I used to be afraid that people would see your ghost - that when I spoke, they could smell your breath on my lips. Or when they hugged me goodbye, they would feel like I have already done it a thousand times. Or when I walked, they could see how our memories weighed my ankles down, and they would wonder to themselves how mist could seem so heavy.
But when I became less afraid, I would say, "Can you see it?" And sometimes they would nod and tell me that everything will be okay. And sometimes they would say, "See what?" I would reply, "Let me show you."
I would let them dust my hands for your fingerprints. I would show them the scars from the times I tried to rip you out from under my skin. I would show you the places you can see my rib cage from when I ate misery and sadness instead of dinner. I would tell them about how you are 6 feet tall, but your ghost always seemed bigger.
One day as I was leaving my house, I turned around and said to you, "You are not coming with me. Not today," and you did not follow me. I did not see you standing on street corners. I did not taste you in my coffee. I did not hear you in my laugh. I did not smell you in the rain. You kept your word and you did not follow me.
But when I came home, you were sitting on my bedroom floor, building model ships out of book pages and love songs. When I turned off the lights, you crawled into bed with me, and I swore that when I closed my eyes, I could feel your chest rise and fall (even though I know that ghosts don't breathe).
But you, the real you, are more than what I have constructed out of fragmented images behind my eyelids. You are more than sad poems and pictures I refuse to delete. You are not a carbon copy made of apologies and shame. You are not the same person as your ghost. You are bigger than your ghost, because real people grow and love and forgive. Real people eventually learn that love never leaves. They are not made of mist and dust. They are made of flesh and oxygen. Real people breathe.
I wish I could tell you these things in person. But I spend my nights whispering them under the covers instead.