“If you’re a ghost, I’ll kill myself, and we can haunt this house together,” Wei once said to me.

It was his first time over in a couple of months—most nights, we preferred the freedom of his place because I didn’t have to sneak in, and because we could walk around, even microwave leftover chicken tenders, without worrying about making too much noise. He was older, and his family didn’t seem to mind the stranger in their house.

That night, the sky was especially dark. Wei was always jumpy when he came to see me—understandably, because Saratoga was spooky and full of strange silhouettes, made even stranger by unfamiliarity. That night, though, he seemed especially spooked, and when he reached the frame of my window, he whispered, “Why is your city always so dark?”

I’d lived in Saratoga since I was nine years old, so the darkness of the city—how it was hard to tell where the edges of a mailbox melted into night air, where a house was no longer a house—it no longer startled me. But I remembered when I’d first moved here from brightly lit, straight road Morning Glory Lane, and how tightly I’d gripped my mother’s hand as we made our way from our new driveway to our front door because there was a heaviness in the air, a sure presence of an entity or a ghost. It was something about the eerie stillness.

Months later, I remember pulling out of the same driveway and toward Wei’s apartment, half an hour away. He always seemed embarrassed about his smaller apartment and his car, which rumbled loudly when he drove, and whose passenger’s seat door didn’t close properly. I was still a high school student, and going to see him on weeknights felt like a secret life. Sometimes, when I wasn’t careful enough, I would let myself imagine us living in our own apartment, going to our separate jobs in the mornings, and coming back to each other in the evening. Sometimes, when I was even less careful, I would tell him this. And by the way he would respond, with his shy smile and hopeful eyes, I could tell he wanted it too.

Wei pulled himself into the window, and I lifted the swatch from the ground outside and pressed it back into the window frame. I slid the window shut. Even with the blinds open, the room was pitch black except for the occasional splotch of gray in the corners of the room, but I drew the blinds anyway out of habit. As I did, I felt the darkness swallow us. There was something inherent about the quality of that darkness that seemed to erase the walls of the room, that protruded to the outside of the house and into infinity. The only reminder that we were still in my room was the faint blinking of my digital clock.

We crawled into bed together, and he turned his body toward mine and wrapped his arms tightly around me, like he was afraid of something. Finally, he cleared his throat. “I’m scared right now because I can’t see your face,” he said. “What if I turn on the light and you’re not there anymore?”

Wei often said things I did not understand. I snuggled closer to him, a new light flickering on and off in my head. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” he said, and suddenly, his voice sounded so uncertain. “What if you’re a ghost?”

“What if I am a ghost?” I repeated, waiting for him to go on. A cruel part of me liked an uncertain Wei—I had been uncertain for so long in this relationship that it felt good to not be on that side for once. I felt like I had entered a dream: I knew how we were talking was bizarre, yet it didn’t feel out of place. I let myself melt into this new reality until my senses could no longer distinguish between what made sense and what didn’t.

“Are you admitting that you are?” he asked softly. His hand loosened on my torso like he was preparing himself for something.

“No, but what if I was?” I asked in a way that made the situation sound more than hypothetical, more than a surreal dream. I wanted suddenly, desperately, to understand this paradigm of his, one whose nature I might’ve understood fully if I were younger, if I were still a child.

“If you were, then I would kill myself,” he replied in a mix of pain and feigned nonchalance. “It would mean that these last nine months have been nothing.”

There was a danger, a toxicity to those words, but in the moment, I didn’t care. Accepting them as truth meant denying that there was a place where mailbox melted into night air, where a house was no longer a house, where boundlessness still had a boundary it wasn’t allowed to cross. Where we couldn’t haunt this house together, not now, and not ever. I let myself sink into the words, dissolve into a paradigm whose ending I could already see. I still hadn’t quite thought about what would happen when I left for school—I knew he would hate seeing me living a life without him. Little did I know. I reached for the desk lamp and turned on the light.


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