Fiction from M. P. McCune
Most of the living ignore the sheer volume of those who preceded them the way city dwellers never look up at the skyscrapers surrounding them, because it would make them feel small by comparison. But she feels the weight of the dead everywhere.
She started haunting them by accident when she was a young girl. She didn’t realize reciting one of Yeats’ poems pulled him back to earth, or that Chopin felt her fingers walking over his grave every time she played a nocturne. But even once she knew, she couldn’t stop.
She follows the trail of the dead wherever she finds it: the little bits and pieces of themselves they left behind. Pressed flowers in a family Bible. Photos at flea markets with inscriptions on the back. Notes written in an old book. Their graves.
As soon as she enters the cemetery, the silence rushes up to greet her. It lifts her up and sets her back down gently, like an ocean wave. Her feet barely make a sound on the grass and the dirt paths. The tombstones she passes lean forward or to the side, stretching themselves after sitting still too long. She almost never meets anyone there. The cemetery closed to new burials decades ago, the graves abandoned when families moved away or died out.
She worries about the dead. She thinks they must have a hard time holding onto memories of life. She has no desire to call them back to life, she just wants to remind them it exists.
Sometimes, she peels an orange. Other times, she leaves them notes:
……….“You were a beloved father.”
……….“You were a dear wife.”
She writes the messages on scraps of paper and wraps them tightly around sticks. She ties them on with bits of thread and leaves them on the graves, fluffing the grass around them so they won’t stand out. She doesn’t want anyone else to find them and read them—they are personal.
She never visits her own dead; they haven’t had time to forget life. She’s afraid they’ll crawl inside her to fill the empty spaces they left behind.
But sometimes she can’t help it, she haunts even them. She goes to a Chinese restaurant and orders her mother’s favorite dish. The steam rises from the plate, a ghost messenger carrying a scent, dematerializing as the food cools, untouched.
She cracks open the fortune cookie.
“You are extremely loved. Don’t worry.”
M. P. McCune lives and writes in New York City. Her flash fiction and creative nonfiction pieces have appeared in We’ll Never Have Paris, Gravel, Former Cactus and The Ginger Collect. She frequents Twitter @MPMcCune2.