My center grows cold and heavy. In Nagasaki, the winter months move on slowly. With my cast iron heart planted firmly in my chest, I find that simple tasks have now become difficult: getting out of bed, grooming myself, getting ready for work. The heater has been on the fritz—that, or the Welshman and I are simply too stupid to read the Japanese on the remote and can’t figure out how to turn it on. After fiddling with the remote for the millionth time, I set the thing down and forget about it. I crawl into the warmth of my comforter and futon mattress.
And our lives? What can I say? The parade of nomihodais and merriment continues, except that people find themselves going home earlier and dancing less in the streets. The cold, wet rain makes sure of that. My students continue to struggle obsessively with tenses, articles, and the various contradictions and disappointments of their lives in ways that are in equal measures heroic and unnerving. I find that old adage about people leading lives of quiet desperation hangs over my classroom more often than I’d like.
Then there are the ghosts. More of them now, some are not ghosts at all, but visions of old professors and friends. Others are full-fledged spirits, union-certified and struggling to make their quotas in haunting. They show up, hang around my classes, stare at me, or on occasion try to scare me as I’m coming out of the tub. Most of the time, however, I find them just lounging around on coffee break.
Debra comes around now more than ever. The sweet woman that she is, when she’s not creeping around corners or jumping out of dark spaces, she finds the time to do a bit of knitting and sewing, fixing a little tear here or putting on a new button there. And the everydayness of it all makes the weight in my heart space a bit more unbearable.
Every once in a while I try to talk to her. I try to say, “Hey Debra,” or “How’s the afterlife treating you?” or “You don’t look half bad for a woman who’s spent some time in the afterworld.” But I falter. I find there is nothing in the back of my throat that can make its way out. And so she stays, and the ghosts stay, and my center grows heavier.