• "This Is How Mudede Deals With Snow Trouble." Taken by Ashley Siple On The Night of Nov 22, 2010

The streets were empty and the snow was falling. Thick flakes, siphoned out of the night by streetlights, appeared only moments before hitting the ground. Beyond the streetlights, a cold and starless blackness; below them, white and shimmering crystals. This was the snowstorm of 1992. The second hour of the morning was slowly approaching. I was heading home after failing to find a house party. I had the city all to myself. I passed closed bars, abandoned cars, and an emptied metro bus in the middle of the intersection of Pike and Broadway. Time was still. While passing Bonney-Watson Funeral Home, I encountered a ghost.

I noticed it and stopped walking. It did not stop but seemed to pick up its pace. The thing was a ghost to me because of how it almost seemed not to be there, how it seemed to be a trick of light, something the blink of an eye could correct or remove. But no amount of blinking or adjustment in my position made it vanish into the blackness from which it was emerging. Just before entering my circle of light, the thing called my name. And just then I saw that the ghost was in fact someone I knew—Al, an actor from Annex Theater. At the time, he was losing a battle with AIDS and did not have long to live. The illness had reduced his once-heavy body to the bones and brought his brown skin to the brink of paleness.

“Al,” I said to him, with some relief. “You gave me a bit of a fright. I thought you were a ghost.” Al looked at me with a skeletal face and said: “That’s funny, I thought you were a ghost when I first saw you.” We laughed uneasily, shook hands, and parted. He walked into his darkness and I into mine. As the funeral home receded, as the snow continued to fall, as the night became darker and colder, I began to see myself as the one who was mistaken, not Al. He did see a ghost. Indeed, the world that he was departing forever was dematerializing, becoming ghostly. Those who are terminally ill have a better view of life than those in sound health. They see the true thinness of things. They know that all of reality is nothing more than a vibrant void, that everything is virtually nothing. And the more they die, the more they wonder how it is anyone could ever believe in a reality that’s barely there at all?

It’s not surprising that so many ghost stories are about ghosts that have no idea that they are ghosts, that they have died and gone to the other side. These stories are not really about the other side but about this side, the one we are in, and the one that somehow tricks us into believing in ourselves. Al saw a ghost in a city of ghosts.