My Momma’s got so many cavities when she smiles it looks like she stuck raisins up in her gums. My Papa only wears a thin, frayed coat and thin, frayed jeans. He’s got a heart so strong that if it left his body it would still be beating. In this town, everyone over forty looks like they’ve been to hell and back. Beaten down, knocked over, then stood back up and kept moving along.
That was my story, but I wanted a different one.
Remember that time you and I went hunting for ghosts in your Papa’s fields? We found that graveyard hidden around that little bend. There were so many stones, it was impossible to take a step without tripping over someone’s grave.
We never did see a ghost that day, but at church the next morning I swear I could feel God all around me, like he knew that I didn’t belong in this world.
Your Momma’s got eyes as blue as the ocean, or what the ocean might look like if I ever saw it. I would like to see the ocean, someday. Sometimes I feel like the ocean. Churning, restless, heaving.
Remember that time your Papa told me he met the devil? He said that the devil was a gentleman, all chivalry and grace. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve met the devil, and just didn’t realize it. Sometimes I wonder if there’s such thing as the devil. We’re all the devil at times, aren’t we?
I remember praying to God at church to send a few ghosts our way, so that me and you could spot them. All I wanted was a little adventure, a little trouble. But either God didn’t hear or God didn’t care.
My Momma used to sing to me before bed. She doesn’t do that anymore. Her voice shakes when she speaks, and sometimes it even comes out as a rasp. Her black hair is gray now. Her hands shake.
We’ve never been perfect, have we? I remember scabs and scraped knees, black eyes and loose teeth. Remember when we went swimming in the lake? You jumped into the water, screaming your head off. I started screaming too, even though I was watching from the trees.
Yesterday at church the pastor told me that hell was real. Hell’s a real place, alright. It’s right here. Real as the ocean. Real as the devil himself.
Maybe I’m the ghost. Haunting and unbelonging. Maybe we’re all the ghosts, stuck in our own personal hell.