I would like to welcome you to this exorcism that might also double as an essay for the lovers who are sick of being lovers. This is not to say you are sick of love, this is to say you are also haunted by an other and possibly seek liberation from this ghostly figure. Through this essay I follow the steps of a sort of repelling of a ghost and through this try to discover what my liberation and healing from this ghost is and how it can come to me. It is messy, filled with cracks, and seepage. I guess it is the lover’s way to deal in the broken and the messy and the excess. It seems excess is our way. I wanted the steps of this diy exorcism to serve as guides rather than strict rules. I wanted them to take you and me wherever we needed to go and say whatever we needed to say. I wanted them to serve us, not limit us. Through the writing I want us to discover and understand what the work is for our liberation in existing only in tandem with this being. How can we repel them? Can we repel them? Should we rather say put to rest? What is our work my fellow lover? What is our work for us, ourselves? What is the work for the haunted? Of course, my work for myself might not be the work for you, but I hope you see something in it. Whether it be there is a moment of “Wow. Me too!” or you also want to take the time to confront your ghost. I hope we get what we need. Alright my fellow lover, this is where I let you go. I must speak to my ghost now and I guess you might do the same. Safe travelling, seeing, reading. Be careful with yourself. Ok, here we go.
A resisting of the distracting and the looking away. A facing of your ghost. An end to your dismissing of what is there and refuses to be ignored.
Your hold on me has always been beyond human capability. My image of you becoming something spiritual is the first thing that has felt right about us in a while.
I have belonged to you for too long. You are the reason I would consider myself a lover, and as charming as that sounds, it makes me feel like a prisoner. In Roland Barthes’ terms the “lover” exists along with their “other”, meaning my existence as a lover can only exist in the presence of you, my amorous object. I do not want to be a lover anymore.
I do not want my existence to depend on someone else as I have felt it has. You have seeped into my every day, into my every action. I summon your ghost with each longing glance outside of a dark subway window. I summon you with each time I want to be kissed. I summon you through “Easy” by Mac Ayres. I do not want to summon you any more and I want songs to just be songs
There is a poem by Fred Moten called “a poem for black heart” with a line saying, “I’m so in love that all I do is disidentify” (Moten). He sat in on my Performative Writing class one day and I asked him about this line. I wondered what it was to love so much that you disidentify. What I got from his words was that this love goes beyond its expectations, it goes beyond the self, beyond the partners of this relationship. It leaks into everything it must spill over. Your affect has seeped so deep into my life that it lies in all forms of reason, all opinions of aesthetics, and most definitely in matters of affection. It makes up the world as I know it. Do you see the problem with this? Again, my world and existence depends on your existence. I do not want to exist- I do not want my world to exist in a way that it only can due to someone else. This implies that my world cannot exist without you, or it would lack purpose or logic without you. There has been a, “Loss of control, a seepage […] [me] becoming nothing but the vibratory field between two people.” (Kraus). This cannot be true. I do not want to go on this way.
I feel as though I am stalling from what I intended to do. You see I must repel you, so that I can go on living and see my world is full without you, see there are much more beautiful things than you. Ignoring you, repressing you has seemed to have only made you stronger, so now I see I must acknowledge you. It is through acknowledging you that I will be able repel you so I can heal from you.
I am terrified.
You terrify me.
Calling you “you” is tricky because I don’t know the difference between you and the nostalgia clouded image you that I have manifested from all the times we have revisited each other in my mind. I suppose the latter is the only way you can exist now. The actual you is probably much different now, and even if you were completely the same, which would be impossible, I have most likely romanticized our time together to its breaking point. Either way Chris Kraus tells me, “When you're living so intensely in your head there isn't any different between what you imagine and what actually takes place.” (Craus 12). Either way you haunt me, it is your face I see all the time in my mind. I can still see the photos on Facebook so my mind cannot distort that.
When it comes to you, I think of Freud’s explanation of “the uncanny”. He describes it as “[…] that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar” (Freud 1-2). I find comfort in the familiar, and so you are a feeling I revisit many times a day, but I do not summon you voluntarily. You are always there, and sneak up on me when I try to let my mind have peace. You see right when the wall goes down and make yourself appear. You are ready to sink your teeth into me as soon as my neck is exposed, but it is the most pleasurable pain I have experienced. It scares me how good your haunting feels.
Actually, that is not always true. The part about not summoning you voluntarily. It is sometimes me that goes to the archive to seek you. It is sometimes me that sticks my own neck out. Somethings seep out of that archive and come to me instead of me seeking them out, it is true, but if I am to do what I came here to do I see I must be honest with you and myself. Sometimes I pull you here.
I think part of my acknowledgment should be me determining when you took home of me. I do not think it happened in the beginning or the ending of the time I shared with you. Those events did not create the waves required to crack my vessel in order to let you in. Because you see ghosts do not appear from subtle moments of hellos and goodbyes, they appear from grief, from death, a moment where something breaks.
There was a moment of breaking. A shaking of my core so strong that it cracked me open. Katherine McKittrick and Alexander G. Weheliye acknowledge that, “Heartbreak bursts apart. Heartbreak is feeling outside of oneself. Heartbreak is the demand to feel outside of ones’ individuated self.” Who I once was, was gone. When you unknowingly broke my heart and cracked me open, I seeped not blood, but my beliefs of love created from the concrete pieces of affection we shared, my faith of what we could have been. And my empty vessel was left hollow ready to be possessed just so it could be filled.
Without my faith in love I could not be myself, and so a manifestation of the person who personified my faith had to exist within me. I had to manifest you in some way so that I could still be me.
To come to recognize the ghost’s purpose of haunting and establish its unfinished business, so it can then be finished and the ghost can pass on.
I believe you, my ghost, are here because I need something to believe in, or rather an image to take on my chosen faith of love.
I would equate you to “the beginning of writing” as explained by Roland Barthes. He explains that the beginning occurs as one comes, “[…]to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there where you are not[…]” (Barthes 100). As soon as you appeared, it was a death of the human you, as soon as you became the entity you are, you stood in the place of your former self to keep absorbing my affections.
My love cannot go nowhere. It does not disappear as it emits from me. It must land. It must land somewhere. You are here so it has somewhere to land
People usually turn to God when there is nowhere else to go. When their faith in everything else seems to have abandoned them, the promise of their God lies there waiting to hold and forgive. When there is nothing else to put their faith in, their God comes to them. When there is no one else to take my love, you come to me.
But do not mistake my words. You are a ghost, you are perhaps an image of a God for my chosen religion, but this religion defies the saying “God is love”. You are not love. Love is a back and forth, but you give me nothing. Reciprocity is not part of our deal.
I cannot beg who you once were for love so now I fall to my knees for you. I fall to my knees in prayer. I fall to my knees begging. I plead for you to give me love. I plead in such repetition, subtlety, and permanence that it resonates as part of my heart beat. It sounds like Frank Ocean’s song “Bad Religion” where he repeats:
7. However, as stated before, you are not capable of this, so then I plead for you to leave. It does not resemble a heartbeat like the repetition before. It is a fierce repetition it is not settling and it causes me to scream and cry in desperation. I cannot stop.
It seems I have once again forgotten that you are incapable of response.
8. Does God respond to his faithful followers, or are you not alone in this frustrating incompetence. You cannot give me what I want, what I need, what I crave, what I desire. However, I guess to ask anyone or anything of this is useless. Desire cannot be fulfilled. That would defy everything that desire is, desire exists in lacking, and in the more you lack the more you desire. That is how I know I lack even in your ever presence. Because I always desire you.
9. And because you cannot give what I desire, and you are all I desire, this means you cannot give me yourself. You are a ghost, there is nothing of you to give. You do not even have yourself, so how can even a fraction be given to me. A fraction of nothing is nothing. You are not him. Kraus says how, “We grasp at symbols, talismans, triggers of association to what's forever gone.” (Kraus 50). You are just the symbol, and he is forever gone.
10. It is clear to me now you are a fantasy, a projection of my desires and I have misrecognized you as a human able of reciprocity as opposed to an apparition that haunts me through its power to misshape my mind in order for you to secure your attachment to me. After all, “Fantasy is what manages the ambivalence and itinerancy of attachment.” (Berlant 122).
11. I fear I have attempted the impossible in trying to know you. I have established your presence and its deteriorating circumstances, yet you persist. Your very purpose is to play tricks on my mind, so just when I think I have figured you out and decided you are not what I want anymore, you have adapted to my new desires, habits, and wishes. You serve an empty purpose of fueling my fantasies and playing with my memory in a way to keep you here.
12. In his book Cruising Utopia, Jose Muñoz, speaks about queer utopia and the complexities of its time, as it is, “[…]not yet here but nonetheless always potentially dawning.” (Muñoz 187). I fear my getting past you is a potential dawning that never quite gets here. I saw my conquering of you through knowledge of you as a form of utopia, because then once I knew what you were doing here, then I could construct a new way to fulfill this desire, or convince myself it was a childish want I could out grow. I would be free. However, to acknowledge my conquering of you as a utopia causes it to fulfill the prophecy as something that cannot be reached. I can cruise along my understanding, ride the road of coming to know you, but the destination of emancipation will never be reached. To conquer you is impossible, futile. I see now that I must make a kind of surrender.
Put to Rest/ Confession
A coming to terms. Say what has been held back. Step back and look at this entity for everything that it is. Look from multiple angles. Remember: to put to rest is not to erase.
The New York Times released a list of 25 modern love essays, and though it seems this whole love religion has really been a pain in the ass lately, it is the religion I belong to nonetheless, so I read the essays with hunger, as if they will fill me. They just make me hunger more for affection, but I think it can be assumed now that my desire is my painful pleasure. I get to an essay called “The 12-Hour Break Up That Started Everything” by Miriam Johnson. The author goes on to explain how her break up was a year before and how she thought getting her dream job and exercising would heal her, but she still thought of him every day. She then asked her therapist what more she could do to let go. Her therapist then, “[…] told [Johnson] a story about a man she loved in her early 20s, nearly 50 years ago, whom she still thinks about to this day. Then she said: ‘You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about getting over and letting go.’ […] ‘It’s about honoring what happened,’ she said. ‘You met a person who awoke something in you. A fire ignited. The work is to be grateful. Grateful every day that someone crossed your path and left a mark on you.’” (Johnson).
I fear I have been too hard on you. You are actually very kind. When you were alive to me, you had a caring disposition, you would call me out when I was putting on an act. I did not think there was anyone that could see me as well as you had, who could see through my sunny disposition. I once thought you could “[…] puncture my solitude. [That I could] give you everything without giving myself away.” (Nelson). I wish I did not have that crush on you just to see you end up with someone else on April 20th, 2018. That moment haunted our minor relationship in March 2019. I did not want to be surprised by rejection again so I kept you at arm’s length, preparing for you to leave at any time. Maybe if things were different, I would be with you and not obsessing over this ghostly version of you, but I cannot change what has been, I can only make peace with your ghost, the only you I know now.
There are moments varying in length, from an hour to a couple of days, that I was able to not see the ghost, that I was able to not think about you. In the moments that I do, I feel as if I have failed somehow. As if me being busy or loving others should mean that I should not miss you. What I have learned is that you will come and pass in my mind and I must let you pass through in order for you to pass on. If I push your image away, it only pushes harder, if I confront it, I cause it to stay longer than it would have if I had just let it pass me by. I promise to just let you pass through now.
I must also admit that while I do not always willingly summon you, sometimes I like to sit in the time we have together. Sometimes I do not wish you to disappear immediately and I let the fantasy put upon my mind play. Sometimes I allow myself the to take ecstasy with you in the way that Jose Muñoz speaks about it in his conclusion of Cruising Utopia. When we take ecstasy together, we can, “stand out of time together, to resist the stultifying temporality and time that is not ours” (Muñoz 187). I always chalk up the death of us to time not being on our side, and although I know holding on to the ghost of you is not good for me, I like to imagine what a time for us would have looked like. Maybe it never being the right time meant we were just never right for each other. Maybe this confirmation can also help in you passing on. It gives me rest to know that we do not live in a thought of “could have been” because no matter the circumstances, we were meant to end.
But even though we were always meant to end I was foolish to think I was capable of erasing you, to think that was how I was supposed to put us to rest. You are incapable of not being a part of me. You cracked me, but just as other things have, the cracks and breaks have formed me and they cannot be undone. After all, “Heart/////break cannot be recuperated. […] Heartbreak waits. It sounds. It envelops us like the thumping bass of the TR-808. Heartbreak cannot be repaired or resisted. It emulates but defies emulation.” (McKittrick and Weheliye). The waves caused by the crack you gave me will continue to emulate in my life, I must make peace with the fact that they will not surpass.
While you, the ghost, remind me of all that I lack, there is something divine in our haunting relationship.
To complete our ritual, I must confirm to myself all that I have decided to see. The you I have been referencing is not really you. Every time I have accessed you, you have become less you. You are my needs projected in the image of the person I once loved. But I must also acknowledge to expel you would be to expel a part of myself. And I see that now, you are a part of me. You are my desire. If I did not desire in this distinct way you have taught me, I would be a completely different person.
But I still long for the day I will stop missing you.
Thank you. The painful pleasure was all mine.
by Ariana Carter
Click here for works cited.