Waking Up With Ghosts



Do you ever wonder whose thoughts you enter? I don't mean your friends, of course; we often enter the thoughts of the people who care about us.


I'm talking about thin ghosts from the distant past, the near-strangers who were strangers before, and who became strangers again. People who came and went briefly through some narrow corridor of your life, long ago. People, certainly, who have no good reason to come traipsing through your mind or memories now. These vague shapes and thin veneers of people who, likewise, have little reason to give you a passing thought today.

Still -- ever wonder if they do?

In twelve years of school, I was the new kid at school 18 times. Since my family moved around so much, I was always having to meet new people. I used to whine about it as if it was some kind of personal plight, but looking back I think it probably did contribute to an ability to read and understand people quickly. It was a survival technique. A kid like me had to pick up a lot of those.

Because I was so often the new kid, I knew lots of people for only a brief time. Now, so many years later, there are many depthless ghosts wandering through my recollections, wisps I usually don't realize are even there. I thought of one of them this morning.

I was laying in bed still mostly asleep this morning, and dancing through my end-of-a-dream dream came this young girl I used to know in the 8th grade, only for the few months I attended this particular school. I had a crush on her. I could have sworn it was love, then.

In the short time I knew her, I never figured out how to let her know that I liked her, or even what it would mean if I did tell her. It was complicated, but only in my own childish mind and heart, not in the reality. In the reality, it was pretty simple -- I went to school, she sat in my class, I liked her. We moved away, she became the past. Like so many others, she simply became the past. Not so much as a wave goodbye.

I haven't thought about her in -- 40 years?

So why did she come back to say hello in my near-dream this morning? She had no business there. She wasn't important then, it turns out. She isn't important now. Still, I discovered that I wanted to say "Hi." I wanted to ask her, "How are you? Where have you been? Where do you live? What do you do?"

Oh. And, "What is your name?"

Funny, this morning I couldn't remember. That's how filmy the memory of her is, I couldn't even remember her name, not at first. Then, suddenly, for the first time in almost 40 years, I did remember. Her name was Judy. Her name was Judy Niblock. Her name was Judy Niblock and she sat next to me in History class in the 8th grade. And I liked her a lot, though we seldom spoke.

Now where the hell did that come from? And why did she come to visit me out of nowhere, in my memories that are dreams, in my dreams that are memories?

And now I have to wonder: have I ever visited her, visited Judy in her memories? Has she ever had a fleeting recollection of me?

In fact, have I ever visited any of the hundreds, probably thousands, of people with whom I've bumped shoulders in the crowded hallways of my life? I wonder, because it happens to me all the time. I'll think of somebody I have no reason to think of, who has no real past that we've shared except on the most shallow of planes, and because I think of them, I must wonder -- do they ever just happen to think of me?

Of course, it doesn't matter, it couldn't matter much. Still.

Whose thoughts have I entered in their waking sleep? Wouldn't it be incredible if I happened to be walking through the vague fog of my distant recollection, and met people who just happened to be walking through the fog, their own fog, from their own end, at the same time? Of course I'd never know, but it's nice to imagine that reality works that way, somewhere beyond our ability to understand why, or reason how.

If that's too obscure, let me make it plain, just say it outright:

I wonder if Judy Niblock woke up this morning, around 6:45 CST, for no good reason, thinking of this guy named Ted she knew briefly in the 8th grade, the greater part of a lifetime ago?

And if she did, of course, I wonder if she was horny for me.