Ghost Clothes

by Eric Howerton

We started wearing ghosts for clothes in January. After everything that had happened it seemed fitting to start the new year wrapped in the dead. So we wore ghosts for scarves. They became our boots, our gloves, our anoraks. They became our everything, and we remembered them because they were impossible to forget.

We wore ghosts for clothes all through the winter even though they were thin and wearing them offered little protection from the elements. We shivered night and day, but, we told ourselves, it's better to remember and shake in the breeze than to forget and be warm and smiling falsely.

In the end the ghosts left us, not us them. After wearing ghost clothes for nearly a year we would never do that. We were cold with the ghosts, even in the summer sun, but we loved them in ways that fed us, and being fed we grew fat, and being fat we were warmed. They warmed us in strange and inexplicable ways. Then again, maybe the ways were not inexplicable so much as they required lengthy explanations, and if the ghosts taught us anything it's that we have precious little time, precious little time left, to waste explaining at greater and greater lengths all the things that can be suitably called inexplicable and left at that. But what's important is that one day the ghosts were our clothes and the next day they were gone. They left us pink and naked and searching. They left us without belts and without caps. They left us without pants. We sought out our pants as though searching for memories of the past, and so the past became our futures, and our futures, full of memories of our pants, became the relics of the past. And there we were, without pasts and without pants, waiting for something to happen, waiting for something we didn't know..

Maybe we had it all wrong, I overhear someone say as I sip my coffee. (I'm wearing a plaid shirt with opalescent buttons, denim jeans, black work boots, and wool socks.) Maybe we were their clothes. Maybe that's the way ghosts work: they wear their clothes on the inside, opposite us, and so the living are the ghosts of what we the living think are the ghosts of those who lived among us. Haunting, then, becomes an ocean with not one current but two: one that rushes toward land and another that rushes out to sea. The direction of the current only ever depends on which way you're facing, because if you head toward and cross over land long enough you'll find water again, and if sail over enough water, you'll eventually hit upon land..

So maybe we are the ghosts, I think to myself, zipping up my jacket to fend off the breeze. Maybe that's who we've always been. Maybe that's all we'll ever be..

Eric Howerton is currently a PhD student in Fiction at the University of Houston.