The ghost just isn’t holy anymore, Dear Miranda.
The pain, she would say, was like the patterns that emerged every time she closed her eyes shut. A moment of peace and warmth washed away so violently, painting a memory so dark she wouldn’t be able to contain herself. She had stopped fighting her demons; they rested peacefully within her now. It’s what gave her the strength to perform the masquerade she did for the world everyday.
It was our birthday, but that wasn’t why our parents had decided we all needed quality time together. It was the local running event. Our parents found it fascinating, the act of people running around in circles. Miranda would say it was because they could relate to it. It was a reminder that much like the people running around in circles, their lives weren’t going anywhere. It was a never-ending loop, we all end up right back where we started. It was her birthday; I always saw it that way. Even though we were born together, I never saw it as a cause for celebration. I was the unintended birth that always seemed an inconvenience. My parents didn’t want another son, they had three already. They wanted a daughter they could cherish and love, an accessory that would satisfy the feeling of fulfilment in their lives.
Our local hero ran across the finishing line, euphoric, as he jumped and waved to the crowd in amazement. They saw him winning the race as an accomplishment of their own. They were all proud of him. He was 30 years old and had he continued his endeavour of running around in circles, he would’ve found little success. He got hit by a car later that day that shattered any dreams he had of ever running in a marathon again. That didn’t keep him from capitalising from his dreadful ordeal. He wrote a bestseller that sold millions; he preached the need for
getting back up, ironic coming from a man now restricted to a wheelchair. He furthermore went on to launch a brand of fitness-training gymnasiums. I didn’t particularly have a problem with him. Miranda despised him and everything he represented. She felt that disability didn’t necessarily instill sympathy. It didn’t mean he was a good man. He was a man who appeared less-evil now that he had lost the use of his legs. It’s weird how an event that one has no control over can warp the perspective of society towards a character. A character that paid his security guards to invite girls back to his house; where he would drown their souls in liquor. She would say that he simply pointed at the girls and it was all taken care of.
Miranda had been one of those girls, even though she never talked about it, I could see through the darkness of her eyes that she concealed a secret she would never share. I hated that I could never break through to that part of her heart, that she couldn’t bring herself to share what had happened that day with me. She was my twin, my best friend, my partner in life. And yet I despised her, through no fault of her own.
It bothered me, even though I never explicitly expressed it, how she got the education and I was forced to work on the farm. The decision was made for us from the moment we drew our first breath together. It was painful knowing that I could never exist outside of her shadow. I would continue to live like so forevermore.
That day after the race finished we made our way to the patisserie, Mrs. Nolan’s welcoming smile is what made life worth living; that and her delicious cakes which we would devour as if we hadn’t eaten in years. She was kind, a trait rare amongst people of our town. She had a purity that made us feel comfortable. We could share anything with that woman. She was the mother we never found in our own. She looked like a strawberry muffin. Years later she would help me pay for college, a kindness I never forgot. I moved her to live in Toronto with me when I
would embark on my career as an aspiring Journalist. She continued to live with me until the day she passed away.
“Your damn cellphone has been driving me insane! It’s like a malfunctioning vibrator. At least turn the damn thing off when you leave for the budget meeting, if you can’t be fucked to take it with you.”
This was Jessica, my fellow field reporter. She helped photograph events that I covered from day to day. Helped maintain notes. Helped keep me from getting fired.
“You know..you wouldn’t need a vibrator if you just dated me.”
“HA HA! You’re so creative. I can’t believe you haven’t won that Pulitzer Prize yet.”, She said sarcastically.
“One of these days, Jessica! I promise you. I’m getting that award.” I wasn’t kidding when I said that. I was going to get that prize some day.
“Yeah right after you decide on your sexuality”, her tongue in cheek comments were what made her comfortable to be around. She had a demeanour that reminded me of Miranda, soft and calm. She could say the worst thing to you with a smile so serene that it would make one forget of all the troubling things in life.
She rolled her eyes now, staring back at her computer screen. Switching tabs between Facebook and her online blog.
“So what was it?”, she asked. “What was what?”
“Your FUCKING phone, you spastic. I swear dude half the time I talk to you, you seem blazed. I don’t know why Simon hasn’t fired you yet.”- A hint of sarcasm. I couldn’t help but agree with her. I didn’t know why Simon hadn’t fired me yet. I hadn’t had a breakthrough story in months now. I was writing artwork reviews for the paper now, instead of my usual duties; which were to cover Political events and Sports.
I glanced at my phone while munching down a ham and cheese. She wasn’t kidding. This was unusual. 58 missed calls from what looked like a payphone number?
She noticed the disturbed look on my face as I put down my sandwich on the dust gathered keyboard.
“Everything alright? Don’t tell me Simon got his dick stuck in the printer again.”
“I don’t know, looks like they’re calls from back home. But it’s not my home phone or anything. I don’t know..”
“….maybe call back on the number and check?
I didn’t want to, it had an ominous aura about it. Maybe not calling back would make whatever’s wrong go away. But I knew I had to call back. I was becoming agitated now. I had struggled with anxiety all my life. I didn’t like it, this feeling of uncertainty. I’ll call home first, I thought.
I started dialling home, hoping whoever answered to tell me they hadn’t called. I hadn’t been back home for over three years now. Three years since I buried the memory of Miranda.
Yet every time I think of home, it rushes back just as smoothly as the blood that poured out of her veins. Uncontrollable. It was as if she had just been set free. As if her soul was pouring through the slits on her arm, taking the form of thick red blood, as it left her body. The secrets she held inside herself, like a mother protects its newborn, lost forever.
The rusty voice of my father, on the other side of the phone, pulled me back from sinking any further into the devastating memory.
“Who is this?”, so typical of him. Never saying hello. “It’s me..it’s Rodney”
“Ahh..why’d you call here?”
“…Umm. I just wanted to check if everything is all right back home. My phone..umm..I had a few missed…” before I could finish my thought he interrupts. Typical of him to do that. He never would let anybody else speak. Living with him was like living under a dictatorship. I was glad I left them behind.
“Ahh..Yeah. Kevin wanted to talk to you. So I gave him your number. Must’a been him callin’..”
“Kevin..? The neighbour’s dog wanted to talk to me?!”
“Office Kevin, you twat.” His breath getting heavier, “He’s investigating…urghh..your…sister’s… suicide.”
My heart beat catching up now. I light up a cigarette. Jessica reacts “NO SMOKING HERE! Urghh..filthy”.
But I know I need this drag, so I take a deep one and put my cigarette out. Not once looking towards her. My eyes fixated on the ground.
“When exactly did you suspect Detective Kevin was investigating you?”
He looks like the lovechild of Darwin and Billy Gibbons. His upper lip gets sweaty when he speaks. It’s disgusting. I want to punch him in the face. Isn’t it ironic that a man who looks like he himself might be struggling with mental issues is my psychiatrist?
What a joke.
“You need to answer me.”, he says as if he is trying to establish his authority.
“I have nothing to say to you..”
“Well how about we try something? Close your eyes. Describe what you see.”
“I see the colour of the inside of my eyelids.”
“You barely even closed your eyes. That’s a rehearsed answer. How did you know I was going to ask you that?”
“I’ve read your book. You guys don’t really change much. I’ve got you figured out.”
“Well maybe you shouldn’t have told me that. You’ve fucked up your plan. Now I know what tricks to avoid..haha.”
At least he has a sense of humour about himself. I guess I could get used to this guy. His accent is peculiar. He is a pure Scotsman, psychiatrist by day and alcoholic by sundown. I can smell it on him still, as if he doesn’t even bother rinsing his beard. Maybe he doesn’t care.
“Look I know what you think I did. I know everybody in this town looks at me and thinks I did it. You think their hands are clean? People love judgment. They hate being judged but they’re the first to express their opinion on a situation they don’t understand. I left this place for good. I was out. It was all past me. Now I’m back in this shit-hole, and I don’t know what the fuck for? I lost my sister. I’ve tried burying her memory. And they keep pulling me back in to remind me of that day.”
Realising I’ve said too much, I instantly stop myself from saying anything further.
He coughs; lung cancer maybe? He looks directly at me with his alcohol drenched eyes.
“Why don’t we start with that? I know it’s painful for you. But take me back. Take me back to the day that it happened.”
He waits. I say nothing. He continues.
“I know you don’t think I’m your friend. I’m not. I’m not trying to be your friend; it isn’t my intension. But I AM trying to help you, son.”
‘Son’, I thought. I’ve never felt so much comfort in that word before. He reminded me of Mrs. Nolan. He had that purity about himself.
I won’t let him break through to me. I attack him with the best weapon I’ve got.
“Are you an alcoholic? I smell it on you.”
With his shoulders stretched wide, he straightens his back. Rests his arms on his knees. A voice of surety.
“Yes I am. What are you going to do about it?”
My heart starts racing again. ‘He’s got me’, I thought to myself. I’m done. I say nothing.
He keeps staring at me now. His face turns red as he picks up a notebook resting on the coffee table to the left of him.
“This is for you. I want you to write me what comes to your mind. You may leave now.”
As I get up, shaking still, to walk away. He grabs a hold of my arm and yanks me back. Holding me so close that I can taste his mustard smelling whiskey breath. He mumbles.
“Write it as if you’re talking to Miranda. Do this for her.” “I’ll try..pretty intense for a first meeting, hey?”
“I find that to be a good sign, in most cases.”, He smiles. “It’s hard to see you smiling under that beard.”
“Maybe that’s the point.”, He giggles.
I realised now that I might be able to trust him. Miranda always said you could tell if a person if trustworthy by how they smiled.
As I walk out the door, for the life of me, I can’t remember his name. So I stroll back, to check his name on the door.
Dr. Martin Gribeard, it reads. Gribeard? Greybeard? Growbeard? Is this a fucking joke?
Winter had just started and life was starting to seem a little more optimistic. I wasn’t working on the farm anymore, and you and me were both going to go to College. It would take me a little longer to get in because of my lack of formal education. But that didn’t matter, I was just happy to be leaving this horrid place.
Our dear mother Helen had just taken up a job at the local hospital, which meant she was working late hours and barely home. Mum working at the hospital meant freedom for us.
We would stay up most nights fantasising about college life. We’d both go to parties and get to know city kids. It meant a whole new life for us. Mrs. Nolan offered to pay for my tuition, which was awfully kind of her. She left me with all of her recipes here in Toronto, sadly I haven’t been able to cook up any of them. It was nice having her around, she instilled the passion I needed to get through life everyday after you were gone.
Speaking of which, isn’t it ironic how that worked out for you? You were the most educated one in the family. Everybody had great hope for you. You pissed all over their hopes and dreams. You left and I had to deal with the mess. Did you ever think about us when you decided to slit your wrist wide open? You took the precautions. You took enough painkillers to thin your blood. Funny how that worked out for you, Miranda. You didn’t die then. You left it up to me to finish the job. Was that your plan all along? Make poor old Rodney suffer because you weren’t brave enough to finish the job yourself.
I watched you lying in that hospital bed. It smelt of piss and sweat. It felt like the ghosts of everyone who died in that bed still haunted that room. Mum wasn’t working a late shift that night. She was in the kitchen all day because you wanted to have Shepherd’s Pie. I was never a fan of our mother, but she loved you. I know that because of how protective she was towards you.
The creepy ornaments that decorated your room, that green old cracked coffee mug filled with cigarette buds. The only source of light being the crack in that stained- glass window you stole from the Church. I wonder to this day if that was your passive aggressive way of defying our parents. Or was it just a ‘stage’ you were going through? Trying to send a message, maybe? Another ‘Fuck you’ to the world. Your final ‘Fuck you!’ being your attempt at killing yourself.
I watched you throw away everything over the petty lies you told yourself. Those secrets you held that you wouldn’t share. The lies you told me about Charles, your imagination running wild. I lied for you, you told me you ran him over because of what he did to you. We tried taking away a man’s life and you felt no sympathy for him. You laughed at his misery. Whenever I tried to confront you about what you’d done, you would say, “He still came out strong, didn’t he? If anything, we boosted his career.”
Anyways, none of that matters anymore.