What Is Missing, What Is Left – J I Daniels
I can’t stand ghost hunters, though they mean well. Most of them. They certainly don’t do it for the money. I’m no expert in the subject, but I listen to them sometimes, as they sit in dark rooms with their bowls of water and electronic doodads. They whisper about how they’re going to make rent, and what it really means to be in love. They wonder aloud why the dead linger. Sometimes the equipment will screech or beep and everyone will get excited for a little while, but mostly they sit and wait, whispering, as if ghosts are spooked by loud noises, or maybe that ghosts can’t hear them if they whisper. It’s not true. I hear everything, and shouting doesn’t bother me at all.
What drives me nuts about the ghost hunters are their questions. They are so dumb. They ask if I’m happy where I am. They ask me what I want. I try to tell them. The password for the router is Rj2939abIo. I want them to pass this along to my husband. I don’t know how the hell he managed to reset his wifi settings in the first place, but he did, and he can’t figure it out how to log on again. He’s a good man, and no one deserves to be forced to live without the internet.
The ghost hunters ask if I have unfinished business. As if that means anything. I had a life I was trying to live, for whatever that’s worth. I hadn’t ever lined the liquor cabinet, and now there were whisky bottle shaped stains in the wood. My husband and I had never really apologized after a big fight; we just stormed off and then eventually moved on with our lives as if it never happened. I hadn’t gotten around to a life insurance policy. Not that this was unfinished business anymore, not really. I have the song from the Simpsons movie stuck in my head. Perhaps that’s unfinished business. Perhaps that is what I need to purge to move on. You know the song, where Spider Pig does whatever a spider pig does.
God help me, Homer J Simpson may have been the most important voice of my generation. Not important as in, having something to say. Important as in: people actually listened. Is that unfinished business or just a tragedy?
I have moved through the streets, alone, walking through the crowds and through the people and the walls. I have seen their intimate moments and I have thought, why am I here? I’ve looked for other ghosts, but I haven’t found any. I don’t know if this means that they don’t exist, or if we are all doomed to our own personal haunts.
The ghost hunters tell my husband that I’m not there. Not here. There is no sign of me. I’m not haunting our house. Frauds. I watch my husband break down in our house without wifi. I watch him that evening as he picks up a picture of us: it’s years old, we never really took that many pictures, and he holds it close to his face. He begins to talk to the picture, to the ghost-me that is not the me who is this ghost.
He says: “It’s not enough for me to say that I miss you. It’s you who are missing from me, like a limb.” He weeps on the couch, and says he cannot be whole without me.
Which is more than he said when we were alive, and I would tell him that, but probably he already knows, and really, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to tell him that damned password, and so I wait for him to buy a Ouija board so I can tell him, tell him, Rj2939abIo. And if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
J I Daniels received an MFA in fiction at the University of Houston, where he was an assistant fiction editor for Gulf Coast literary magazine. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Utah, and senior fiction editor for Quarterly West. His writing has been published in Lunch Ticket, Juked, and Southwest Review, among others and my novel, Mount Fugue, was released last year with Kernpunkt Press