Choose your ghost. Watch it grow to fill your entire computer screen like a virus. It doesn’t stop although you complain to Ancestry.com and demand your money back. The ghost fills countless web browsers and guzzles hours of your time. Always wonder if this is some big joke that you’re not seeing. Find yourself mid-flight to Savannah, a place you never considered going but like the idea of. Let it charm you while you suspect it of some malfeasance. Take a haunted pub tour and drink every drink that the tour guide suggests so that by night’s end you’re a swashing bucket of booze. Wake up the next day earlier than your hangover would like. Check the directions on your phone. Get the rental car from the parking garage across the street. Sigh quietly when you see that the car is still there and not towed or vandalized or ticketed. Drive timidly yet anxiously; brake with too much conviction and accelerate as though moving through thick fog. Once you hit the interstate try to shave off as many minutes of travel as you can by going exactly seven miles above the speed limit. It gets hotter as you drive further—the temperature reader in the car tells you so. Arrive at the island. People eat lunch on a patio in deck chairs like it’s not a Thursday afternoon. Realize it’s not Thursday but Friday. Think of what you’d be doing if you’d stayed home instead.
No longer confined to image results on your iPhone’s cracked screen, they become real in the graveyard. They are alive to you now, but they die just as suddenly—like the way a magnolia’s petals bruise before they’ve fallen from the branch. Each of your new family members lies at your feet. Steel yourself for first contact. Brush the grave markers of twigs and dried leaves. Admire the long polished slabs your family could afford. Touch the stone but notice how nothing happens. Gather the fallen flowers for the grave of who would have been your grandmother. They have a beautiful parcel of land in a beautiful and quiet cemetery. Pity the relatives you did know: the ones who watched you play lazy middle-school basketball, or cleaned up the spot of carpet where you’d gotten sick. Those people don’t have land like this. They all choose to burn themselves (another type of ghost story). The familiar relatives only have the real estate of your memories, so fix it up for them. Brush the debris from their faces, erase the times they swore at you or when they got too drunk to stand up from their recliners. Instead place crowns of decayed flowers on their heads. Love them just a little further.
Ponder the alcove that doesn’t share your last name in this remote southern cemetery. Turn to leave with the sunlight at your back. Feel their spirit in the air, the ground, the flowers. Wonder if you will see them again.
KENDALL LANE is a writer and competitive cyclist from Duluth, Minnesota. Her work has appeared in Tin House and Pamplemousse. She received the Charles M. Hart, Jr. Writer of Promise Award and interned at both Paris Review and BOMB Magazine. If she’s not writing, she’s riding in Central Park.