Adam returned the next day, much to my relief. I greeted him with a smile, one he did not return.
I watched him sit down and set up, still panting. This was extremely unusual; he would always collapse upon arrival then take several minutes to rest and catch his breath.
He must have had an urgent question.
“How… often…” he began with a slight rumble in his voice. “do people… return as… ghosts?” His eyes met mine at last and they pleaded with me, a silent plea of desperation. I had never seen such an expression before; one that placed all his hope on my shoulders and begged me not to let him down. I crumbled under the weight of his azure eyes.
My first instinct was to reply ‘I don’t know,’ to let him choose his answer from my ambiguous response but… I did know. I knew and I could easily answer his question.
I sat there for a tremendously long moment, debating which answer to give him. I had two choices: one that would crush the spark of hope in his eyes and one that would let it soar. As I gazed into the eyes that searched mine for solace, I chose the latter.
‘Most of my family did so…’ I spelled out, trailing off to let him fill in the rest.
He collapsed, falling over onto his side with his skinny arms wrapped around his stomach as though he were sick. The pants continued, yet they were broken.
Sobs escaped his quivering lips as tears soaked into the ground beneath his face. “Thank goodness.” he mumbled with a smile spread across his face.
He lay for a while. I couldn’t tell how much time had passed, for the sun had disappeared behind a thick layer of soft white clouds.
When he finally got up, he was once again refusing to meet my eyes.
‘What is wrong?’ I spelled out, searching his face for the answer. The smile that danced on his lips and the blush that dusted his cheeks gave me no response. Even his eyes when they finally met mine were no help.
A long moment passed while he stared at me in the same manner he had when we first met. He cleared his throat and briefly looked away, choosing to stare at something behind me before returning his gaze to mine and saying, “It’s nothing, really.”
I frowned at him, purposefully exaggerating the downwards angle of my eyebrows to tell him his answer was unacceptable. I was tired of him dodging my questions with a simple “It’s nothing.”
He stared at me with wide, surprised eyes for a moment, then sighed and lowered his gaze. “Fine.” he said. “Fine, fine, fine.” He glanced up at me before continuing, the blush deepening in his cheeks. “It’s just–” he began, trailing off to observe the grass at his feet. “I’m scared of dying okay?” His eyes met mine. “My deepest fear is that I’ll cease to exist when I die…” He looked away from me again, turning his head to shroud his eyes behind a curtain of shadows. “That’s why…” he trailed off, biting his lower lip. “That’s why I was relieved… when I saw you. That’s why I began talking to you.”
He turned back to me. His eyes met mine again, this time with a hesitant determination. They pleaded with me to understand and forgive his selfish intentions. They begged me not to hate him, to refuse to talk to him anymore.
I smiled, and those desperate pleas disappeared behind a mirrored smile.
He left soon afterward, calling out a promise for the next day. I was left with many things I wanted to tell him; the truth being one of them.
While it was true that most of the family members I had known during my life had come back to visit me after their death, most other people didn’t. Out of the 100 or so people I’ve seen buried here, no more than ten (not counting my family) have risen from their graves and none of them (including my family) stayed around long.
I wanted to tell him that, to relieve my guilty conscience of the heavy knowledge, but I couldn’t. Just like I couldn’t tell him that I’d feared death too. I’d wanted to say it, after he revealed his secret, but I hadn’t had the chance. He had packed up before I could figure out how to word it.