The best thing about being alone is that it forces you to be friends with ghosts (and bugs). I guess, then, we’re never really alone.

When I was a kid, I convinced myself I lived among ghosts. This may sound odd, but I promise it was fun. In my head, all things are ghosts. Old dusty books are ghosts. Fish bones are ghosts. Spiderwebs are ghosts too. (Does “ghost” still sound like a real word?)

Two people stand at the center of a valley formed by the backs of fish. Scales are red, blue, and gray.
An outline of fish bones with vague figures of ghosts encircling it. In the bottom left corner, the word 福 is stamped upside down for luck.

Flowers, of course, are reminders (and also ghosts).

Lately, I’ve been going on walks where I make friends with flowers. This means I’ve also been meeting the ghosts that make the petals their home. More and more, I find myself thinking about my childhood and all the things I believed in back then.

A packet of Marigold flower seeds. Blue text reads "I've been keeping this pack of marigold seeds for over a year. I wonder how many ghosts have made this place their home."

Decorative blue and red flowers. Red Chinese print in the bottom corner reads 春天的开心

I used to wash my hair in the sink all the time because I thought that hair grew like plants did. I thought that if I watered my hair enough, it would grow faster. Eventually, I would grow into a beautiful willow tree.

As far as I was concerned, a stranger at the grocery store describing my hair as a bird’s nest was a good thing. Birds’ nests hold life, and hair is a home.

A willow tree with red leaves and a blue trunk.
A person with long hair and vines growing out of it, encircled by birds. Red text at the bottom reads "birds' nests hold life, and hair is a home."

Like hair, language is also a home. Brush strokes are the twigs from which we build a 家. Meaning is found in the dusty corners of a HOUSE, in the spaces of a 窝, the fullness of a breath taken deeply.

These days, I think of ghosts as part of some grander truth, some unspoken language — communication between the world now and another time, stuck in these periods of transit, only witnessed when we fall into their gravity.

A birds nest with 4 eggs
Cracked white eggshells

An old orange that sits on my counter is a 人口, forever waiting to be eaten. A jacket that hangs in the back of my closet untouched is an entry wound, forever waiting to break someone else’s heart. A desk lamp is a 太阳, a warm sun.

人口, or rénkǒu in Mandarin and jan4 hau2 in Cantonese, is a Chinese term that is closest translated as “population.”

The words, when translated literally, mean “person mouth.”

Ghosts are not literal, they’re literary. Ghosts, in this home, are not reminders of loss, but reminders of life. Ghosts, even in hiding, are about presence. Sometimes forgotten, but never really lost.

A line of white stick figures walk over the edge of a cliff. Blue text at the bottom reads 有些时候想飞 但是飞不起来.