9 min read

a short catalog of ghosts

From Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions (1865). Illustration XI. (thx PDR!)

It’s another week in February, another week in winter, and I’m desperate for the city to wake up. I consider sitting in an electric chair for a fun jolt to the system.

In lieu of electrocution, I open The Apps. A deluge of messages flood in, and I shoot a couple out myself. The exchanges of sexts, nude and semi-nude pictures, the hunt for the person not too far away, who seems to be looking for the same flavor of sex that I’m currently looking for, it all makes me even hornier. Instead, I find that Grindr is functioning more like a Ouija Board.

A beautiful nonbinary-ish dude with dark brown skin and grey hair hits me up on Grindr. He’s getting off work soon, heading to the gym, and would love someone to hang out with afterwards. I would love someone to hangout with after his gym session, too. He’s fun to talk to – a little nerdy, a little spicy, and seemingly as horny as I am. A little post-gym stank is fun.

After an hour, I check in – but he tells me his gym buddy is going through a breakup and needs a long, consolatory conversation over dinner. I get it I tell him. We take a raincheck for tomorrow and I’m feeling excited about a new sexy friend in my roster. When I wake up the next morning, a text I send him bounces back. He blocked me. My new sexy friend evaporates into the ether before my eyes.

I once said that I’d never be able to fuck someone with my deadname – it’d be too weird and make me feel unhorny feelings. But today on my Grid, I see someone less than 3,000 feet away with that very same name. A hot, 5’10” Puerto Rican guy with a killer body. Deadname taps me. I tap Deadname. Once we start chatting, I see that he’s super nice and we’re aligned on what we’re looking for – someone to hook up with regularly that lives in the neighborhood, someone you wouldn’t mind talking to after sex, and who you might even want to share a meal with. Okay, if I were ever going to fuck someone with my old name, it’s this guy.

Deadname comes over and I make him a tequila soda and we chat in the living room for a while. He notices the plants in my living room and I tell him about my new found dream of filling the living room with so many plants it’s like a greenhouse. After I let slip that I’m a writer and he tells me he works adjacent to the arts, I make a point that we should not talk about work because it can be so unsexy, which rips a silence into the conversation. What should we talk about now? I ask and he says We could stop talking? says Deadname and we lean in for a kiss. It escalates quickly and he is manhandling me and turning me this way and that. We move from the leather couch to the bedroom and as I’m shedding my dress and falling into bed he gets a text to which he replies Bitch! to out loud. Everything okay? I ask. He leans into me and I can feel his gigantic pulsating boner against my body through his trousers. A long silence ensues. Then he says: What are your plans on Friday? To which I say: …are you leaving??

I really don’t want to… he says.

His pulsating boner pulls away from me and I watch as he makes himself a stranger before my eyes. Pants get rebuckled. Shoes tied on. His coat is pulled from my closet and I hear my 100 year door unlatch, open and close.

Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions (1865). Illustration VIII.

I begin talking to some man with a high paying job who's visiting the city a bit for work and staying at a hotel a bunch of my friends work at. He wants someone to show him around and keep him company. Sure, I could use a free dinner and I’ve got time to kill - plus I know plenty of good spots. He's flirty, coy, but definitely wants to fuck while he's in town. Sounds fun. While I’m getting ready, he postpones our dinner from 5:30pm to 7:00pm. His meeting in the suburbs went long. Sure, actually, that’s fine because I’m still getting ready. 6:00 rolls around, and I realize it's time to get on the train – but, he tells me that actually, his flight got moved even earlier – so he doesn’t have time for dinner or for late night fun in his hotel anymore. He says that I deserve 100% of attention, not 35% of his attention. I think to myself, I’d rather have 35% of some attention rather than 0%. But I’m polite so I let him tell me he’ll make it up to me next time he’s in town. (Note from the future, he ghosts me again when he's in town a month later.)

Nonbinary Daddy
A nurse who identifies himself as a latinx nonbinary daddy messages me. Tattood Thaddy gives me their address and asks me to come bounce on their cock. After spending an hour showering and cleaning my hole out, I look back on Grindr to tell them I’m about to head out only to see that they have blocked me. Where their chat should be, is an empty space. As a Virgo, my instinct is to optimize. Recognize the pattern, change somethings around, and fix shit. This is the third, fourth, whatever number apparition in my dating life - surely it's me, right? But I’m struggling to find the pattern in the hauntings — all these dudes were the initiators, some of them begged me to come hang out - like this nurse who asked me to come over and sit on their nonbinary daddy dick. They even sent me their address! What if I had already left and I had to stand outside their apartment like an idiot?

Instead, I just spend another night playing Baldur's Gate 3, romancing Gale with a cleaned out hole, freshly shaved legs, and a light sex-friendly beat on.

A data analyst in his mid-50's has just moved to town and his biceps are as big as my head. Big bicep = yay.

I go over to his temporary apartment downtown to have a couple of drinks and chat – we’re getting along. Gio is 5 years divorced and 5 months out from a breakup from his second big relationship. As someone who has gone through a major breakup of a huge relationship in my life semi-recently, I feel like I understand him. We’re in the same club. We finish our drinks and the chatting is quite fun. It’s nice when big biceps can talk good too. Big Biceps Analyst man asks if I want to see his bedroom – uhhh duhhhhhhh.

We’re making out in his bedroom and it’s time to get naked. I go downtown for what feels like 25.4 seconds when he pulls me back up for more kissing. Okay, sure, I love kissing. Then he transitions us to cuddling in the bed. Okay, sure I like cuddling. He then apologizes for not being able to maintain his erection which draws my attention to the fact that he is now flaccid. Hey, it’s whatever, erectile dysfunction is totally normal and maybe he doesn’t have access to boner pills, despite their reputation as being incredibly easy to access. We keep chatting for a while, his giant arms cradling me and he says “the truth” about his flaccid dick.

My brother is super feminine and your mannerisms actually reminded me of him.

Okay, yeah, so no fucking is going to happen tonight, on the account of me sucking your dick suddenly reminded you of your brother. Big Bicep Analyst man is so nice and pays for my uber home that I don’t really process everything until I’m home. Like, wait, the BLOWJOB reminded you of your BROTHER?!! Not the hour and a half of hanging out beforehand? Did I remind you of your brother before or after you invited me to your bedroom? Is your white brother reminiscent of a six foot tall transexual filipina for some reason?

Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions (1865). Illustration VI.

Everyone Else
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I am in possession of a relentless optimism that cannot be extinguished no matter how hard I or anyone around me tries. But when the flames begin to waver, I wonder, doesn't everybody know we're going to die? That I'm going to die and it might be tomorrow and that you're going to die and it might be today? Don't you want to have fun while we're here? Don't you want to slide our bodies together and mess around? What if we don't have a body in the future? What if we can only do this now? Is everyone so broken that they can't see the point of life is to FUCK?

But then I have coffee, some breakfast, and chill out. The ghosts that have haunted me this week are a coincidence. There are no patterns, it’s just a bunch of freak accidents in a row (right?) It’s a statistical anomaly (right?) It's my turn to feel unlucky (right?) I am not faulty – I know I’m not! I hope I’m not.

Like, ugly and untalented assholes get laid all the time and I am likely not all three of those things. Maybe like, one or two. But even if I was!

I swear off the apps for a bit and go through my contacts to see if any other sex friends I haven't talked to in a while might want to come over. Phil is sick with some stomach flu, and a mustachioed otter from the south I fucked once moved to some far off land for a job.

Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions (1865). Illustration XV.

A realization dawns on me: my altar has been neglected. It’s still dedicated to Capricorn even though we’re turning the corner into Pisces season very soon. I realize I have not offered the ghost of the gay guy who previously owned my bread machine any new bread in a couple of weeks. I wonder if he’s mad at me. He gave me a couple of weeks of raunchy playtime and I took it for granted. I forget that gay guys can be as cruel as they are fun. I sort it all out, dust the old ash away, and offer the spirits some rice, a new candle, and a piece of pistachio & rose petal dark chocolate. Forgive me gay guy ghost!

I am still hungry for dopamine, for pleasure. My body is eager to be used. In spite of the billionaires' best efforts, it's still the dead of winter, and fucking cold, so dancing or swimming or running around the city is not so much fun as it is torture. My friends are still thawing out, the lazy hibernation has not completely shook itself free from their bones. I look in the self-view during a work meeting and see my skin looks pallid, my hair this giant, fading tangle of red, the color of dried up sriracha. Either winter, or just this week alone, has done a number on me, too.

Anyway. I don’t want to be this grey-faced sore loser throwing a pity party. I want to be hot. I want to be a scion of sex, a goddess of love and beauty. I want fun. How do I get more of that right now, in the middle of winter, with the people of Chicago so uninterested in pursuing a party? When the planet is heating up but the city is still too cold to do anything exciting?

My hand twitches over the pair of scissors I keep at my desk. Maybe it’d be liberating not to have to deal with all of this hair. Maybe I should just cut it all off. All of the compliments my hair has gotten over the last couple of months come rushing through my head at once. I think of the incredibly hot guy who struck up a conversation with me once at a party, I think of a hook up brushing my hair and admiring it, I think of the women in the street who ask me what exact product I use to get my hair this shade of red. One of the compliments was one too many, so that my hair shifted from a point of pride to a piece of armor that I clung to. At some point, I kept it this way because it was my thing, this big nest of red hair. It got me attention, it made an impact. I liked that. But now, maybe, I was hiding behind it. Maybe it was like a crutch, so that if the secret little goblin inside of me was feeling insecure, unloveable, at least I knew this thing, my hair, was popular. At least people would like that.

So, in a desperate bid for dopamine, seeking to use this body while I have it, and perhaps, to spite everyone who likes my hair long but apparently happy to keep me at a distance, I tie it into two tails with some ribbon and chop it all off.