I’ve started writing. I love it! I can’t even describe the feeling. I tune into his channel within me, where all these stories stream, and I watch the words appear, form sentences, flow into paragraphs, and before I know it, I have a chapter, then two, then a novel! I don’t even know where these stories come from, but somehow, they all seem to relate to me and what I know of one person’s conflicted attempts at discovering meaning when surrounded by confusion, mystery, and magic.
Now that I think of myself as a writer, it helps me accept the other weird aspects of my life.
For example, though I know in my heart that I love Dante, my body can’t forget he’s a ghost, so every time I see him, I shudder.
I wonder what it might be like to love someone who didn’t make my stomach turn at first sight. So when Frank calls me for a date, I say yes.
I start feeling excited as I ride my bike to the park where we’re going to meet. I remember back to our first and, until now, only date, right after Dante became a ghost. I was still heartbroken then. Frank was so sweet to understand and not to pressure me and to wait until I was ready. That was so long ago. And he kept waiting. And, who knows? Maybe I’m finally ready!
Oh, when I see Frank reading while he’s waiting for me, it hits me how old he’s become. His hair is gray and his back is stooped.
Time speeds too quickly, scooping up the living in its net. I heard that Rainflower Ivy passed. Last I saw him was that weird morning at the beach, when he was dressed like a clown while he was searching emptiness for meaning. I hope he found what he was looking for before he left this plane. Thinking of Rain makes me wonder about Frank. How much longer does he have? I make myself a promise to make the most of every moment.
We have a great time. The park is gorgeous, snuggled in a muffler of fog, and Frank and I both feel a little high from being outside where it’s so beautiful.
I tell Frank about this neat comic book I’ve been reading about a cat with super powers. I don’t think he’s listening.
“What were you saying?” he asks.
“It doesn’t matter,” I say. “I was just feeling plugged into the world-building of this comic book I was reading.”
“I’ve been reading about monarch butterflies,” he says. “Have you been keeping up?”
“Yeah,” I reply. “I ordered a whole bunch of milkweed seeds for the kind that’s native here, and I’ve been planting them everywhere I go.”
“You, too?” he asks. “I thought I was the only one planting milkweed here!”
We get hungry, so I suggest we head back to my place and I’ll whip up some spaghetti.
Driving back in his car, he’s smiling and humming to himself. I fall silent. I think how if we’d gotten together years ago, this would be our normal, driving through the valley, planting milkweed seeds together, having long conversations where we float in and out of paying attention. Companionable silence.
But it doesn’t feel right. Not now, not in my daydream. Something’s missing for me.
When we get home, Frank points at the Snowman gnome.
“Look! Snow’s got a friend! It’s winter and summer, like you and me!”
He rocks in the chair while I prepare our supper. I’m glad my gnome has a new friend. I’m glad I’ve got Frank for a friend, too. I don’t really need more from him.
He asks me over to the gym the next day. I feel happy to see him.
“We’ve got so much in common,” I tell him, after he tells me about an old oak he discovered out by the gypsy wagon. “You’re a great friend.”
Annie Nix invites me over that night. I haven’t seen her for a while, and I’m surprised at first by her gray hair. But a few moments of talking, and it’s just like it’s always been between us: kindred spirits who read each other like open books.
“I hear you and Frank are dating,” she says.
“Oh, we’ve gone out a few times,” I say. “But they’re more buddy dates.”
“Buddy dates?” she laughs. “Well, that’s what I was pretty much figuring. Your heart’s still taken?”
I confess to her that it is. She’s not surprised.
“You’re like me, Cath. You’ve got a one-love heart. Once your heart’s given–or stolen, doesn’t matter which–that’s it. Nobody else stands a chance. That’s how I felt the first time Mike and I kissed. And I could tell, looking at you whenever you and Dante were together, that’s how you felt, too. He’s still got you, huh?”
I think about what Annie said while I ride my bike home. It’s the truth. It’s not like Dante was the first guy I ever spent time with. Chauncey and I sort of dated. I dated a few guys in college. And I’ve had a lot of guy friends. Seems like I usually make friends with a guy first, and then, once we’re best friends, I’m just not interested in romance. I want the friendship without the complications.
But Dante. I fell in love with him before we became friends. Then, after we got close, we were just in love, so any friendship that developed was wrapped in love’s mantle. I never really even found him attractive, even before he was a ghost. I’ve just loved him.
I still love him, and it doesn’t feel like it’s ever fading, and there’s no way I can love another in that way while I still love him. My body may shudder, but my heart beats for him.
“Do you got a cell phone with you in that place you go when you’re not here?” I ask him, next time he comes by.
“No,” he says. “I don’t think it works that way. Why?”
“I thought maybe you could call me, maybe.”
He chuckles with his laugh that echoes.
I’ve started complimenting him on his ghastliness. He loves it because it’s so silly, and it helps me acknowledge the shivery way he makes my body feel when I first catch sight of him.
He’s started scaring me. It’s not a mean scare, though. It’s funny. It’s playful and flirtatious, and I find it utterly charming.
One night, he tells me, “Let me take you for a ride. Meet me out at the bench.”
I grab my salad and head out. When I get there, bench is rising up into the air and shaking and spinning, and Dante’s nowhere to be seen.
“Dante?” I call. “Where are you?”
He laughs with a wooden sound. “In here!” he says, muffled. “Get on!”
The bench lowers for a moment, and I sit on it. Then, while Dante laughs in splinters, it floats.
He gives me a wild ride. Sometimes, the bench spins. Sometimes, it shakes. Sometimes, he floats it so sweet. All the time, he’s laughing like lumber.
“That was fun!” I say when he finally sets the bench down and slides out.
“I’m bushed!” he says.
I follow him into the bedroom, and he falls fast asleep. Lying next to him, I’m happy and satisfied. So, it’s not a normal romance, but we’ve made it our own. We’re figuring it out, and I think I can live with it.