Melisa Yang

Conversations with an English Apparition

It had begun from his fingers, bereft of the compassion; it had ended with her weeping, forced acceptance,
and a broken goodbye. When she last checked his profile, she found there was no option to message—he had blocked her. She barely remembers the conversation.

Hand above her head, she envisions grasping at the stars and pretends it’s him. He used to wait for her to see the same sky, she recalls—it would appear before her eyes five hours later. She never would admit it, but she felt comforted when he sent pictures of it, blurry, because he had bought his phone for around 300 pounds. She thinks she could tell which stars belonged to which constellation in his photos. She felt obsessive. Disgusting. But, she was only eighteen. And he would be twenty-three in September. They met two years ago. So he might have understood.

“The moon is full tonight,” she thinks she said once. He would have hummed. She pretends he would have reached out in return and would have squeezed her hand gently. In her dreams, his hands are calloused and warm. He is the one who freezes the house.

Summer pardons itself with the haste of a scorned lover. Leaves shrivel on the trees she had taken pictures of to show him. “Look at American nature,” she had said. “Look at how different we are from you.” Please, visit.

She imagined he smiled in his little British way. She imagined he sees his Reading trees and wonders if they would survive in the American heat. He lives near sheep. She had cooed for half and hour over this fact when she was made aware of it months prior. She’s sure he would have thought all of America as depressing as London.

It’s fading memories and heartache, the requirement for the full teengirl experience. She knows souls travel. She will wash her face in the sink and she will see him frowning in the mirror, cold fingertips holding her reflection’s face the way he promised to. He will knock cups from the cabinets. He will flip lightswitches. He will wish she could pray and mean it.

Stop, she will plead. Go back to England. It is screens and screams. Warm and cold pillows. She is an infant again. She always was when he was around. That’s what she liked about him.

“I don’t want to feel guilty for not being with you,” he had said. “I need to set us free.” I have known you since a child, she had replied. She imagines he broke down before his phone. She imagines it was painful when he died. Maybe she hopes it was.

“He also struggles,” says a friend. I know, she wants to say. I can feel his pain from an ocean away. I see him within myself; he is not well. He spooks the dog and cats. He pulls at my bedsheets. He crawls under them and weeps beside me. He holds me and says I am half of him. His fingers pass through me.

But she doesn’t say a word. She pretends the news comforts her.Winter weaves nostalgia into the wind; it is the scent of carrion. It is ashes she asks for at the vet but will never see. She grieves and he is beside her. He holds out his hand. She takes it. I will be anything you wish me to be, he says. As you once sacrified to be for me. I will comfort you the way you have comforted me for a millenia.

She closes her eyes. Maybe she loathes him. The ride home is quiet. It is midnight and the cat carrier is empty. It is dawn and skin feels like it was slipped on. She knows grief all over again. It is her new companion.

Is this how you felt when you found its body in your garden? she wants to ask. She remembers his grief was so overwhelming he had eaten a spoonful of sugar to calm down, given to him by his Nana. She has no Nana to do that for her. He tries to offer her a spoon but he is not strong enough to lift it; his feet don’t even touch the floor.

Slumber in the late season. She is carried by CVS melatonin and a loving touch against her cheek. He lives within her skeleton. Her hand is his. He is an edifice towering above all heaven when he wants to be.

“Let me see you again,” she pleads. He shakes his head. She will only ever be with the ghost left behind.

When she showers, their conversation goes differently. He stayed like she wanted—she changes for the better. They move into a cottage in the English country side. Their children will be named after historial Victorian figures. They both had a love for history. They both learned musicals but don’t have the talent for singing. It’s still fun. She smiles in the mirror. He smiles back. It is a lovely thought, he says. You
were always so creative.

I could draw you from memory, she says in return. I know the molecular compounds that create you as I know the words your mind wants to speak. As I would know how it feels to have your breath against mine.

She thinks he adores this. When it is summer, she enjoys the friends she has made. She is outside, hand raised above her, tracing the half-eaten moon. He sits beside her. Always beside her. It is hot.

“This is nothing,” he had once said. “My room has no heater, you know. You Americans have it lucky.”

And she had rolled her eyes and laughed.