I woke up with a frantic need to find a poem I had seen projected onto the old Roman wall in Canterbury, England almost five years ago. I had seen it there in white lettering on a late October night, after the high street shops had closed and the day’s tourists had retreated to their bed and breakfasts and I was walking back to campus, enjoying the echoing sounds of the town troubadour singing love songs in the square. And then there was you.
That was the last line of the poem. It resonated with me so much that I would recall it upon occasion for the next five years. And then there was you. It’s not a line to live by, not a distinctly insightful reflection about the condition of being human. Or perhaps it is.
I can’t sleep very well lately because I am haunted by ghosts of myself. They are discontented specters, betrayed by time, betrayed by me. They beg me, “What have you done?” They cry, “You are not who I thought I would be.”
Walking through Washington Square Park one night, I told a ghost, “Time moves on and I made choices. I’m not saying they were right. I don’t want to think about that.”
A rat scuttled in the bushes. My ghost murmured, “Nothing’s changed.”
Nothing changed even though everything did. The heart remains unaltered. I don’t go there because it would betray me to my present. But there it is.
“I think I might believe in God,” my ghost confided.
“Well, you know me,” I replied, “I consider myself agnostic. Most days I don’t think there’s a God, but I’d like to be proven wrong.” I shivered in the cold and then added, “But really I think there must be something more, otherwise how do we live with ourselves if this is it.”
A rat ran across our path. “Must be the same rat we heard earlier,” my ghost remarked.
“Mhmmm. So you know moral relativism?”
“Yeah sure,” my ghost nodded.
“Well sometimes what is good to do and what is right to do are different things.”
“So, I don’t know… I’m just elevating a real problem to philosophical idea. I’m more comfortable with ideas.”
“Me too,” said my ghost.
I the early morning hours I lay awake in bed, wishing I’d had the courage to tell my ghost how I felt. I think maybe what haunts us is a reminder of who are supposed to be. There is no right and wrong in matters of the heart, only choices and what happens next. And then there was you.