The Negombo Ghost

Sometime long ago, I took a trip off to Negombo

to see a young friend from an old chapter

of a novel, that I am still dipping ink on the pages to.

 

It was around ten-thirty when I reached.

This town was nothing like the city,

Its pace was still and stars illuminated freely

A line of lampposts were the only illusions of safety

in this foreign ghost town of Negombo.

 

And I stood there on wet asphalt,

guessing which way was I supposed to go.

 

A few paces into the sleeping streets of this beach town,

the silent hiss of bicycle tyres scraping

the wetness off the road

readied my heart for an encounter with my first ghost.

 

He rode slowly, dark boy

on cheap blue bicycle.

Eyes fixed on my presence,

he stopped for a question,

but I asked him one first

 

“Where is the road to the hotel I’m looking for?”

 

He offered to take me there.

 

I was on the ghost’s bicycle now,

he was in control.

This was normal, I thought. Just a city boy

doing country things, nothing amiss.

I awkwardly watched him paddle me into mysterious

streets, as he tried again, to question me.

 

“Where are you from?”

 

Colombo.

 

And the kind ghost became a curious ghost

Asking me how I got here,

and how did I end up lost,

in the middle of nowhere close to Negombo,

in the dead of this night.

 

I asked the ghost,

why was he out so late,

and he said he just finished Sunday Mass,

leaving me amazed, because even ghosts

find their time to pray.

 

And I am living.

 

“Are you Christian?” he asked me.

 

I am living.

 

“No” I said, “Muslim”

 

I am living.

 

And there was silence. the same

hissing of bicycle tyres scraping

the wetness off the road

kept the two of us company

as one word ruined out all conversation in the air.

 

I am dying.

 

He dropped me off and didn’t say goodbye

So I couldn’t really say thanks either.

 

I am dying.

 

I spat on the wet floor with the disgust.

Walked into the hotel, I almost couldn’t find

to finish this peculiar night

that started out alright.

 

I am dying.

 

when I remember the look on the boy’s face

from that Sunday.

 

I see now, that it was I who became

his ghost.

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