Codes and numbers and ghosts

My grandpa's cousin Myrt died last week. She was 94 and in a nursing home; apparently she spent the past few months talking about how everyone she knows is gone.

Myrt lived in the house across from my Nana. She never had kids but she did have a swing set in her backyard when we were little. I remember riding on a swing shaped like a horse and eating Jello-fudgesicles. I never had fudgesicles anywhere other than Myrt's house. I remember them being delicious.

When I think about getting old, I'm always profoundly sad thinking about what it will be like to be alive without any of my friends. Who's to say that they'll all die before me, I know... but the prospect of being one of the last ones brings on a fear of such intense loneliness. How will it be, I wonder, if I say goodbye to my husband first? Won't I want to believe that there's somewhere we'll both meet up again?

Death Cab has, of course, written about this exact feeling. So has this indie dude.


I've mentioned before that we've been watching the first season of Lost. When we notice Hurley on the television in the background of someone else's memory or see Sawyer drinking with Jack's dad in a bar months before they would end up together on the island, it feels like warm, familiar literature. It feels like someone dropping clues that I have to be smart enough to notice. With two pair of eyes, we're better at the noticing.

This type of scouting reminds me of close reading. It reminds me of my freshman year poetry class when I was pissed off at all the people around me who could make sense of the words on the page. Then one day my writing assistant took a few colored markers and showed me how to mark up a poem. "Circle all the verbs," she said, "and underline the words that relate to fire. Then highlight the references to re-birth in blue." Among the incomprehensible, suddenly there was a system to understand. Suddenly I had tools of interpretation, tools that allowed me to find even the most terrible of poetry interesting.

After I read Paradise Lost junior year, I found myself secretly searching for women and apple references, for "downfall" language, for adjectives that related to light. I even purposely slipped some biblical references into a short story I wrote, not because it was about God, but because I wanted to play. I had learned the code and I wanted to use it.


I loved the Harry Potter series so much. A new world, a new code to crack, all beyond the limits of the reality that I knew. Secret platforms and a new history of mankind that had, all this time, been living right alongside the humans. It made me wonder what if! And so what! And how could it be! If J.K. Rowling could present such a rich, compelling world that lived underneath normal society, couldn't something like it somehow truly exist?


I don't know what I believe. I look for signs in coincidences, wonder at the notions of time and space, and miss people when they die. Miss them and wonder if I'm going to know them again.

I remain conscious of the notion that people who look for patterns in numbers are called crazy and people who believe blindly are called faithful. I make friends and boyfriends promise they'll haunt me if they die, promise they'll come back and tell me what it's like. If they can.

I run quickly from the bathroom to bed in the middle of the dark night, avoid staying at my parents' house alone at night if I can. I'm interested in codes, but not at night! Not in the dark! DO NOT revisit me past 6pm, dead people, not unless you're prepared with 911 on speed-dial to call in a heart attack.

A couple of highlighters and maybe some number patterns would do fine, though. I'd like to figure it out myself. I really would.

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