Bewildering Stories

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Words and Colors No Man Can Understand

by Kristen Tracey



Is this Mr. Ghost?

Yes, speaking.

You had a wife?

She passed on several months ago.

I know.

May I ask to whom I am speaking?

I’m dying in bits and pieces, the way the purple road unravels pothole by pothole under weary tires.

Excuse me?

You must know what I mean. Pieces of me, like the pieces of your wife, one by one by one.

I don’t want to talk about my wife.

. . .

Hello? Are you there?

. . .

Who the hell is this?



I suppose you loved her.


Your wife.

Stop calling me, whoever you are. That’s a private matter.

Not so private, not among friends. She shed silver tears and told me how things were with you. How you had surprised her with a wedding in April, a honeymoon in Paris.

Who are you? How do you know these things?

The way the rain outside the hotel room sang your joy on the first night, and the wind your elegiac on the last. The way you knew every inch of her skin and valued it as you valued your own thought.

I loved her.

So you’ve said.

You sound like you don’t believe me.

I believe in everything but the existence of truth. Good-bye, Mr. Ghost.


This is the Ghosts. Leave us a message.

Twelve months and still you use the plural. Interesting. I called to tell you what your wife said in a spring like this one, bright spring black around the edges. I was the last to hear her voice.

Waitwaitwait, don’t hang up, I’m here, I’m...

. . .




Mr. Ghost, do you remember my voice?

Of course I remember your voice. It’s what echoes in the nightmares I’ve been having about being ax-murdered in my sleep.

. . .

Tell me what my wife told you before she died.

“We are all opaque.”


Opaque. The opposite of transparent.

I know what it means, what does it mean?

My office is down the hall from the room where your wife died.

You were her doctor? Hernandez?

No, I never treated her. I just came to see her when no one else was there. I won’t be here long. If you’re curious enough to come, be quick about it.




. . .

It’s me.

I know. I can’t talk right now.

Are you busy?

No, not any more. Just dying.

Dying like a road.

And living like a red ember: sputteringly.

I need to see you again.

There’s no use in speaking to you, Mr. Ghost; you still believe that walls are meant to have windows, that we are meant to look through.

Wait. Don’t hang up.

. . .

Hello? Are you there?


Ghost residence. Leave me a message.

Someday I’ll see you again, when the sickness stops staining my vision this melancholy gray.


Dr. Shaw’s home. Leave a number and a name.

Lucy, it’s... me. I should’ve called days ago. Look, this is way too much for me right now. I wasn’t myself last night and everything was just so messed up, and then you came along and I lost myself in those blue eyes of yours. It shouldn’t have happened. Please don’t get in touch again.



Helloooo, Mr. Ghost!

Lucy! What...?

Jus’ thought I’d call, ya know how it is.

Where are you?

Don’t know exactly, but I do think I’m a bit smashed. The moon is fire-orange here, the moon is all I can see from this angle; moon and sky. The ground seems to have disappeared. Odd.

The moon is orange here, too.

I wonder about you sometimes, when I see infinity before me like this. You fade in and out, like a bad movie. Sometimes human and then not, like there’s two of you. Does the money do it to you, or is it the toll of losing a wife you never loved?

I loved her.

What about me?


Me, Mr. Ghost. Say something about me, you must be able to. Your wife and I, the same and the same and the same. This is what strips us down to our elements, these transparent dying throes.

Let’s talk about this when you’re more yourself.

Oh, silly! I’m only myself when I’m with you.

. . .

Hello? Are you there?

. . .

Hmm. Guess not.



My vacation house is in Vermont. It’s pretty up there in the autumn, scarlet leaves and a lake like quicksilver, like the way your eyes slip up over my face, smooth and gorgeous, surface-bound.

Are you saying you’re going to Vermont?

You’re going, too.


Yes you are. Your thoughts have become so malleable. Your car will seem to steer you there.

. . .

I would die up there if I could, surrounded by my crimson memories. There have been husbands like you, I have been wives like her. We live separately, but I wouldn’t die alone.

You won’t die alone anyway.

Am I not obscure to you, Mr. Ghost, wasn’t your wife? Don’t you revel secretly in the loneliness of it all? The vertigo, the first-stage euphoria, that’s only the allure of opacity anyway. Love is not the answer.

I loved my wife. I loved my wife, God, I did, Lucy, I loved her.

All that you’ve seen, how did it not strip those pretty fancies from you? Like a birch in winter, black showing through peeling snow-colored bark. But you, like an evergreen, live incessantly, seasonlessly, reasonlessly.

. . .

I’ll see you in Vermont.


Dr. Shaw’s home. Leave a number and a name.

Hope you got back safe, Lucy. Call me before you go in for your next round of chemo.


Dr. Shaw’s home. Leave a number and a name.

Lucy, I’ve left so many messages. Are you running away from me?


This number has been disconnected. Please try your call again.

Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Tracey

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