Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison Read Online (FREE)
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Think about a moment, a little centimeter of time you’d happily exist in forever, if time could be laid out along the spine of a ruler. Maybe it haunts you in that blue inch of half consciousness just before you’re fully awake.
Here is mine: Miami, me and Stern. One week before I was supposed to go back to art school.
If I could stay there, in that moment before everything changed, I would stay there forever.
I’d see him standing before me, spun out, golden, suspended in light that looks like honey. The thick black curls of his hair, how wide his eyes get, blazing electric in the sun. The slender gap between his front teeth he always tries to hide with his hands when he smiles.
We’d be in the old shed behind Oh Susannah, the bright purple house my parents built before I was born. Stern named the house when he was four years old—the year he began taking piano lessons with my mom. It’s the first song Mom taught him to play when he was a Tiny. He came to associate the house with the song.
Oh Susannah, don’t you cry for me. He sings it as soon as the house comes into view. I hear him singing it, and I see him approach.
And right there, I’d press the freeze button.
His smile would be spread across his whole damn god-awful glorious face. Silence. Nothing would have begun yet, nothing would have begun to end. Freeze.
I could stand here at the door to the splintery shed with that vibration of anticipation between us, staring at his god-awful glorious face forever. And we would never have to do anything but this.
And we would never have to change.
And he would never have to go away.
But only because there is no other way to tell this story.
“It’s too hot for manual labor, Liv,” Stern complains, as we lift a giant painting I made over the summer—a seascape, the sky bleeding aqua into the deep green waves—from a fat stack of other paintings inside the little storage shed behind Oh Susannah. My best friend’s voice is husky and smooth, not like it was when we were kids.
He heaves the canvas above his head, while I stoop to the dusty ground and lift a different painting—blackbirds, nestled between the thick leaves of palm trees. Stern and I both pause in the dark of the shed, still not willing to move back out under the sun. The cotton of my tank top sticks to every inch of my skin.
I notice the way Stern’s muscles twitch as he shifts his grip on the canvas, and I realize I’m twitching, too, just looking at him. And this scares me a little bit, but also thrills me.
“We’d better move now,” Stern says, tapping his big, neon Nike sandal-clad foot against the concrete floor of the shed. A cloud of dust rises. My eyes water. “Or we’re going to die like this.”