4. Ghost

I walk through the shadows of this month and I am a ghost. Soft spirals of cat hair and sunlight pass through me as I pad, barefoot, down carpeted dune to an island of couch and an ocean of background noise. Muted acceleration of cars on Stirling Highway and an alarm clock seagull welcome me back in to their idle tides.

Where have I been all this time. Four weeks since you have felt my embrace sweet settee, I have been cheating on you with ergonomically superior office furniture. It’s not you, I only did it for the money. It was posture prostitution – selling my values for a regular pay check and correct spinal alignment. I’m sorry kitchen table – I’ve been dancing with a desk. He’s only pressboard and tin though. I need you now, buoyant birch veneer. Catch all kitchen table, can you catch me as I drift by?

Shucked from my temporary Target-branded workwear shell, I am a polyester-free mollusc. I tread limp and alienated in a flat that once smelled of my acrid, unwashed armpits and my partner’s perfume of wholesome toothpaste and worn leather. All I can smell is freesias now, blooming in the lane, and the peat of tossed beer cans leaking in the rain. Unfamiliar winter in a metropolitan cupboard – a pressed hand against the window makes me think of glass-door fridges at the deli as a kid. Damn I want a choc chill.

I am no longer a choc chill woman.

The undertow takes me to the empty kitchen, his plate of poached egg remnants reminding me that he left me before I was up. He was pulling on an unironed shirt and tie, preparing for the common colosseum of his 9-5, while I was clinging to the sheets like the back end of a hermit crab. Feeble enough to hold the covers around myself as the sea swirled above, but without the energy to say goodbye.

I am sorry I had no time for poached eggs or mi goreng – I became an automaton of frozen dinners and expensive café baguettes. Seduced by steady income and frivolous conversation with people smugly safe in their career prospects. Back in reality I am scared, treading water again without him.

How to wade through the ocean that grew between us? Drifting away on an iceberg lettuce set free by the global warming of a hundred Nespresso coffees. I can’t make a raft of Ristretto pods, I can’t reach him with a Caesar chicken club sandwich. I watched him stay up at night working to the early hours of the morning while I tucked in early to fortify myself for the early morning commute. His desk lamp a lighthouse in a storm of stress.

I tiptoe away, Coles sachet coffee my life raft, trailing my hand across the kitchen table rubble. The rain has stopped. Checking my phone, is there another temporary lure from this calm sea? Could I face it again – slipping into sling-back shoes and placing my morals on hold. Letting my lover, my creativity slip further away? No. I will be no ghost – I will be the albatross.

Words by Caz Stafford, illustration by Ruby Mae Mckenna

‘I Am In Your House’ is a collaborative story by the creative writers of Pelican. It is published in weekly installments, every Sunday. Read more ‘I Am In Your House’ here

If you would like to contribute, either as a writer or illustrator to ‘I Am In Your House’ contact the web editor (pelicanwebeditor@gmail.com).