by Joseph Han
Tommy’s talking to his ex again; he lives on his own now after college and says she’s a ghost in his apartment. He believes he’s being haunted, not that she’s dead but he feels her around. Swears by these hallucinations but I just call them whiskey dreams.
I never knew Tommy had an ex. Looked her up on his laptop and, yes, she’s real but not from around here. Got to thinking she’s a he and is just dicking around with a fake identity until I saw pics of them together.
A few months ago we had a usual drunk talk and I asked Tommy if he was real, what if I was really just talking to myself and I made you up. Tommy said bullshit, I’m the real one; I make up people all the time.
Tommy emailed me one night and told me all about how his relationship burned. She’s a ghost because she’s made of smoke, the signs of fire. What they had was hot as hell, but not in the negative, religious way, more like a furnace that powered a ship or locomotive. So I email him back that trains don’t run on fire anymore.
Ask him how long they’ve been broken up and he says a week. Tommy tells me she thought he was dead. Really she was being dramatic and meant he was distant. I tell Tommy that he can’t be the real one if he’s dead but he doesn’t remember what I’m referring to and I wonder if we even had that conversation.
I explain to Tommy that we like whiskey the same reason why rats love their garbage.
My dad used to always tell me these animal metaphors. People are like ostriches. They can stick their head in the ground and only grab the worms around them, thinking they can hear what’s coming in the distance as some warning. But then there are the brave ones that run and leap so they can see what they want and that would be like flying for a few seconds. Sounded like a fancy way of saying chase your dreams to me.
I tell Tommy that relationships go two ways: you’re either a stick in the mud or a side to a jetpack, a rocket. Two sticks make a kite that can only go as far as the spool lets it. Two rockets can power more movement to flying. Better than being a bird.
Maybe they stuck their heads in the ground to listen for trains or to feel the warmth. I ask Tommy if he’s ever seen an ostrich on fire. If we were rats and saw a bat, we would say angel. Angel in a jetpack fueled by hellfire going after what’s real.
Ex-girlfriend shows up and Tommy answers the door and they just stand there. Looks like they made up in a second, a moment of mud. I start to sweat and want to takeoff.