I am ten and nobody ever talks about my uncle even though we live in the same house. We are all in my grandparents’ house, just another borrowed place in the long line of places I will live in and leave, and my uncle’s door is just across the hall from mine. Sometimes I think he is a ghost, the way he opens his door only a few inches, just enough room for a skeptical eye, the way his bathrobe sways phantasmic, the way he haunts the halls at night, how he talks and talks and talks to no one.
So in my mind he is Uncle Ghost and he communicates through radio static, he punctuates his mutters with occasional shouts, he is fluent in the language of classical music at a low hum. He watches everyone from the corner of one eye and sometimes our eyes meet for only a second and when that happens he stares through me at the same time I see past him to the maps that paper the walls of his room, only for a second. I think if I had a Ouija board we could talk; I would let my fingers hover just above the planchette and Uncle Ghost would move it with his mind all the way from the other room. They explain it like this: he hears voices, he sees things that aren’t there. I imagine his head is a box of spiders and I think he must imagine I am a government spy. But sometimes when our eyes meet I smile and sometimes he does too. And when this happens I wonder if anyone else can see the things I am seeing, if they can sense his phantom form.
He knows I love Paris. I imagine he knows this because he keeps his ear pressed to the door and writes down every whisper he hears because he is always waiting for spies. But really he probably knows because I'm ten and when I do talk, Paris is all I talk about. This is because at this exact moment, Paris is the farthest place I can think of and it's a place I know that if I could only get there I would be happy and entirely unlike myself; how I lose myself in the dream of being unrecognizable. On one of his good days, Uncle Ghost emerges from his room and doesn't speak in radio clicks but in words and gentle movements. He hands me a hardcover book with the word PARIS (in bold and all capitals) written across the front and he tells me he's been there. He tells me to please give the book back when I’m done.
Years later when he dies he is alone, far from the room that was once his, the room wrapped in maps. Even when he dies, still no one talks about him and all I can think of is Ouija boards. I think of lit candles in dark rooms. I think of maps; ones that lead to the childhood memories that fall between sidewalk cracks, maps of Paris catacombs, maps that unravel the dreams of spiders. And if I could, I would tell him that he wasn't being watched and he could turn the radio off because no one was watching, no one ever talked about him. I would tell him that still, even now, no one talks about him.
Laura Seldner is an emerging writer and poet. Originally from New Jersey, she is a graduate of Rutgers University and has had a range of jobs including delivery driver, bartender, and translator. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in No Tokens, Lunch Ticket, Dark Mountain, Olney Magazine, Second Chance Lit, and elsewhere. Currently, her work is nominated for Best of the Net. She can be found @LauraSeldner.