My house is haunted by a little girl,
a waist-length tangle of brown hair,
and wide eyes the colour of an angry ocean.
Her mother tells stories about those eyes:
lids thrown like blinds from the moment
she was born, greedy for light and life,
tricking the nurses into adding hours to her age.
I feel those eyes upon me a lot these days.
No one else knows that she is here,
but in those rare twilight moments
when I am permitted my own company
she follows me with questions:
Where am I? she asks me,
and: tell me a story,
and: remember when?
I don't know, I tell her,
and: I don't know any,
and: not anymore.
Then she clenches her fists, her tiny body
rocking with disappointment and rage.
You lost me, she accuses.
Maybe, I say.
Bring me home, she pleads.
How? I ask, even though I know
the steps to this waltz,
can see the circles worn into the floorboards
and feel them in the soles of my feet.
Open your eyes, she says.
Where is your wonder? Your awe?
I gave them away, I tell her.
So find more.
I shake my head.
Open your eyes.
They are open! But all I can see
is pain and fear and suffering and
emptiness and death.
Open them wider.
It hurts. They cannot open as wide as yours.
I am not.
Tell me a story.
My eyes flicker to the bookshelf
and the books I can no longer open.
To long-expired daydreams left
to curdle and rot.
How do I tell the girl who loved
nothing more than stories
that I am too afraid to navigate them?
Be brave, she says, but she has never
choked on the words of a page,
never drowned in the images of a screen.
She has yet to learn that she is not the hero.
That sometimes the hero leaves people behind.
That you don't know until you turn the page
who will be lost and who will be left
to mourn them.
And so she can't understand
why I cannot
Please, she begs.
Please, I echo.
My house is haunted by a little girl
whose greedy eyes,
wide and angry like the ocean,
devoured so much
she forgot how to close them,
and became a woman who could only