Short story


I wonder if we fall in love with dreams. Not only ours but others’ dreams. Maybe love doesn’t fade. It is only the face of reality that cannot be hidden anywhere. I think you fell in love with my dreams, not because they were similar to yours but because I expected something from life. And now I am not sure. Is it always like that? When love is young we don’t really mean love, but us; we have dreams and it is easy to fall in love with the idea of who we want to be. It is easy to fall in love with a fantasy. We think if we remain together we will see that fantasy come true and what happens next… What I’ve seen that happens next is that dreams become ghosts. We live then with them, we live in haunted houses with ghosts of everyone we couldn’t be.

I see them all the time. When I’m cooking I can see myself at the other side of the kitchen bar, warming up with my ballet shoes, so I see the dancer. Then I wake up and I look at the mirror while I brush my teeth and I see the writer, just about to go to sleep after a long night of ideas. I see the successful empowered woman while I drink my coffee every morning, going out the house to do something world changing, to be the boss wherever she gets to be the boss. I am going to take a nap because the days became too long for me to see every person I couldn’t be, and I see kids playing around the house, not avoiding me to sleep, because they are not really there, that’s only another person I decided not to be.

So I go to sleep and wake up in a darker room. I go out of the room and there’s still little light. I smell the plants and the flowers that are also there like shadows of things I didn’t bring with me back home. In this haunted house I have a million reasons to be happy; I have a million souls with me. I have every ghost to smile at and congratulate for being who they are, who I couldn’t be.

I don’t talk about love as something two people feel at the very same time and life begins. I am talking about love as the image I had of myself when I was young, as the expectation of who I would become when I grew up. That is love. All the dreams, the goals, the will of making something out of the time we have on Earth. And love doesn’t fade, but dreams do. I find myself the way I am, without all those dreams, with little accomplished, and I can only feel joy by seeing the specters and imagining how life would be if I was any ghost and any of the others was me.

Maybe I fell out of love with me the day the dreams remained dreams. But I lived surrounded by ghosts before that…

I used to have a ‘double life’, I called it a world of fantasy because it had no sense at all for what people expected from reality to be. I remember a sunny morning and a painful chest whispering to myself:

I live in a world of fantasy. Some days, I just can’t get out of my bed.
Some other days I try twice before getting out of a h… a house.
Some other days, I go to work, within hours I just cry myself hiding anywhere.
Some other days I am the greatest actress, I could win an Oscar, I just perform to be the happiest person in the world while working. Then, once out, I come back.
I’m in a world of fantasy… Fantasy, but not fiction.
In this world of fantasy, the princess – me – is hiding in the castle; she is there willingly because she doesn’t want to go out.
In this fantasy world, the prince – me – comes here and tells me to go out, to give the day a chance.
In this world of fantasy, the dragon – me – is frightening. It’s making me feel I would be better inside. It’s making me feel that defeating it is my biggest goal, it makes me think I have someone to fight, and it seems I won’t be able to defeat it.
In this fantasy world I wake up some days just to stay at home or in a hotel that is empty because everyone else is working; I’m the only one who’s there. While other days I’m just wondering if I will have food for the day.
In this fantasy world I am both, the queen and a commoner. Exchanging roles, depending on the day.
In this fantasy world I can spend two years of my life without going out, without looking in the eyes of the outside, I can spend two years of my life just hiding in my room, in my apartment. In this fantasy world I can go from one door to another avoiding commuting hours, avoiding places, avoiding what will make me tremble.
In this world of fantasy the queen has amazing friends that just take her from one place to another and help her out. They don’t care that she can’t actually go out. While the commoner loses old friends for being too far away from everyone that used to know her. In this fantasy life, I have a supportive family, someone makes everything he can to make it feel unimportant remaining inside, as if it was not that bad. In this fantasy world there’s food taken to my door, sometimes I don’t have to go to the supermarket or the grocery store, some other times I just have to pretend I’m not starving even though I haven’t had any food in days. In this fantasy world I can remain anxious and agoraphobic and the phantoms of my free self clung to me. And I clung to them. In this world of fantasy, I have been the ghost.

This person, the one that suddenly lived in a fantasy world had no place in existence for me, not even in my craziest dreams, and then she became the only one who was not an appearance.
I wonder where my free spirit or my true self were while I gave my body to the ghost. I wonder where I truly was, for I have no memories of those times. I was a soul whose only relation to reality was recalling my true self and ‘love’, that desire of being someone else, of being at least myself again. —You must know that before being a ghost, to be myself was no small matter, I was the one who didn’t only dream about who wanted to be but was how she wanted to be. In a way, but I didn’t notice. Maybe I did, I did notice but being myself back then meant always feeling incomplete, being me implied to feel like missing something – not everything – just something, but something important. It felt like being capable of doing anything, just ‘if I could’.—
Now, even after having left the ghost in the fantasy world I refused to stay, this time I feel I can, I am just not capable of much. That’s how suddenly, every other possibility of ‘me’ becomes the specter and I become but an observer having a cup of tea every morning. Tea… Not even coffee. I miss coffee as hell! But I can’t drink it – at least not the real one – I even drink the ghost of coffee (yes, decaf). The smell, the vibrant essence of mornings is gone for now, for I refuse to think it will remain gone.
There’s something that sounds naive in me, something that is not hope but it seems like it, it is the memory of becoming the unthinkable and the awareness of the unthinkable becoming real that makes me refuse to stay surrounded by shadows. Since I know I can be the shade sometimes, I think I have an advantage; phantoms never think they can be real, they seem to be in my mind, otherwise they don’t exist. Yet I see them. I see all the possibilities of myself and decide everyday I don’t want to be them that much. I don’t want to fully be one of those ghosts. I think that’s what I lost… It was not about love or about dreams. It’s about my perception of reality. It is not that my mind is a wonderland (for it is actually quite terrifying), but everything that exists seems to be not good enough for me. Any of the jobs, of the personalities, of the characters, of the people, of the songs… Anything is good enough for me willing to turn into that.
And when I wonder why, I don’t know what kind of spirit made me believe life would be different. I guess I am perpetually in the world of fantasy… Sometimes a moment is enough to feel life is worth living.
And then I ask myself what do I expect from life, and I can only answer: not to be this. Am I happy? Yes. Am I disappointed? So far, also yes. Do I want to live in a utopia? Who wouldn’t!
I wish the world discovered I figured out this was not enough and could not therefore be the real one, so it would take me to reality without ghosts. Of course, with every beauty of this crazy world remaining in that true reality. Or is that the trick? We live here with all the beauties that seem to make life worth living but this is it?
Is this the typical cliché of this reality actually being enough and me don’t appreciating it?
Or is this the fear to discover there is something better? Because fear has converted me into a ghost before. And now that I am not, I still feel like one.
I didn’t know why I used to like so much the painting of a Girl at the window. There was something about it, endless possibilities behind the window, the window open, the breeze from the outside bringing movement inside through the curtains, through the dress of the girl. Now I see I feel just like her. Right at the window, at a big window as if having the possibility of being out, yet, being inside.
I want to feel the grass. I want to be outside, but not only in a park or on a highway driving as fast as I can. I wish I could be outside the very planet, and kneel to hug the Earth and feel the oceans’ water passing through my fingers, the sand in my cheek and my eyes closed because I feel the wind of the whole galaxy. I need to feel the land of each continent above my knees and the breath of the universe in my forehead. I need to be more, much more than I am.
I wish I could be bigger than my ghosts, bigger than myself trapped inside a building, I wish I could hold the Earth and ask her for forgiveness while I ask myself the same. And I wish this dream was one of those desires I have and I can eventually fulfill. Because again, ‘if I only could…” but I cannot. At least I’m back with my expectations. I am not haunted by my ghosts, I would be capable, it is just physically impossible.