(Excerpt from Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale)
I closed my notebook and sat motionless at my desk for a long while, feeling flat and infirm.
Then, not able to put it off any longer, it was time to disengage my ghost, Y. While I didn’t exactly squeeze Y. out of my ass, the effort that went into ejecting it from inside me was similar to the effort that one puts into trying to pass a turd while constipated. I stiffened my legs, clenched my hands, and the muscles in my face and neck tensed as I forced Y. out.
Achy and flush, I instantly became aware of my body as my own again. My eyes, which stung a little and felt as if they were coated in filmy gauze, took in what was now before me, hovering several inches off the floor. A uniform assembly of particles, the size of dimes, flickering a translucent blue. With measured synchronicity one particle would be drawn toward another particle, stopping right before they touched, then the two would separate, never further than five or six inches apart. The rhythm was a perfectly repeated breath made visible: expansion swelled Y. to a sphere, contraction slimmed it down to an oval.
How do you feel, I asked Y.
Cold, came the monotone response, which was as much in my head as it was outside of it.
You, Y. asked.
Tired, I said. Tired, flat and full of nothing.
Y. didn’t say anything and since it was featureless there was no expression to read.
Can you explain to me about the cold, I asked Y.
There is no way to explain it, Y. said. It’s a cold beyond words. Beyond human comprehension.
It had been right after my first session when I asked Y. what it was that ghosts gained from helping writers write, what was in it for them, if anything.
Y. had said: The opportunity, even when it’s brief, to inhabit a body and being gives us two very important things: A sense of home. And warmth. Ghosts suffer from terrible cold. I’m not talking about climate-cold that can be measured in degrees, nor am I talking about the lonely-cold that drives people mad. I’m talking about cold in the abstract, a cold that seeks form and with form comes warmth. Unless you’re a ghost you can’t feelize what I’m talking about.
(Feelize was a term that Y. used time and again in our conversations. Y. said that felt-realizations—feelizations—were one of the strongest and most complete ways of knowing something. Of “getting it.”).
Over the course of the past four days there were other things to which Y. had enlightened me:
1. Even though ghosts don’t remember who they were, who they had been in their previous incarnation, they still had specific memories, yet the memories were attached to feelings and sensations, not to names and history. : “I can remember loving someone, deeply, can remember what it had done to me, what it had felt like. I can remember the thrill of kissing and holding and touching another being, but I couldn’t tell you who that being was—their name, background, stuff like that.”
2. All ghosts, as far as Y. knew, were nameless and genderless. They all went by one of three standard designations: X., Y. or Z.
3. Y. still had no idea if there was a heaven or hell or anything like that. Y.: “For all I know I’m in a suspended state of limbo waiting to receive word about my re-location. The thing is I have no clue if that word exists, or if there is a place where the cold is permanently kept out.”
3-B. Because a place like this remained both a mystery and a possibility, Y. prayed a lot.
4. Possessing living beings is not as easy as some might think. When I had asked Y. why it and other ghosts simply didn’t satisfy their need for warmth and home by willfully taking over living beings, Y. said—“It’s extremely difficult. Even if you do manage to possess another being against their will, the success rate for staying inside them for an extended period of time is very low. You have to understand—you are trying to inhabit a being that is already inhabited by a living spirit, one that belongs there. Unless that spirit and that being are open to receiving a ghost—which usually only happens when someone wants to be possessed by a ghost for personal reasons, in your case that would be writing—you are more or less locked out. There are some ghosts who will do anything in their power to break a person’s spirit and take control of their being. Some even force themselves on sleeping women, or rather inside them with the hopes of planting a seed in the woman through which they’ll be reborn. These type ghosts, though, are the exception and not the norm.”