Fighting Ghosts (Essay)

Words by Isidora Torres. Photography by Claudia Soraya.

It was late. I was getting back from work drinks, buzzed with good vibes; an output of too much whiskey on an empty stomach. I went over to your apartment with the promise of a whole pizza pie waiting for me. You didn’t disappoint, a box of cheese pizza was set on the kitchen table.

In the midst of our own individual darkness, we met each other. A Tinder date of random romantic indulgence actually evolved into something deeper than we anticipated. Both were recovering from breakups; a rebound of sorts. We saw the worst in each other from the beginning, an opportunity most don’t get when starting to date. What appeared as our downfall became pivotal into our foundation; vulnerability and honesty became our connection.

Both were recovering from breakups; a rebound of sorts. We saw the worst in each other from the beginning.

In the thick of laugher, you paused. You sat there and looked at me then looked away. Your mind clearly swirling. In that same breath, you told me you texted your ex-girlfriend.

I was taken aback and started to unravel quickly- questions started clouding my mind, all beginning with why. Why her? Why the ex that you had moved away with? Why the ex that I knew you loved before me? She had cheated on you, and hurt you in ways I couldn’t have imagined. She broke you without hesitation. And in return, you folded into yourself.

Within seconds, I drifted into a dark place that was filled with familiar feelings of hurt, anguish, and insecurity. Despite the growth in our relationship, she was still the ex that found a way back into our lives. She was the ghost you couldn’t seem to let go of.

“Why?” I asked, finally mustering the question. “I don’t know,” you responded, “I just need closure.”

I wish I would have responded with something insightful or even remotely nice, but I didn’t. I didn’t hear you or your pain, instead my insecurity plagued me. What followed was a lack of self control and angry words. She was the one that hurt you, so why was I the one paying for it? I couldn’t wrap my head around my own frustration, let alone yours. I was selfish.

You paced back and forth and eventually turned to me, finally unfolding. You explained that you’d given what you thought was your best and was told it wasn’t enough. You finally had the courage to confront the hurt that you had compartmentalized–the hurt that you so frequently pushed off and labeled as “the past” without actually dealing with it. For me, it was reliving and somehow heartbreaking that you recognized your ghost.

You will always be enough.

It wasn’t about the relationship or you wanting her, it was about you. It was about you seeing the pain and wanting to heal so you could give me your whole self. It was about you wondering if you were actually enough, a perception of yourself that was molded by a false reality.

In my own moment of realization, you felt defeated. In your mind, this was par for the course. I grabbed onto you. I held your face. With tears streaming down my face, I found myself whispering to you, “you will always be enough.”

The next day, I woke up with a headache with eyes red and puffy. I had million errands to do but I kept finding a way back into our conversation last night. Confusion floated: Should I be hurt? Should I leave? What ultimately remained was empathy. I was reminded that I was once in your position. I’ve once felt the urge to want to find something wrong with myself than with it. I decided in that moment to let go of the ego or spite I had towards her. This was growth, and to some extent, our growth.

The following week, the ex had appeared again. This time, she was calling you non-stop. We were at your mom’s apartment, chatting about our latest projects. To no surprise, she was drunk and you were agitated. You kept declining calls, one after the other. You finally picked up for her to slur nonsense to you. You hung up, quickly reminded of why things had fell apart and how she wasn’t a solution to any of this. Your mom joined you in your agitation. You explained to her the root for any of this interaction. She looked at you and paused.

I’ve fought demons before. I’ll fight ghosts with you.

“You know, sweetie,” she said. “You don’t need her to get closure. Some people do things because it’s selfish or self-seeking. Whatever it was, you don’t need to keep searching.”

Her words sunk in deep. The unsaid was said. We left your mom’s, our hands tightly held together. I’ve fought demons before. I’ll fight ghosts with you.