Fiction that happens in part in an unnamed place is tempting to write, and hard to pull off. The narrator of ‘Old Ghost’ is driving a taxi, and living in a shared flat in Paris with Rina, a fellow immigrant or refugee. Old Ghost, the character of the title, is a friend – originally a friend of her brother’s. “Actually he was not my brother’s friend; he was trying to become my brother’s friend.” Instead, it is the narrator who befriends Old Ghost, playing cards with him. The story, written in short sections, is full of corrections and elision:
“Did you always know you would leave him?”
“No,” I say. I don’t like this. She knows.
“So tell me about the maps.”
I tell her about the maps.
Sometimes fiction that elides details – names, places, years – reads to me as though the writer is (understandably) dodging a problem. But in this story the elisions moved me. Something is said but much is not, and in that a space is held, tender, for what was lost.
First published in the first issue of The Lonely Crowd in April 2015, and collected in Blind Water Pass, John Murray, 2016