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Alana Massey is the author of "All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers." She writes about culture, identity, vice, and virtue and lives in The Catskills.

How to Replace a Ghost

Bryce Duffy/Photographer's Choice/Getty

Alana Massey | Longreads | October 2017 | 10 minutes (2,448 words)

 

It is fitting that I was on my way to a museum filled with ghastly medical objects and oddities when I realized most of us are more haunted by the living than the dead. The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia is a medical history museum that houses such prized specimens as Einstein’s brain, conjoined fetuses in a jar, President Grover Cleveland”s jaw tumor, and an expansive wall case displaying Dr. Joseph Hyrtl’s human skull collection. I was on my way to the wedding of my friends Helena and Thomas, the kind of tender, brilliant oddballs so in love that I’d believe them both if they told me the other had hung the North Star or can understand the language of animals. The kind of people who get married in the Mütter Museum not because they necessarily want to, but because there are simply no other places so tastefully macabre yet oddly tender, befitting their nuptials. I don’t believe this about love but I do believe it about wedding venues: It isn’t a decision, it is destiny.

So it was not a happy or selfless thought for me to have, this one about hauntings, on the drive there. My thoughts were not in envy of the couple or of selfish indignation aimed at the attached generally; they were entirely about a love I’d recently lost. Fourteen days prior officially, but 31 days before if going by what really counts. My boyfriend of nearly two years and I had last seen each other on Monday, Aug. 21 in the morning when I dropped him off at the bus station to go back to New York from my house in the Catskills. On Aug. 22, without a fight or explanation or a breakup, he simply stopped responding to text messages.

There was ample proof of life: His name appeared on Google Hangouts and he’d make Instagram stories from time to time, and his friends reported no death on social media. I waited 17 days for a response until I couldn’t grit my teeth any longer and asked him why. Though no answer would likely satisfy me, he wouldn’t even do me the courtesy of offering an explanation for this particularly cruel tactic. He would not answer my phone call, forcing me to speak my piece and say my goodbyes over text. If you had asked me before this happened if you can get over a difficult text exchange in 14 days, I would have told you, “Absolutely.” I wouldn’t tell you that now.

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