Each day that summer as I walked home from concentrated classes at the University (Early Modern Philosophy: Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Hume, Berkeley all in six weeks), I would wave to an old woman who sat on the porch of her disheveled house drinking coffee, I assumed. Each day for a couple of seconds, we would affirm each other’s existence in the other’s life. One day she called out to me, she wanted my help with something. I hesitated — for I had places to go, people to meet all afternoon. I was afraid she would take more time than I had to give. After I negotiated her neglected front lawn, she held out an old alarm clock, “It’s broken,” she said, “I don’t know what the time is anymore.” I took the clock from her crumpled hands, turned the key a few times, and it started to tick loudly. She thanked me, and I went on my way. The next day and the day after that for the rest of the summer, I never saw her again. Although, now and then, for the last forty years, I think of her, her clock, and the time she took that day.
The ghosts enter my dreams again. They dislike the arrangement of the furniture. So, they move the leather couch to the opposite wall, reset the clock, close all the doors, open all the windows, letting bugs get in, and finally turn off all the lights except the one over the kitchen table, which glows eerily as if in a noir movie from the 1950’s. I have to admit the new arrangement of the room makes for a better flow overall, yet something is still wrong. Although I see all of this, I am not there. I am somewhere else, disconnected from my life like a mirror. I try to speak, but the words come out backwards, the syntax jumbled and slurred. The ghosts look perplexed, but as an act of condescension, they don’t pay any attention to me. They serve themselves tea from a fine china teapot into matching china cups. They speak to each other nonchalantly, about memories I recognize as mine, but do not recall well enough to contradict the revisions they are making. After I wake, and then through the rest of the day as I wonder about the house, I pick up scraps of what was said, and try ineffectually to sew my desires back together as if they were a patch work quilt collectively stitched on a Sunday afternoon over gossip and prayers. Yet, something is missing: I think it might be me.