IV. “Do you believe in ghosts?”



I see those words incised with dark pixels into the glowing screen of my tablet. Almost two-thousand years ago, a Roman lawyer wrote them in a letter to a friend. “Do they have a real form, and are they a sort of divinity, or only the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination?” The words were probably scratched into a layer of beeswax on a tablet in a wooden frame. You can feel the stylus pause before he continues, answering his own question. “What inclines me to believe is a story . . . ” 



V. My father's mother was still working then.



I believe she worked right up until the end. She was wearing her nurse's uniform, standing in front of her house. It was an old white farmhouse, not as bowed as it is now. An iron eagle above the den windows regarded us with black eyes. The house sat like a hat on a knoll, all grass with patches of dandelion and small flowers called bird's-foot trefoil that I liked especially because of the name. The flowers were bright yellow and had a waxy sheen. I was sitting not far from her, amid some old paving stones, smooth and broken, that had sunk partly into the lawn, I was rubbing them with the flat of my hand.

My parents' car door slammed. Dad had gotten out first. Now they were half-way up the hill toward us. Grandma was smoking, a long, thin, white cigarette, and touched the hair around her ear. Smoke carried far over my head, disappearing into white sky. I touched my own hair, which tended to get tangled. I liked the feel of my fingers caught in the curls and then pulling loose. The grownups talked in a hum.