My wife’s toes nudge my calf. I come to from some dream I can’t remember.

The dog is whimpering in the kitchen.

“Riley. Quiet girl.”

Whines become barks. One more nudge of the toe and I’m up and to the kitchen in a daze.

“It’s just the mouse Riley.”

Her fur is up. Huh. I think to myself. Then I hear it.

A bellow. A moan.

Then from the bedroom: “Mark?!”

“I think some animal’s hurt in our backyard.”

When I push the kitchen door, Riley butts her head against it.

“Easy, Riley. Easy. Sit. Wait.”

A grown man is face down in our backyard in between the trash and recycling containers. “Yo. Hey! Yo!” When I realize that I’m trying to get the attention of a stranger in our backyard at 3 a.m., I step back inside, lock the door and call the police.

They arrive quickly. Back in our room, my son is in Miranda’s lap, blue and red lights flickering on his face through the window shade.

Hours later, I call the police to get the report.

“Overdose. PCP. He’s at the hospital receiving treatment.”

The next morning I am cleaning up the knocked-over waste, and disposing of all that remained of the addict in our backyard: a blue lighter.

That addicts only hurt themselves in an overdose is a delusion. I thought it often, coming to in hospitals, hostels, and hallways.

Nine years ago was my father’s surprise 65th birthday. I was invited although I don’t remember the invitation. From Los Angeles, I could’ve made the drive north to see him. But that weekend, I took the drive south to Mexico.

The call came in the early morning after his party.

“Mark’s in the hospital.”

I hear the story at my nine-year celebration; my former self stirs in my blood, like a ghost.

Will the addict in my backyard ever lose his delusion? Will he know he kept a three-year old up half the night wide-eyed and worried?

I am an addict hospitalized for use.

I am an addict.

I am.

He is.

He is an addict.

He is an addict hospitalized for use.

I am clean.

He is not.

But for the grace of God, go I.

17 Responses to “Ghost

  • Such ghosts will follow us all until we are ghosts. We must accept their company for they are us. Great piece Mark.

  • Mark Decker
    1 year ago

    Powerful words.

  • Yes.Powerful.

  • Fantastic, Mark. Especially the end verse. Beautifully written.

    • That end verse is straight out of the book of Ryan Sirois. I actually thought of you when I was writing it.

  • Hope the guy is okay. Obviously very sick and needing help.

    • Funny you say that Birdie. A friend of his approached me a few mornings later about what happened. He said he’d tell the guy I wasn’t upset / pressing charges, and that maybe I could help him. Hopefully he shows up (in the sober light of day) sometime soon.

  • Elva Green
    1 year ago


  • Addicts hurting only themselves is a delusion. But it’s not until (if) they heal that they see this, for the most part. Though I have worked with one or two who did know what they were doing hurt others. Regret and anguish aside, it wasn’t enough to help them stop.

    • I’ve learned through painful trial and error, that the only thing that will stop an addict (THIS addict) is the admission that I am a drug addict and that I need help. Nice to hear from you!

  • It is a delusion.
    We hurt many people, even people we don’t know.

  • Wow, you are so right. It’s almost like I can picture another version of myself and where I would be now if I had continued drinking. Or if it had been me that caused one of the horrendous accidents that people who drink and drive do.
    Through the wonder of the internet, I am sending this guy a prayer.
    Thanks, Mark.

    • Prayer received. Thanks for sending it.

      There are so many blackout incidents I won’t ever remember, when I caused similar havoc to others. I vaguely remember stirring in the lobby of a resort, when kids and their families were heading to the pool. God knows what I said or did beforehand. And I live with that. And I make amends to them and myself each day I am sober.

  • God laid him in the yard of the person He knew he would be safest with. Thanks Mark for sharing this. I hope little guy recovered…3 years old is so impressionable.

    • Great to hear from you Annette! He is recovered. He didn’t think too much of it. I think I was more distraught at what was happening in front him than he was. He really didn’t ‘get it’. How could he?

  • I get reminders like this sometimes too. I always see myself in them, and vice-versa. I know I am not far from that place. It would take a few time bombs to drop me right in someone else’s backyard.

    Fantastic post, Mark.

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