I saw a phantom today – I think. It was either a phantom, a boy with a lick in his hair, or just a regular boy with a lack in his hair. Do regular boys still lick their hair – do you even lick hair or does it just happen?
I was walking through Mrs. Petersens backyard, the same way I always walk when I go to buy my cigarettes and jerky. I had just squeezed through that hole in the fence (I highly recommend it – less splinters than the last hole) and brushed myself off when I got that tingle – oh it must have been a phantom, I don’t get the tingle from normal people. It’s like the kid was hiding he seemed to be coming out from Mrs. Petersens deck and he sure as hell went back under there, that is, after hed given me the look and I’d yelled at him for scaring the crap out of me. I make it a habit to yell at the phantoms I see, reason or not – show em whos boss, makes me memorable to them. Maybe theyll remember to stop creeping out from under decks or standing at the top of staircases.
Woke up at 3:00am and a phantom was staring at me from behind my bedroom door. I’d come in pretty late and left the light out on the hallway. Usually the light bothers me when I’m trying to fall asleep but tonight I’d barely noticed because I was inexplicably tired and my eyes just wanted to close for the night. When I woke up, my bladder was full – well, probably not full but my brain was telling me it was full and that I had to go to the bathroom immediately – and then I saw her glaring. The room was still a little unsteady. I just kind of laid there until she submerged back into the hallway light, leaving the damn door open. Get out of my house! I slurred behind her, getting out of bed, half in pursuit but mostly just to get to the john.
The phantoms all give me the same look – I think they learn how to make the face at an early age and practice it over and over. Their whole job is to make that face and then go away, so they’d damn well better have it perfect. If they screw up the look, they lose all their credibility and they become a little bit human. I got Esther (girlfriend) to try the face.
I don’t think she’s even close, though. Phantoms have different muscles in their faces. Really subtle muscles designed to make that one expression and one expression alone. Maybe that’s just how their faces look. Maybe they’re communicating some other way. Maybe I don’t care – I’m going to go on yelling at them because the last time I saw one I dropped my coffee on the canvas I’d just finished. I tend to drop things when I see them. I get that ripple in my arm and then my hand loses control and I drop things. Even when I come upon them gradually, when I’m not surprised. Their face and my hand have a secret conversation that I don’t think I’ll ever understand (not that I want to).
At the bookstore, looking at the art books — really beautiful photographs and stuff. Shadows and highlights, rich abstract forms. Phantoms are the last thing on my mind — haven’t even seen one in months.
After a particularly fantastic spread I look up. I’m hoping to give my brain some time to write the picture to memory. But there’s a phantom, I shutter, it’s staring at me– she’s staring me at this old phantom lady–creeping out from behind the stacks. She’s looking at me as phantoms do and I feel judged, even though there’s nothing different about her expression — it’s that stupid look.
I yell at her, the hag, tell her to mind her own damn business. I’m an adult, I shout — I can read the books I want to read. After she leaves I find a new book with sunny landscapes — trees casting shadows from sunlight reflected off the ocean. It kind of sucks.
This morning I sat at the kitchen table and ate my breakfast of coffee and cigarettes and 4 slices of bacon. This is my breakfast every day, except on Sundays when I’ll indulge in a fifth slice of bacon. The packages of bacon each have 29 slices, so really, everything works out perfectly. I’m not a careful person — I’m not precise or calculated and I generally terrible with numbers. Before Esther broke things off, she figured out the system; I just benefited from it. We got into an argument about that last slice of bacon and she left–joking, she left because I’m generally an asshole. It’s better this way, though…I really like bacon. This morning I sat at the kitchen table and I saw a man standing in the middle of my backyard, in the snow. His breath wasn’t visible like you’d expect it to be. He was bundled up in an ugly coat. I stared at him for a little while before getting up to open the window — I had to yell at him. He was getting footprints all over my clean, white yard. He disappeared behind a tree — really the only living thing in my backyard — just as I started to lay into him. I knew he and his ugly coat could hear my voice from wherever they’d gone.
Today I saw a phantom in a crowd, something that’s never happened to me before; I’m not even sure it’s possible. Maybe I didn’t see a phantom. Maybe I just a creepy human. But the face was so authentic, and I felt the symptoms. And the maybe phantom, maybe person disappeared so suddenly, slinking away behind a passing car.
I was at an intersection, crossing the crosswalk in a pack of other streetcrossers. We were trying to get to the other side, if you have to know. I generally keep my eyes forward and don’t so much as glance to either side — I never look both ways before crossing the street; it is an utter waste of time — today, for whatever reason I decided to look to my left, though, and I saw him standing there. He was standing in the middle of the street, carelessly, with the confidence of a pigeon that knows he can just fly away at the first sight of an oncoming car. His face flickered on and off as people passed me by from either direction. I just kind of stalled in the middle of the intersection.
And then I saw a car coming from behind him and I shouted to him, urging him to get out of the way. GET OUT OF THE WAY, I said. A car passed by and he was gone.
It’s sunset and I’m walking back from the grocery store. I’m walking down the frontage road that runs along the side of Murray Woods and I get that damn feeling. Great. This again. But today it’s a lady phantom, and not the creepy kind that watches me while I sleep. This phantom is smokin’ hot; I’m serious: a 10 on the human scale, for sure and I’m sure she tops out whatever scale phantoms use. Anyway, at the moment, I’m wondering if maybe a phantom could fall in love with, or at least sleep with, a human — with a chick this hot, I decided it’d be crazy not to even try. So I played it cool. I just kind of walk by confidently, turning my head for a second and giving her my trademark “hey girl” nod. Like a real lady, she glares at me and leaves.
The phantoms are ganging up on me — at least I think they are. They’re definitely up to something. I usually see one, maybe two at a time. Today, I’m trying to get some work done in the studio; I look away from my painting for a second and all of a sudden there are like 12 of them standing there staring at me. It’s like a whole phantom family, except they’re not related in any way except their desire to scare the crap out of me. I tried to stay calm, but these phantoms aren’t making it easy. I just closed my eyes and counted to eight and when I opened them everybody was gone. I was alone again and I didn’t even need to shout at them.
After the scare I got from all those phantoms, I was pretty wound up for awhile. Every time I closed my eyes I worried about what I might see when I opened them back up. What if it were a hundred phantoms the next time? or a thousand? I decided I needed to get out of the house and relax a bit — I went to my friend’s house; I hadn’t been there for awhile but it felt good to just sit around and talk to him. Just sat back on his couch and told him about all the shit that’d been happening to me — he could hardly believe it all.
I finally feel better, like I can close my eyes again without waking up to a phantom fiesta, but then I see a phantom peaking through the window in the door. He’s creepy as hell, wearing his hat at a slant, like the unabomber or something. I don’t think I have it in me to yell at this phantom — I just want him to leave me alone. My friend doesn’t see the phantom but he finally seems interested in my story and starts asking me questions.
The phantoms have even abandoned all sense of decency.
I’m not safe anywhere. I give up