Early On - with edits

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. You see, I’ve been busy clearing my closet of ghosts. It’s not just about finding the door, though it’s an important first step. It’s that once your closet has been located, you are then compelled to open it. To stick your head in and investigate.  But they’re ghosts, right?  So forget about using your eyes to see them. You only need feel the breeze as they sweep past. The electricity. The energy. It’s all quite physical: the hairs on your forearm standing at attention; the shiver that darts up your spine as the temperature drops. Breathe in their sour pasts, and choke on the lingering stench of regret they leave behind. They may be relieved that you’ve opened the door, they’ve been trapped, after all. Or maybe they’re angry at you for doing it – and will haunt you, visibly, until the day you become one of them. Until you become a ghost yourself.

There are some pretty cool places to stay out there. Places for young (and old) people from all over the world, offering up adventures by day, and a safe place to rest heads at night.  Each hostel is a microcosm unto itself – lobby, dormatory, common space, cantine…  Spaces that repeat themselves over and over, so that one day you wake up, and realize you’re now the expert.  You’ve become aware of the spoken and unspoken rules through osmosis, and are now responsible for imparting that knowledge to anyone wandering with wide eyes and an agitated look about them. And that one commonality you share with everyone sitting at the dining table, that you’re all from out of town, becomes both the icebreaker, and the easy goodbye – all in the space of 5 days or 5 minutes.

I’ve been travelling a lot these past few months, and actually, this past year– taking classes, searching for reasons to write, half-heartedly looking for work, and getting to know my ghosts from that closet. At each locale I’ve searched for the same things – routine, order, safety, balance. Notice I’ve not said kinship. Nor have I sought connection.

This isn’t that kind of adventure.

It’s an internal journey, if you must label it. So let me apologize right now:  to all the Asian gals I’ve literally shared all my rooms with…  I’m sorry I didn’t converse with you, other than a polite hello – or goodbye, and I’m sorry for flushing during your jet lag.  To the expectant Brazilian gentleman (and any other dude, really) that I met and breakfasted/lunched/explored with…  Thank you…and I’m sorry, but I will never call you back.  To the German girl with the wad of cash, who felt compelled to text me 37 times within the space of 4 hours… I’m sorry, but we will never keep in touch, because you are a fucking zombie freak.  To all the “Don’s” I’ve met, like a proportionately uneven number of men whose first name was “Don”: thank you for introducing yourself and feeling compelled to share your sad stories of mayhem and loss…I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. To the American ladies of color at the Plasma center, I’m sorry for crying. I was completely embarrassed when you made me roll up my sleeves to look at my veins. When you already knew you wouldn’t be able to take my blood. I’m sure all the folks watching from the lobby understood that I was an ineligible non-resident, and not a junkie, when you turned me away.  (Perception is kind of a bitch, isn’t it? – Also, is this what an apologist feels like?)

The place I’m at now is very nice. Entrepreneurs are starting to realize there is a market for low cost, safe, yet well-designed, pleasing accommodations.  It’s a brand new hostel, built inside an historic structure – still, I’ve no doubt there are old ghosts that roam here.

It’s a beautiful Fall Sunday here in Chicago, much like the very first time I visited. I was 19 years old. The Old Ghost was about 34 – 14 years my senior.  We had met during a college break at St. Catherine’s. It was an all-girl Catholic college out of St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had gotten entry there because of my SAT’s and a pitiful essay, I’m sure - as my grades in high school were certainly nothing to cheer about.  Old Ghost (O.G.) seemed jubilant to be introducing my chubby, juvenile self to his brother, a long-time resident of Rockford, Illinois.  We all met for drinks and dinner at some dive bar, and I remember ‘Brother John’ being nice enough, and much older it seemed. His wife, Rosie, was this colossal woman, yet John seemed enamored, deferring to her as ‘The Boss.’  It was new to me. A new experience, having a man care about his wife like that, especially in public.  I remember John saying, specifically, that if he ever met another girl he wanted to be with, he’d make sure to ask his wife first, expecting- she’d say something like “Well, sure honey, but make sure you bring her home so I can check her out!”  It became an unconscious way of being, a relationship model that I didn’t know I would continue to seek for many years after. 

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