– Fiction by Charlotte Fleming, Photo by Austin Barboza –
In another world you’re still there and I’m still here. I’m on a ferry from Dubrovnik to Hvar and it’s a little past six in the evening. You’re in the early morning or very late night of Los Angeles in a room I can’t picture. Is it bad that I wonder what color the walls are? Or if you still sleep in the same sheets? In another world the seat on this boat next to me is still empty and my phone is still dead and I’m still crying because in this other world I’m still missing you.
But in another world, I’m excited that it’s almost night here because that means soon you’ll be calling me, with sleep in your voice, telling me you dreamed again of lilac trees and doors that don’t open. The white linen shirt you gave me is in my tote bag and in moments when I am homesick I feel for it and trace my fingers around the buttons. In this other world we are very good at Facetime sex and the connection is never lost and the video is never blurry. I text you photos every time I see a pale blue mini cooper because that joke is still funny to us.
I like to think it’s real, this other world, that somewhere things are different than they are here—that somewhere we’re counting down the days until we see each other and I’m drawing hearts in my planner rather than writing about what might have been.
Sometimes living in a world of ghosts is like a guilty pleasure. I let myself picture this imaginary place, where we acted as better versions of ourselves, versions who were never cruel or messy or drunk or human, glass dolls that knew how not to break. I think it’s okay for all of us to have moments where we let ourselves step into haunted houses, getting carried away with scenarios we once wished on.
In the world I actually live in there’s nobody for me to text. There’s nobody wondering if I’ll get home okay. There’s nobody on this boat who even knows my name. In this world, on this ferry, there’s an extra glass of wine and a waitress wearing a bright pink top that says ‘Barbie,’ who doesn’t know what she wants to be yet and doesn’t need to. She’s enjoying life, she tells me, and hands me a coconut candy for free.
In this world there are people I haven’t met and stories I haven’t written and versions of me that I can’t even see the shapes of. Tonight, I might sit at the edge of a crowded dance floor and watch people who really know how to move their bodies dance. Or I might take even more pleasure in watching those who have no idea what they’re doing but they’re dancing anyway because it feels good to move, and the air is light with heat and possibility and because it is summer. I might get too drunk and stay at a bar until the lights come on and cry because the things a stranger is saying sound so beautiful, and then laugh the next morning because I can’t find that same beauty hungover. I might end up lost in quiet cobbled streets and listen for whispers of the city still awake. Or I might just get to a hotel, put down my bags and fall desperately asleep. But in this world, in whatever happens, there’s more alive in what’s coming than in what might have been.
This is a place where ghosts might want to visit for a moment but even ghosts have somewhere else to be. Some other girl to haunt. Because it’s almost eight and no matter where you are or what you’re doing, I’m about to shut my computer and stop writing.
This boat rides over and I’m going to step onto the dock and try and fail to manage my bags and it will still be light out because it never gets dark in July. The air will be warm and it will smell like sweat and salt and countless dinners being cooked with open windows. I’ll hear voices in different languages on the crowded pier and music coming from every bar and someone will be crying because they think they’ve lost the love of their life and someone will be on a first date and someone will be sending a text that isn’t answered and someone will be holding their granddaughter’s tiny hand and someone will be reading their favorite book for the first time and someone will be starting an argument and someone will be turning forty six and wishing they were younger. And in all these crowded human spaces, ghosts will be born but ghosts are dying too because we’re alive, and we haven’t even seen the sunset yet tonight. And years from now, someone will be thinking about this night and all the things they’ve gotten wrong and it still won’t be too late for them. It never is.
Charlotte Fleming is presently working on her MFA with the NYU creative writing program in New York and Paris. She graduated in 2021 from Colgate University, where she majored in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in theater. She is passionate about storytelling of all kinds and is always excited to delve into something new. When she isn’t reading or writing, she loves cooking and being around animals, especially dogs. She has recently moved with her dog Finn to Manhattan’s West Village.
Artist Statement for Austin Barboza: “I love art, photography, film, music and sports. Grew up in Jersey City, born and raised. I started doing art when I was about 3 or 4 years old. I would draw pictures of my family, friends and everything I saw. I got my first start in photography by taking pictures at family events at about 8 years old. I was always drawn to art and cameras. Pictures capture moments and memories that can last a lifetime. Pictures can speak louder than words. I think the most important skill for a photographer is their eyes. I believe my love for films, and tv, helps me visualize what I like to shoot. I want to get into film at some point too. I credit my family and friends for embracing me and instilling confidence in my talent, especially my mother Velma, my sister Alana, my father Alan, my brother Alan and my best friend Tyrek. My brother Alan passed away in 2020. His death motivates me and pushes me to go for my dream.” Follow Austin on Instagram at @cooljinks94.