternate world where she died as a child, where the banister broke, where the ground caught her too off guard. She thinks that there probably is, she imagines that in that world she would have had a more exciting life but died before she could. She feels desperately sorry for her alternate self.

When the ghost is twenty-one she gets drunk on pineapple sunbeams and liquid lemon drops and every drink with a pretty name that she can find. She hates the taste of alcohol when it’s sweet. She only learns this later.

When she is twenty-two she falls in love. They are both ghosts, but not really because one day she wakes up and has nothing left but a half-written letter in which the words “sorry” and “timing” and “maybe” and “someday” all appear various times. She strikes all those words from her vocabulary permanently.

When she is twenty-seven she has a near-death experience. She meets the Grim Reaper while shopping for a flower-print dress. The Grim Reaper is buying knee socks. They brush shoulders twice.

When the ghost is five she meets her best friend. They don’t know it yet, they don’t even speak to each other, it’s in a store and their mothers politely discuss the weather. They will not see each other again for 19 years.

When she is thirty-one she tells someone who loves her that she apologizes that at the present time she can’t love them back. But that probably at some distant point in the future they’ll re-meet and she will reconsider. They don’t meet again. She wonders if she should have said yes, but she never liked the way the word felt in her mouth. She forgets.

When the ghost is twenty-nine she gives up everything. She no longer drinks coffee or sips wine or eats delicious jalapeno cheese puffs while reading the New York Times movie review section. She wants to be pure, lead a life unblemished by desire, by the taste of sweet. This lasts two years and is ended by a raspberry mocha truffle bought for her by a friend. She wonders why she spent two years living a life of unhappiness. She thinks purity should have been happy. It should have been like being touched by divinity. She has never studied closely the lives of saints. The raspberry taste lingers in her mouth for hours. She wants to kiss someone just to pass it on.

When she is eleven she feels bored with being human. Nothing happens. Luckily she is only one year away from everything. Her miniature existential crisis doesn’t last long. She doesn’t think of it that way though, she thinks of it as the time she wanted to become a river. Rivers are always running away.

When the ghost is thirty-four she gets in a car crash and doesn’t live. In an alternate world, she opens her eyes and sees the sky clearly for the first time ever. There are no barrettes left to slip from her hair.

Chloe N. Clark is a current MFA candidate. She thinks magicians are very cool. She also creates her own cupcake recipes. Thus, she thinks she is pretty awesome. Her writing has appeared in such places as Rosebud, Fractured West, and Fogged Clarity. She is at work on a novel and rants constantly about candy and books and things on Twitter.

Lead image: “Metal and Wood Barrette” (via Flickr user ms. neaux neaux)

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  1. Chuck Chuck

    An atmospheric, moody piece — highly enjoyable.

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