A Happy Ghost by Karl Kristian Flores


Somewhere in Kentucky

Today I breathe in a town I don’t know,

Whose warm weather is wet and thundering,

Whose streetlights droop from wires sinking low,

Whose milky life pace keeps me wondering.

To where I went I did not care—I turned.

I saw houses, some people, and some food.

Again? I wanted something different,

But us mammals are not so different.

Oh, and no one misses me! No one called—

I could be home, dead, in Paris, or here.

The free man knows people don’t ask for him.

They ask for things: work, your hands – never you.

All that time I was nowhere and no one,

But finally I am somewhere and me.

This past May, I graduated from college and entered the exciting, cold world of no one ever giving a shit about you. At university, I felt protected. It’s amazing what can make one feel secure— buildings that need magnetic cards to open, clean sidewalks, scheduled increments in the day to sit in a room and hear a person speak, and a framed piece of paper with your name on it. But soon, I was alone as everybody else.

Freedom is a terrifying feeling. I wanted to learn about it and push it to its most extreme extent. So, one summer morning, I left California on a one-way flight to London to see where this exploration took me. And I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. I’ve learned a valuable revelation from my trip and I’d like to share it with you.

Now while there were wonderful interactions and hilarious stories in my journey, I hesitate to make this a travel post. More so, it is an extraction of what was discovered from travel. And it is this: the earth moves according to your eyes. We can exist however and whenever we want and it’s awfully clear to see how many things and people we ultimately need.

I ended up away for two months. One month in London and the other in Paris, France. No one knew where I was. At one point, I even grew worried on the intersection of a European street because had I suddenly died, my friends and family wouldn’t immediately know nor would they understand what the hell my body was doing in front of a boulangerie. It was electric.

Photo by Bradford Rogne Photography

But during this, no one called me. And no one asked for me. Not one text or a single e-mail. No favor, no emergency, no obligation. Most of everyone I knew thought I was in my usual, stuffy Los Angeles apartment. It seemed as if two versions of me were alive: one assumed version at home and the actual. Though I was absolutely free and it was enough for a man to know he could exist anywhere without any restraints and understand he is not ultimately needed by anyone or anything. It might’ve saddened me. Don’t they miss me? But people don’t need you. They usually need things for them that you or anyone can give— company, your hands, or an extra player. Without you, the movie will show, the game will go on, and people will get what they want. If it was you they needed, you’d be together. After roaming cities anonymously, it was evident that our reality is only bound to our next decision in the future. Nowhere else. And with no one else.

I’m not exactly vouching for readers to travel, but rather offering a perspective. If you do things in secret for long enough, you’ll find the world generally unbothered. No one minds. They don’t need you. And the benefit of knowing that is you get to be yourself for once. And it will be addictive. You can’t arrest a soul, but give it a community, titles, and obligations, you can convince it that it’s in jail. But when it’s finally released, you’ll never want to go back. You’ll realize your aloneness, that you get to stand on this earth, unchained, loose, and terrifyingly open— like a lost animal. And it’s a wonderful feeling.

In one pub, while sipping on a fresh, cold London beer, I felt dangerously liberated. Right here. Alien. Unknown. Alive. As if I was in a cantina on some planet called Tatooine alongside other life forms chatting in their respective languages. To tap into that galactic frame of mind is profound. We’re nothing but travelers. You can’t convince me I belong somewhere because I didn’t ask to be born in the first place. We’re born estranged.

Of course, one may argue that a job requires us to stay home and work. These are appropriate obligations, but it’s important to note how the same rule applies. No matter how convincing it can be, there is nowhere on this planet where we are truly needed. Another expert can always replace you. The contribution a person can uniquely offer won’t be in the average nine-to-five. It would be through personal achievement and risk— both of which are created. Reality, however, is a treasure that few people find, that can appear in an instant, and reveal our spatial relationship with the universe.

Even my voice changed. Or rather, was restored. I had returned from my trip not having spoken to anyone I knew for months. And because I had no expectation to maintain, I could speak freely. And I was startled at the idea of how I maintained a voice to my friends and loved ones merely because they met me once. Without this habit, I found my voice.

Reality can change instantly. One day, I’m staring at skateboarders ollieing up curbs in Downtown LA. And the next day I’m drinking from a French bottle of red by the River Seine with cheap Camembert cheese and the echoes of some faraway accordion. Freedom isn’t adventurous. It isn’t romantic. It’s merely: optional. And it’s waiting. Best of all, you don’t need to be away to do it. You only need to know that the galaxy ties you not to people, offices, or obligations, but to the future. Don’t resist. Just dance off the shadow of ourselves that we thought was us. The most human we can be is as a happy ghost.  

Author’s Bio:

Kristian Flores (born “Karl Kristian Flores,” Oct. 20 1999 — ) is a writer, and also known for his film and theatre performances as an actor and volunteer service awarded by President Obama, Rotary International, U.S. Congress, University of Southern California, City of Los Angeles, and more. Kristian was born in California, shifting around the San Francisco Bay Area under a single-parent household. His book, Can I Tell You Something? is a collection of 100 poems examining age, addiction, poverty, art, romance, friendship, and more. Kirkus Reviews commends Kristian’s writing, calling it: “Poignant… and exquisitely crafted.” UK’s Neon Books, as well, paints an image of Kristian’s style as an extraordinary thinker, saying: “The subjects Flores chooses to focus his gaze on are surprising… It sits in a liminal territory that too few poetry books inhabit.” Flores’ most recent book, The Goodbye Song, is available now on Amazon.

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