I haven’t slept in days, but that’s an exaggeration. Actually, I’ve been averaging about two hours of sleep for the past five nights. Every night, I turn off the light, fall into bed, and stare at the clock, willing the minutes to tick by faster, willing the sun to come up again. The sound of my breath is foreign, as if there’s a stranger breathing shakily beside me, and no amount of blankets has been able to shake the eerie chill that settles into my hands and feet each time the light goes out. I’ve never been afraid of the dark before, but then again, I never used to believe in ghosts.
My room is haunted. I thought that I cut you out of my life five days ago, but for some reason you’re still lingering. You left your fingerprints on every surface of my home, and this room isn’t my own anymore. It’s yours.
At 3am on the fifth night without you, I’m at my wit’s end, so I silently apologize to you as if you’re somehow hearing me and I turn on the light. In the darkest corner of my closet, under piles of clothes and shoes, there’s a box in which I keep all of my heels. I dump the contents onto the floor and carefully place the empty box on my bed. Then I begin the exorcism. Everything that reminds me of you, everything that’s keeping me awake, has to go into this box.
The pictures are the easiest. I tear them off the wall and out of frames and shove them into an envelope. I won’t be seeing your face any longer. You were the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me, the biggest risk I ever took, and the only constant I needed. I’m not sure where to go from here. The process continues. A bracelet that I bought when I was with you, the note you wrote for me on my birthday, the necklace you gave me for Christmas, anything we’ve ever shared has to go. These were once my most prized possessions, and I’m shoving them into this cardboard box as if they’re garbage. And then it gets even harder. Did you have to love the rainbow lights strung up around my window? Now they haunt me too, so pretty as they are, they have to go. Did I have to leave that old stuffed pig at your house one weekend? I never want to look at it again.I think I’m going insane. If I could, I would tear the stars out of the sky. A cracked mirror, a book, a lighter- everything is covered in you.There’s a shirt that smells too much like your fabric softener and a sunglasses case like the one you keep your pills in and if I don’t stop my room will be empty and maybe that’s what it will take for you to disappear.
I don’t want to use the word heartbreak here, because we’ve never been that cliche, but as I shove the box under my bed, I feel something inside me shatter and it’s so sudden and so sharp that for a moment I can’t stand. It’s this awful, burning, expanding pressure in my chest, my stomach, my throat, and I’m losing vision and all I know is that nothing that hurts this badly could possibly be right. I’m on my knees alone in this empty home and I know that I’ve made a terrible mistake. But I haven’t prayed in years, so I get back up, look around at the mess I’ve made of my room, and wonder what you would think if you could see me like this. In the silence of my held breath, I feel the touch of phantom arms around me. The room has been purged, but your ghost is still here. It’s not the room that’s haunted.
Gabrielle Marie is a first year engineering student at Vanderbilt University. She is a staff member of Persephone’s Daughters and hasn’t been published until now.