by Susan DeFreitas
You burned candles all night while the house slept. You burned candles in the empty room with the checkerboard floor. You burned candles with your cracked-out teenage girlfriend with the tour-kid bedhead and patched overalls. One night coming home from the bar, we found the front door jammed. You’d pushed all the furniture up against it, so we climbed in a window instead. We found the room with the checkerboard linoleum covered in candlewax, like the drip castles of our youth.
You mumbled when you spoke, shaking your head. Sometimes it almost made sense. “I’m straight, I’m straight, I’m straight.” You only were after you weren’t.
You broke glass, knickknacks, and saucers. There were times when I couldn’t find a plate. Goddammit, I thought, eating eggs out of a coffee mug, yet again.
You burned candles all night, every night, and that one time, lit the shag carpet on fire. Dave said you were a good person, deep down. Rich spent most nights with his girlfriend. Mike was moving out anyway.
The night before I left, you kept me up, talking to someone, laughing, but in the morning, you were alone. A living ghost, pale as a flame by day. I left you there to haunt the house.
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Susan DeFreitas’ creative work has appeared in The Bear Deluxe, Third Wednesday, and Southwestern American Literature, and is forthcoming from Sin Fronteras; her nonfiction has been published in Yes! Magazine, E: the Environmental Magazine, and The Utne Reader, and appears regularly on The Huffington Post. She is an MFA candidate at Pacific University, and lives in Portland, Oregon, where she works as an independent editor with Indigo Editing and Publications.