where I find myself writing about this city again, and the ghost heart.
There are ghosts here.
A girl I met a couple of weeks ago in another city looked at me
when I told her where I came from, and said,
“That town is haunted,” knowing, after only having been here once, for a couple of days.
That’s when I told her that I’m writing this place in ghost stories, or
trying to scrape back the flesh and get at the essence.
Haunted is probably right.
(When I was a much younger girl I went about ten times a year to the house of a woman who was my grandmother then. The house was square and white with intricate cast iron grates over the windows and the glass in the front door. It sat facing our own house, across two streets lined with trees and old Dutch Colonials. When I visited her, I would walk up the steps to the back door and in through the kitchen, which was cramped with very high ceilings, venus flytraps growing top-heavy and luscious jungle vines climbing out of their pots and up the red walls. I only went upstairs once, when I came through the back door and found the kitchen empty save the breathing, twisting plants. The stairway from the kitchen to the second floor had been designed for the use of slaves and later servants and it was very narrow and tall. I was twelve years old and bumped my shoulders on each wall while climbing the stairs. The boards groaned, uneven, under my feet. I stopped near the top to listen for movement in the bedroom or bathroom, any sign of life. As I stood breathing in the darkness, I could hear my own heart beating. Thump-thump in the stillness. It sounded like it was leaping out of my body. I listened, holding my breath. I could feel my heart in my chest, out of rhythm with the sound but hurrying to catch up. I felt my body slow to match the muffled beat. Thump-thump. Outside of me. I could barely see my feet on the steps below me in the dim light. I dropped to my hands and knees quietly. Listening. THUMP-THUMP beside my left cheek, inside the little rectangular box formed by the second-to-last stair. I stared, frozen by the terrible urge to reach out my hand, to see whether the boards would lift up if pushed, to see if they might reveal the heart.)