A Ghost In Quarantine by John Pucay. First published by Brittle Star Literary Magazine. Shows magazine cover and story art
Story Art by 16-year-old Jamie and 16-at-heart Jasmine. Magazine photo courtesy of Jacqueline & Martin from Brittle Star

A Ghost In Quarantine

Guy struggles with a debilitating heartbreak during Lock-down. Then a “ghost” visits.

This short story was first published in Brittle Star Literary Magazine (United Kingdom), Issue 46.

The world is like a huge jigsaw puzzle, made up of different pictures and sets. I’m a puzzle piece, in a heap with other pieces. I am not alone. In fact, I am surrounded by millions — even billions — of virtual and physical puzzle parts. But my loops and sockets do not fit any other piece. I cannot join. All around me; individuals, pairs and groups are locking onto one another, creating full and partial pictures, while I am left NOT alone but also NOT connected with anyone.

Every day, I stir from my half-sitting sleep, take a shower, brush my teeth, and nibble on a rationed portion from my food stock. My new employer is holding off work (we have enough WFH employees atm, he chatted), so I spend the time budgeting my depleted savings, working out an hour or two a day, and exchanging mundane memes and hollow anya ngays with Zoom buddies and Facebook friends. Now and then, I call my parents to listen to their views about President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest press release.

I don’t tell her that I took a higher paying job, over my much-anticipated dream project, so I can eventually afford the “show money”. I just don’t. I can’t. I never had the chance.

The unsaid words and the unasked questions bounce violently inside my head, like rubber balls smashing against the walls of my skull. The “Enhanced Community Quarantine” announcements grate painfully against my ears.

Thoughts, feelings and dreams — a whole picture that I’m not a part of.

Then I open my phone, exit the contact list, swipe on the music app, and scroll to a song by Bill Withers; the one about leaning on someone. The words that were never said, the questions that were never asked, and the deafening silence that permeates my solitary apartment fade away; like background noise gradually muted by the song’s warm humming.

The author’s Japanese ex-girlfriend, staring out the window, on their last night at an Airbnb, during happier times
Art by 16-year-old Jamie and 16-at-heart Jasmine. Artwork not included in the original published piece

Relationships, Culture, Polyamory, and Running. More stories at https://johnpucay.com. Twitter @JPucay or email me at john@johnpucay.com