An Undying Affliction

September 27, 2023

Her nose has a bump in the middle, making an attractive sloping shape that I found unique when I first saw it. Her skin is freckled with little red spots that she touches self-consciously. I wish I could reach out, take her hand from her face so she knew they didn’t matter. Her hair is thin, so thin it looks almost see-through from certain angles, like stained glass. Her ears poke out of it too, which I think is the cutest thing. She often will spin around in her mirror in the morning, commenting on herself about how her arms are too long, and her legs are too short. I want to yell at her, “Can’t you see how perfect you are?”

She’s so beautiful. At night, before she goes to bed, she goes outside and feeds the stray neighborhood cat that her parents refused to let her take in. She gives him two cans of wet food and brushes him with something thick and wirey that always does a good job of combing out his fleas. Then she lets him sit on her lap for a while, even if it’s during the winter and she’s cold, just to give him some of her body heat.

On weekends, she takes her old neighbor, Mr. Thomson, to the grocery store. He can’t drive on his own, and when he originally asked her if he could pay her to take him, she insisted that spending time with him was payment enough. Every Saturday, after they go shopping, she takes him to his favorite malt shop down the street that he and his wife used to go to when she was alive. I never got to see that part, of course, but I hear about it when she tells her parents.

But, she has her imperfections just like everyone does. Sometimes she laughs a bit too loud, but I wish she were even louder. And sometimes she cheats on her homework, biting her lip and scrunching her nose as she scours some website, but I think it’s adorable when she smiles to herself after finding the answer as if she won some important game.

When she first moved into this house three years ago, I knew I was in love with her. And as the years passed, and I learned more and more about her, my love became loud. So loud, that to me, it was deafening. So loud, that I could focus on nothing else. So loud, sometimes I wondered if she could hear it.

I’ve tried to touch her before. It took me so long to work up the courage to do it. I was scared of both possibilities that could come from it. The first being that she wouldn’t feel it at all. She wouldn’t react. She wouldn’t know I had ever touched her in the first place. And the second, being that she would.

It ended up being the first. And it broke me so much that I never tried again. So I force myself to be content — or as content as I can be — with just being in her presence. One day, though, I will see her move out of this house. One day, I will see her only once a month, then only once every few months as she gets more comfortable not coming home as often. One day, she will bring someone home to meet her parents, and her mother will hug him tightly, and her father will clap him on the shoulder, smiling, telling him how happy he is that his daughter has found someone like him. One day, she’ll have a swollen stomach, and one day soon after that, her stomach will have receded, and she will be holding the hand of a tiny human who shares her eyes and smile.

I was okay with my death before her. It happened so long ago, and I had accepted it. She is the only thing that has ever made me wish I were still alive, or that I could move on to whatever’s next, so that I didn’t feel the pain of having to see her live without knowing I exist.

But instead, I sit. I watch. I cry. I laugh. I feel her pain when she’s upset, and I share in her happiness when she’s excited.

And that’s what I’ll do. What I’ll always do. Be there for her, even if she doesn’t know I’m there, or that I exist at all.

That is until she leaves, and she’s the one who becomes the ghost.

Danielle Koziol has been an avid writer since she could hold a pencil. Currently, she’s 19 years old and aiming to traditionally publish her work in progress, a new adult romantasy novel, Wings of Ash and Ember. In addition, she’s presently pursuing a public relations and creative writing degree at university. When Danielle isn’t writing, she’s drinking chai, attending classes, reading fantasy or romance books, or spending time with her dog Ruby. To follow her writing and publishing journey, and to learn more about her book, follow her on Instagram and TikTok at @AuthorDanielleKoziol.

Featured image by Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash