Ghost Hearts

I was on my second solo-weekend in the Bigger City as per the new ‘rules’ in Jon’s and my marriage. I was beginning to regret it, though.

I felt good about it – no doubt! – but the goodness – like the food and wine – and even the freedom to think, all of which I had yearned for … it was as if something still didn’t click, still didn’t feel enough.

And for that reason alone I was spending this evening alone with a bottle of white wine, counting the lights on the Strip outside the hotel room window.

When I could have been anywhere else, with anybody else.

When the hell am I going to be satisfied?

I chuckle, at myself, when I become aware that I’m bitching about this … but there is no joy in any sounds I can make right now. Laughter, chuckling, or just being silent. It is all as if a cold, empty feeling is growing and infects all of me, and all the sound I am able to make or not make.

And the worst is that if only I could say with definiteness that there was NO goodness or NO good food or good wine (all which was a damn unselfish gift from Jon combined with hours of my own slaving in order to save for it) …

If only I could say that I had found out that I hated the freedom and the long hours of uneasiness when I suddenly become aware that I have full control over my own thoughts. I don’t have to distract myself, to be or do something for someone else – to make the family hold together or to hold myself together at work. I am… free.

If only I could say I had not been able to handle that …

But no. Everything is perfect. Really. Goddamn perfect.


So what has crept up on me? What has gently pushed my attention towards some misty darkness between the lights of the Strip, something that seems to pop up in my mind more and more often now as the evening wears on?

Perhaps it comes because I am secretly looking for it? I should drink more wine. Or go find a bit more … goodness to tell Jon about.

It was after all the ultimate freedom, he gave me – to be used. And born of bitter experience – about what it really means to raise children when you weren’t always ready – about swanky and self-confident Juliana from Jon’s station – about that idiotic getaway as a stewardess – and about crazy but very strong urges to stay in an airport in Morocco even if I am about to cry every time I think of Emma and Michael.

That’s why I didn’t do it. I couldn’t ever leave them. But have I left myself … somewhere?


So yeah, I was bored and I locked myself in the hotel room and surfed and surfed and surfed. What else to do? TV was all about Trump …

Then I came across the article:

Maybe it was someone who shared it and I clicked. I don’t know – okay? But I am easy to distract, especially in situations like this when I want to be distracted.

I read again:

Our universe …

shares space with a large number of other universes …

particles in our universe feel a subtle push from corresponding particles in all the other universes …

These other worlds are mostly invisible because they only interact with ours under very strict conditions, and only in very minute ways …

via a force acting between similar particles in different universes …

One way to think about it is that they coexist in the same space as our universe, like ghost universes …

So …

Ghostly universes that are not parallel to ours but PART of our own universe.

Which may look and feel like ours and be vastly different in some cases.

They are here – now – right beside us, only a little bit removed.

Weaving in and out of our reality, like misty vapors, but if we could see them from their perspective WE would be those misty vapors – very close, and yet far away.

That’s how I – try to – understand it anyway. Never was much of a physicist.

Anyway, so this is an insane but certified theory of more – infinitely more – universes crammed into the same box …

But the gist is this: The universe could be like the hall of mirrors, only every distortion, every variation takes place in a part of the same mirror. Everything that could have happened and could not.

It’s out there. So close.

And so I began to think of Lin again, after at least 5 years of willing myself not to think of her.

What if my dearest dead friend still existed in another universe in the same space as ours?


What if this crazy idea IS logical, scientifically proven – or close to become it?

What if we can actually measure and … contact these universes some day? The science guys seemed optimistic about it.

That’s what made this theory so much better. We could measure the other universes, it was believed. They left traces. Footprints.

They weren’t just theory, all of them, to make the math work – like dreaming up 11 extra dimensions nobody has ever seen to explain why a subatomic whatever behaves in a certain way. ‘Oh, sure, it just spins in and out of 11 other dimensions you will never be able to see!’

But these dimensions … these ghost universes … they would not necessarily be ghost for always and ever.

Fucked up. But this IS science, not a late-night-show. Not my mum’s weird musings about angels and kabbalah.


Still, I can hardly believe it. And so because I am a bit drunk and lonely and feeling sorry for myself and in one my desperate moods, I actually find this science guys’ email address at a university homepage in Australia. I mail him. I ask:

If this theory is true. If it explains your tiny itsy-bitty teeny photons – why they seem to have ‘ghost brothers and sisters’ in more places at the same time … would we one day be able to talk to real human beings in those other dimensions? Copies of our world that were just a little bit different, sometimes lots? But those closest by they would just be a little bit different, right? Like the color purple was red or something?

I don’t expect you can answer me Mr. Science Guy – but is there anything theoretical that – right now – would hinder this?!

That would make this consequence of your theory impossible? That we could not only see photons from other universes but also … people?

Maybe people who lived when they died here?

I don’t write the last part. But I can see in my email outbox that I did click send. And then I deleted it again, because I was embarrassed. I go home.


Yuma – not Vegas

I am back where I am.  It is a blur. I need it to be a blur.

I clean rooms and put on clean sheets at the nursing home and get the usual broadside from Jeannie and her ilk for not being fast enough, as if they cared. I come home tired. I fetch the kids and I am tired. I cook and I am tired. I don’t have sex with Jon – again – because, guess what, I am tired. I watch television to forget that I am tired and fall asleep. And through all of it my thoughts race, because I just opened a fucking dam.

Then the science guy actually emails me back.

Polite even. Perhaps amused. Or perhaps he is just a kindred spirit who also, like the rest of humanity at some point or other, knows what it’s like when a part of that humanity who you loved is no longer there.

Yes, he writes, if we could find a way to prove all of this and by way of that to interact with these other worlds. Then there is nothing in the theory, as it stands now, that prevents us from interacting with people, and not only photons. It might take decades or even centuries to get to the tech level, though, and the understanding that it requires to pull off such a feat!

Centuries …

Here you are told that magic, spirituality, your wildest dreams in an agnostic mind might be REAL enough, under a new name, to get you into contact with, well, at least a version of someone you loved and lost.

And then you are told that all of this miracle may NOT come around for you to experience it, before you yourself are consigned to the void you fear may be all that waits for you. The one that is all around you. Unseen. Waiting. To take you.

Like it took Lin.

It is a fancy theory and you feel embarrassed for even having pulled it down to this very personal level, and not left it to be something to do with measuring particles.

You wanted to measure your heart’s longings, not particle interaction. You wanted to take the consequence of all this. The ultimate mind-boggling, forbidden-to-believe consequence. You did. You got your answer. It was worth … nothing.

As you bloody well knew.

That is my last thought before I delete that email, too.


The next week

I’ve changed tack. I have been honest with myself. About what I really want.

And I suppose I’ve got a somewhat more poetic (cowardly?) take on the question at hand – is Lin alive? Somewhere? Right here and now? No BS. No Hollywood. No fantasy. For R-E-A-L. Even if it sounds insane.

My take is that I don’t really want to explore the answers – as you might do – about which dimensions are there and which are not. And who lives in them.

But that’ just the problem with my fragile and more-than-slightly obsessive mind. It tends to crack a bit there and now, especially when I think I’m home free – literally – after years on the roads, with drugs and whatnot. Especially now that I’ve found a functional everyday life with house, husband and kids in a suburb in Yuma of all places. I didn’t want to think – too hard – about what if my dearest dead friend from those shadowy teen-years were still out there … in some other dimension, now that science had ‘approved the possibility’.

And being an agnostic (a coward?), I can’t quite come to grips with a suitable reaction. I know I can and should do nothing more but dismiss this idea, with my rational mind, my Other Mind – and the old guilt (suicide, Lin – why’d it have to be suicide) … it will not leave me alone.

My tequila New Age-mum tells me to finally give in and talk to my ‘guardian angel’ about it all – ask for help to contact Lin on the other side. My practical cop-husband tells me to live with it. My boss at the NGO where I volunteer to help the Latino border-crossers obtain some illusion of safety tells me to be stronger than I really am able to be. Emma is just plain worried. And what right have I got to make an 11-year old girl worried – again?

Mum added, with a tint of triumph (now that I finally asked her about these things) – that I won’t be able to communicate with ‘the other side’ unless I really, really try to believe it can be done. I can’t. Yet. And I am of course afraid my mind will deceive me, if I try.

Communicate with the dead? Now we are back in fantasy-land. Not science-land. And perhaps that is why science only talk of ghost photons and not real ghosts. They’d be laughed out of the building if they told us they’d communicated with real ghosts …


Another week.

I am stressed and tired and near breaking. I thought I had put a lid on those feelings of loss years ago, and of guilt. And here they fucking come again.

Lin … lying in a pool of her own … no, I can’t even think it.

But I can see it. Feel it.


More days …

Jon and I have a serious argument – one of the first in a long time. He tries to restrain himself, but his patience is not what it has been. So much for our deals and freedoms and gifts to each other. All misplaced, covering up … how much we need to work on.

“You have got to get yourself together. If nothing else, then for the kids.”

Focus. That’s it. Don’t forget lunch boxes or drive recklessly, when I have the car. I know what he is afraid of. He knows my fragile mind. What it can do.

And I know he hates himself for having fallen to this level. For not being able to be the helper he always is.

The man … the rescuer.

But we both play the game and get the shouting done, and then make amends. Later that night we have sex for the first time in a month and it is very good. Surprisingly good.

But it solves nothing. There is no ending to the story. And it takes all my willpower not to think too much about Lin again.

She just broke into my life again – or the ghost of her did. And I can’t get rid of it. I can’t.

It came back, after years and years, and I know why.

I should have stopped her.


I should have seen how unhappy she was. I should’ve predicted …

Stop it, Carrie. It. IS. Bullshit.


I couldn’t predict she’d shoot so much cocaine into her veins so it’d kill a herd of elephants. Why am I trying to be a fucking martyr here? It is pathetic.

But why can’t I then leave the story, without that ending?


A Thursday.

That’s when I find the old novella draft from Lin. Another one unfinished. I kept it because she allowed me to keep it, when I was afraid she’d throw it out. She would have. Then it was with my mum for a long time, until she dropped most of my archived stuff here last year. Fair enough. I threw out a lot back then. But I kept this and then forgot.

Maybe part of me wanted to remember it now, because suddenly it dawned on me – that it existed. But I was afraid that I might have thrown it out. I searched and then I found out that Michael had taken it, because it was – somehow, inexplicably – in the bag with old paper to be reused. A lot of fine crayons 8-year old style on both back and front of the dot matrix-printed story.

So now you are expecting me to say that the story helped me. That grace or something like that made me think of it and find it. That’s not so. As a matter of fact I’ve got so few things left from Lin – even photos – that I obsess about the ones I do have. And even this one, precious as I said it was, did not avoid to come close to extinction in the mess that is my life and my house.

But I saved it. In truth, I thought about it all the way from Vegas. But it was a secret thought – the one I kept pushing away, because I didn’t want to feel it all again. I didn’t want to think of Lin lying in that pool …


In the story a girl loses her sister who falls into another dimension. What kind of dimension? I don’t know. Another …

But the girl learns to live with it. She keeps the emptiness of the loss inside her, carrying it with her, instead of shunning it or trying to heal it or transcend it. Just letting it be.

Lin didn’t like that. She wanted an ending but couldn’t think of one. She wanted the girl to kill herself or get married to some guy she didn’t like or become a prostitute, but I forbade it. I said she should stop or give the story to me, and not make it ugly or throw it out. And Lin just shook her head and looked at me like she was both sad about how I could be so naive and loved me endlessly for having said this to her, and tried to stop her – like a child trying to stop parents from throwing out a beloved but moth-eaten piece of cloth.

And I promised her that I was going to illustrate it, of course. As with the others.

And then … life.

But that night the snow was falling over Columbus, and from the windows of our coed apartment there was nothing to see but white and then dark over the white and then more white in the stars. All of that mixed with the smells from the pizzeria down on the 1st floor, and the guilty conscience about assignments that were much, much too late and the warmth of good company and not caring and another glass of wine.

17 years ago.

I read the unfinished story again. Lin called it “Ghost”, but she didn’t know what else to call it. Like the ending she couldn’t find another title. Just like her dreams of ever becoming a writer. She never finished any of it. She couldn’t. For some reason.

And then the drugs came. And creepy Mister Zohar who taught philosophy and so much more. And much more Bad Company. For both of us …


Then I get another obsession. Finish the story.

But I can’t. I was never a writer, as such. Only kind of a storyteller, I guess. I can tell you lots of crazy stuff, but I can’t really write it down myself. Make it sound good.

I can draw, but that’s not enough.

Still … I think about the story and the missing ending. I think and think. While doing the beds and cooking and prepping the kids for school.

I don’t come up with an ending. I am no good at writing.

At least I don’t take drugs anymore for all the things I am no good at.

I don’t even know why I have to obsess about this. Is it to lure me away from obsessing about the ghost Lin in the ghost universe? Trade one obsession for another?


One night I try to throw it out, in the bin. And then – as if it’s a bad movie replaying itself – I get stopped.


The kid discovered that I took some of his drawings – you know, the crayon stuff he did on the back of the dot matrix print outs of “Ghost … ” by Lin Alexandra Kouris, 1999.

“I thought you didn’t miss them, darling? You said I could have them back, remember?”

“Noo …I did NOT. ” And he begins to get miffed. (My son can get miffed very loudly.)

He said I could only borrow. But hadn’t he understood that mommy misplaced the papers – that she left these papers in the stack by mistake? That they weren’t made for drawing on? With crayons or anything else?

It’s hopeless. Here you go. Peace. Let’s watch TV. Story of my life as a parent. And my life.

But maybe … one last time?


I read the story again, in the living room – Michael allowed me to hold the papers again if he could keep me under watch, I guess. Barely.

I read it again. One last time. One Last Time.

I have to do so whilst commenting distractedly on Michael’s cartoons, as well – my co-nanny that evening when Jon was working late and Emma was over at Janice’s. (Bless you, Walt Disney. Are you a ghost, too? I don’t care.)

And Michael likes Donald Duck very much. You’d almost think he forgot the papers that made out Lin’s lost “Ghost” or the killer truck vs. Godzilla he drew in 3 different variants and then 3 other variants. 6 pages out of 7, both back and some on front – over the fainted dot matrix text.

“Look at that, mommy!” Suddenly Michael has forgotten why I was the worst, most forgetful mum in the world.

And Donald … does something funny. Something that …

And then … I knew something.

I knew … and I had to really make an effort to still comment on Donald Duck’s doings and mischief.

I knew the ending of “Ghost … “


There was no new ending. It would stop where Lin had originally stopped and the place she didn’t like, because that was the only place the story could stop.

The empty space of the loss of her sister would eventually be allowed to live in heart of the girl, if she made the choice and did not try to fight it.

But it would not be painful. It would be okay. The pain came from trying to fight it too much.

If it was allowed to be there, the empty space would – somehow – over time – become a link to the lost sister. A place to … sense her.

Even if there was nothing. Even if there would never be anything but memories. Even if those were the conditions there would STILL be another part of that “Ghost” in the title of the story and in the universes that Science Guy spoke of.

A part that was enough.

A heart.

It would be a heart, because it would be the girl’s own heart – which she now finally dared to be with – wounded forever as it was because of the loss of her sister.

But she didn’t try to repair it. Or forget it. Or heal it. Or hurt it. She didn’t even pretend she could do either of those things and achieve a meaningful effect.

She knew that even if she – in the wildest of her dreams – had been able to communicate – through angels or whatever – with her sister in the other dimension, then the sister would still be lost, disconnected, from her life.


It would at the very least be like having a sister living across the Atlantic. You could only Skype, but never visit.

Her sister was gone. And in her place was the doubt about where she had gone. If anywhere. If there was anything left but the ghostly space in the heart.

She had stepped over a boundary to … somewhere … to a place she could only be followed on that final day. If it ever happened. She had left … space.

But the space could be owned. If the sister who was left made the choice to own it. It could be inhabited – by her own spirit.

So the girl knew the only way to live with it was to carry it with her. The empty space.

And that was it.

I couldn’t write that at 20, and neither could Lin. I can’t even write it now – I’m only ranting.

But that’s my way, I guess, of owning the empty space.


We turned off the TV, finally, and I put Michael to bed and tried not to think about what if something happened to him. Was there a limit to how much empty space you could have in your heart?

I think so. But what I had … maybe I could make it like that ghost ending to that story and be with it and accept it. And … live.

Lin was too attracted to Goth and Martin Gore and dark tales with dark endings, like an addiction. She freely admitted it. Even made fun of it. Capitalized on it. Made me like her because she was cool and mysterious, whenever we were in public. And I was the only one she let down her guard with.

No, Lin would not have liked the ending to this particular story, which I just felt should be the ending. She would not have liked it at all.

But she would have wanted me to live.


Last edited 5 Aug 2023