My sister’s house is not haunted.
Colorado is far enough -- missed calls and bad memories
are all that can follow.
My mother says that she doesn’t believe in ghosts.
She sets his mail on the cluttered porch when she goes out at dawn
for her morning smoke.
She leaves the paper and ash to dampen in the elements
and closes the door behind her on the way in, leans on the counter,
repeating the serenity prayer over and over again as if it might banish
the sound of the dripping sink he’d never bothered to fix.
She pretends that she cannot hear his slow footsteps
when he comes to collect the envelopes.
My brother hears things that are no longer there.
Insults hurled like baseballs, the jingle of car keys slammed on the counter,
a voice that stomps like work boots up the stairs
and thumps against his bedroom door, which he now keeps closed
(and sometimes cannot bring himself to open) to shut out these echoes
that should have left with the specter who made them.
My friends swap tales of their sightings.
They let me know when they spot him outside a grocery store,
shuffling through snow,
a glimpse of a gray apparition with my father’s face.
They tell me that he does not recognize them.
They tell me that he spends his time with the same spirits
and in the same dusty old bars as their own ghosts.
My grandmother is a tall tale to me.
I pass her every so often, when I walk my dog
through the cemetery, and my mother tells me that she drowned herself
in alcohol, dead by fifty-four.
That, by the end of my father’s childhood,
she never left her room.
I wonder what he remembers her as.
A crying his father could not hear?
A creaking on the stairs, phantom footsteps behind a locked door?
An apparition with his mother’s face?
I don’t think that ghosts are born from death.
I think that ghosts are created with each missed birthday,
each bout of impatience,
each sunny summer day spent passed out on the couch.
I think they begin when a father drives his newborn daughter
home from the hospital with a hangover
and end when she grows up,
stops listening to ghost stories,
and decides that his tearful nostalgia has just been the wind in the eaves all along.
Melia Lenkner is an emerging writer from rural Pennsylvania whose creative nonfiction work has been published in the literary magazine Pulp. She is a staff member of both the BatCat Press and The Siren, and spends most of her free time bonding with her two dogs.