As I approached the statue, I began to weep. This was surprising.
His story wasn’t particularly bad, for a ghost story. It was deeply tragic, of course – his wife and daughter died simultaneously, he built them a massive mausoleum, moved in across the street, and commissioned a larger than life statue of himself mourning them on the steps of the tomb. But is that objectively worse than caving your own mother’s head in with an axe, another topic that had come up on the road trip? There’s something uncomfortable about visiting the Lizzie Borden house with your own mom.
But here I was, in front of the mausoleum, weeping. I couldn’t figure out why. It felt like a cloud floated around the golden statue, and when I got too close I was swallowed by it. It was like he was a living thing who couldn’t achieve homeostasis and had to pawn off his grief to me to survive.
My father always told me that the worst thing for a parent was to bury their children. Maybe that’s why I stayed with the statue – so I could take as much of his pain as I could, lighten his load. He would have more, of course, more than I could ever bear. The noxious cloud around him would continue to linger. If my father was to mourn me, I hope someone would carry some of his grief, even if the relief was only temporary.
Who can a statue call for help? In the winter, the cemetery caretakers cover him with a blanket, so that his golden coating doesn’t freeze and crack. I imagine the sadness building up under the blanket, trapped close to his body like sweat on a hot day. No one comes to take care of his grief, to sponge off the excess that oozes out of his pores.
I stayed with him until the sun began to set and I had to go, for fear of being caught in the dark driving home. It’s exhausting, to hold other people’s sadness.
Certain paranormal enthusiasts speculate that ghosts are the imprints of strong emotions in time and space. That their grief, fear, heartbreak or happiness can echo backwards and forwards through centuries, grabbing and shaking those native to that time. Did I hear, that day, my father’s grief calling from the future? A different man’s from the past? Something said to me yes, this is what your love would look like, if you could see it from the outside.
Stephanie Grey Glass is a writer, editor, and visual artist. She was recently nominated for a Prism Award for editing Being True, a comic anthology of uplifting LGBTQ stories, and is currently developing a comic book about the ghost of a Catholic schoolgirl. She’s on Twitter and Instagram @stephgreyglass.
Photo by Sergio Rodriguez.