The lonely ghost

In the year 2006, I did not drive.

I walked and took public transportation everywhere I needed to go. I was fond of walking to a popular restaurant nearby which sat in an outdoor shopping center. The design of the restaurant was such that it was shaped like a crescent and most of the tables sat next to windows, so everyone had a view while eating. Some of the tables had a view of the street, while another bank of booths had a view of the shopping center and parking lot.

Once, I was seated at one of these tables. The shopping center was clearly visible to me. However, the restaurant’s layout also dictated that once you were seated, you had walked a fair curved distance from the entrance. To get to the tables meant you were deeply ensconced in the guts of the restaurant. The entrance was quite a ways off. Yet, you still found you could look out at the parking lot which was very close by, but you had no sense of immediacy because of your physical seclusion from the restaurant’s exterior.

This particular evening I had walked to the restaurant after work. As I sat at a booth that allowed me to view all the pedestrian traffic and storefronts, I was startled to see my son walking. Soon I saw his mother as they both entered a video rental store. We had been divorced a couple of years at most, and my son was still quite young, so on days I didn’t have him I still called each night to say hi and see how his day had gone. There was that fresh parental bond that was not quite severed, even after 2 years of divorce. I watched as they both entered the video store, oblivious to the fact I was sitting in the restaurant, not a great physical distance away, but still removed and isolated behind the windows and out of convenient reach due to the curvature of the restaurant. My initial instinct was to yell, to wave, but that would be silly. They had no idea I was watching them and I felt strange at that moment for I felt so close to them, but so uselessly distant. It’s a dreadful sensation to be within the circle of those you hold dear, but still excised from the flesh, like a random chunk of meat droplet that sits in an aluminum tub, part of, but not part of. That’s how I felt.

It was a sad feeling. It was like a longing, a faint despair. That you can see someone’s life in progress but you’re helpless to join or influence it. This is one of the most fearsome sentences a man can live. I wonder if that’s how ghosts feel? They wander amid the living but cannot join the living. What use is there in being part of a life that you cannot interact with?

I felt like I was doing something wrong by watching my son but not talking to him or letting him know I was here. I almost picked up my cell phone to call them and tell him I was right across the parking lot, over here, see me, waving…?

Of course I stopped myself from doing this because the trademark of sanity is recognizing when your behavior threatens to spill over into insanity. Running out the restaurant and yelling at them would be equally bizarre. Part of the process of divorce (if you’re human) is the separation, the process of extricating yourself from a former life. For me, on this evening, it meant seeing my son and his mom (by the way, I was the primary cause of the divorce) was an odd detour, a disconnected third-person revelation that demonstrated just how my life was slowly separating from their’s. Many times, people do not realize this forgotten aspect of divorce, until they are. No longer being a part of the family dynamic means there is a greater chunk of life that you simply don’t see and are no longer a part of. There is a sub-layer of existence that you can only witness from afar and it never strikes you until you in fact do witness it…from afar. And like a lonely ghost, you reach out to shape and mold life into a single, recognizable unit that can never be again.

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  • jynxi


    • David

      I like that “smiley” … this was more pensive than depressive in my mind. It might have come across as sorta bleak, huh?

  • Great writing. I get where you’re coming from.

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  • Wow. Harsh, dude.

    Here’s a song, that won’t make you feel better. ;)

    But it seems appropriate, all the same.

    Wintersleep – Weighty Ghost

    I got out of bed today, Swear to God I couldnt see my face
    I got out of bed today staring at a ghost
    Who forgot to float away, didnt have all that much to say
    Wouldnt even tell me his own name
    Where’d my body go

    Where oh where’d my body go?
    Africa or Mexico?
    Where or where’d my body go?
    Where’d my body go?

    Have you seen my ghost?
    Staring at the ground?
    Have you seen my ghost?
    Sick of those goddamn clouds

    Are you some kind of medicine man?
    Cut the demons out of my head
    You cant kill something thats already dead
    Just leave my soul alone
    I dont need no surgery
    Take those knives away from me
    Just wanna die in my own body
    A ghost just needs a home

    • Amy

      This song is in the “25 Most Played” on my iPod.

      • It’s a good song, I like it.

      • David

        Yes, I like the poetry of the lyrics.

  • BTW, is this restaurant any good? Always looking for new places around town!

  • Ahh, you ARE a big softie after all!
    But it is interesting your comment about thia:

    That you can see someone’s life in progress but you’re helpless to join or influence it.

    Well, I think sometimes that about my stepson.
    I entered his life right before he entered high school. I like to think that I have had some influence on him. Alas, I cringe at the thought, more than anything, he is a. . .I can barely write this. . .a. . .D. . .Democrat!
    While clearly he is naive about the world around him, I like to think that I have been as good a dad as I can be. He is not my biological son. But I feel as he is. And I do know he thinks of me as such even though he does not call me dad.
    What a sickening post!
    And makes me all, what is the word, well, I am sure you have a thought!

    • Amy

      I’ll take a stab at it:

      Weltschmerz–“The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances.” –Wikipedia

      Oh no. No no no. I just realized how much that sounded like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory:

      Sheldon: …the Germans have a term for what you’re feeling. Weltschmerz. It means the depression that arises from comparing the world as it is to a hypothetical, idealized world.

      Leonard: You’re right, I do feel better. [sarcasm]

      Sheldon: Well, the Germans have always been a comforting people. Just remember, Leonard, where your biological family has failed you, you always have me, your surrogate family.

      Leonard: You’re my surrogate family?

      Sheldon: If it’s any consolation, I’m not happy about it either. Good night.

      • I hate to say it, but that is a bit too deep for me!
        I am just disapointed that my son is a Democrat. Now I know the pain I have caused my family :-)!
        I am the ONLY Republican, living or dead, in my family. I kid you not. My mom, God rest her soul, always would tell me about her dad and growing up in Maine. At that time the Republicans ran everything. And my grandfather was a Roosevelt Democrat.
        When she would rhetorically ask how I could be a Republican, I would tell her that my grandfather is rolling over in his grave and that he would probably be a Republican today ;-)! End of THAT discussion. LOL!

        • Amy

          My parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, were Republicans. Dad became an Independent when he was in his fifties; he thought the Republicans had developed a nasty streak. I’m an Independent, my sister’s a Democrat but not enthusiastic about them, cousins are both enthusiastic and involved Democrats, so there’s a generation gap in our family. My folks never took my political views to heart, but were disappointed that I left the Christian Science church. When Mom took the issue up with me, I would counter with Bible verses, which likewise had the effect of ending the discussion.

          • David

            I’m opting out of the electoral process. I’ve been considering this a lot.

          • Then ye CAN’T complain about what happens. You see, this is what they want. Fewer and fewer people to care enough to vote. Thus, they can get away with their BS. BTW, do you know how many people voted in the City of Bell to make it a charter city and spin that web of corruption? LESS than 500 people. Those people caused a lot of pain and trouble. But you see, they can say “The people have spoken”. What we need is more INFORMED voters. Even though you are often times nearing Crazyland, we still need you to be PART of, not disconnect.

          • David

            I envision my no-voting gesture as a proactive, aggressive action. “Opting out” was a very inaccurate summation of my motivations. I’m still thinking this through.

          • Well, think about my tale of what happened in the City of Bell. If more people had voted, maybe the events that took place would not have. As fewer people participate in the process, all the politicians think that nobody cares and they can do whatever the hell they want. It is the only way we can hold them accountable. It is their employment review, so to speak. The wife thinks her not being a Republican sends a message. No, it doesn’t. However, I am begining to think that the best for California is NOT registering in a political party. Many states have that and it seems to work. I am still thinking that one through. But again, if you don’t vote, don’t complain.