“What’s it feel like?” I ask.
But then she sighs and I immediately wish I hadn’t.
“It doesn’t,” she says.
The words cut me because I know. I know how to be in that dead numb place. But she doesn’t. She never has. Suddenly the grief in her voice is a tangible thing, pressed between us, carving a permanent place there. I reach for her.
“Can you feel this?” I say.
She watches my hands, fingers crawling to the soft skin along her wrist. My thumb settles there, but there’s no soft thrum, the dribble of her pulse falling silent against my skin.
“No,” she breathes, the words catching. “I don’t know how long I’ll be like this,” she says, facing me. “I’m not supposed to be here. I can feel it. That’s the only thing I can feel.”
And I feel it too. Her impermanence. It’s the only thing that makes her a ghost. The stiff edge of the map slides past my arm as she pulls it into her lap again. She stares at it, eyes swelling and frantic as they mull over every faint line and every hour spent in that dusty library and then her face is flushed, her eyes red and waiting for tears. But they don’t come.
“I won’t see any of this.”
She says the words I’ve been dreading. Not that she’s dead, not even that we can’t be together. But that she still wants this life. That she still wants anything at all and I can’t give any of it to her.
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