Dan A. Cardoza

Ghosts in the Cupboards

I have ghosts in my modern grey cupboards. They dwell in my free-standing kitchen cabinets that float above the Carrara countertops. The onyx marble was cut from the castle-like crags in Italy, just a few kilometers from the quarry that birthed Leah, the Dying Slave and David, once captive, all freed by Michelangelo using a utilitarian wood mallet, chisel, and punch. Now, if Michelangelo can’t convince you to believe in ghosts, then I have my work cut out for me.

I built four of the upper cabinet doors, with arched windows to display my exotic spices, makes the selection handy when I cook. My reclusive ghosts apparently have an aversion to spice, as they prefer to bivouac unseen behind saucers and cups, doors without glass. What I honestly think, is they choose to remain captive, not unlike the many souls who dwell in the marble at Carrara.

***

All this intrigue started about seven years ago when I was washing a dinner plate and a glass, sobbing behind the waterfall of the Delta faucet, too embarrassed to listen to myself cry. And to think, she’d always said, “Tanner, you are my rock.”

From somewhere near the shelf that supports the white china, spewed burble. It sounded like a form of articulation. But at this stage I was well versed at lying, “It’s God damned nothing,” I said, surprising the late quiet.

I slowly turned off the water and carefully listened to nothing, except my newly found silence. Filled with anxiety, I showered and hit the sack early.

***

The following week, I hosted my granddaughter’s birthday party, more space in my house. With huffs and puffs, I created lions, tigers, and bears, and a lofty skinny giraffe, even an intruding, 800-pound impish gorilla of thought floated by. A good time was held, mostly by all.

When they’ve all gone home, alone in my kitchen again, I imagine a peep, a squeak, pixie laughter. I share their decibels with no one with ears.

***

As they tend to, the years have drifted over their horizons. The grandchildren have grown from pet balloons to real pups and cats. It’s funny, how you feel most alone around loved ones. It’s like you’ve lost something they have.

***

In time, I contemplated that the hidden voices had grown more distinct, as they seemingly rehearsed vowels, concatenated subject, and verb. Then one extraordinary day, I eavesdropped on an exchange that I swore sounded like a foreign language. Short of completely losing my mind, I deciphered a whisper, “Kanashimi.” Later Google surprised me, Kanashimi means sadness.

***

I often heard them as a choir, like the unwanted songbirds that perched on my winter sycamore branches, not unlike worry beads. Their chorus repeated, “Anata ga jiyūdenai kagiri watashi wa jiyū ni narenai.”

I focused on phonetics, investigated words, came up with, “I can’t be free unless you are free.”

It’s difficult to admit, but I’d grown to enjoy their melodic voices, extended conversations.

***

It became obvious. The sprites mainly inhabited the kitchen, where it’s warm in the winter. While I slowly learned their vernacular, I also learned the grandfatherly language of daft. So to compensate, I practiced mindfulness. I became a better listener. And with all the changes, I made sure I enjoyed each new day. This lowered my angst.

***

Recently, I noticed they were less talkative, easily distracted. I’ve fooled myself into believing they were just practicing Zen meditation, and respecting boundaries. Like myself, they seemed to retire earlier at night, and more often than not, sleep-in.

I heard them as they rehearsed the word Sayonara. We all know what that means.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’ve commenced grieving. It’s something you can learn after all. The grieving is mostly for me, but also for when they forsake speaking, altogether, perchance move on?

***

My housekeeper Sara deep cleans about five times a year. This time, she was kind enough to clean all the cupboards, including the china. Areas I have neglected far too long. We laughed at the spilled ginger powder and the scattered granules of Tibetan salt. She chuckled, blamed all, including the Matcha talc, on the mice. When she finished, the cupboards shined anew.

Near the end of the day, Sara disclosed that she admired all my Japanese dishes, especially the soup bowls, ecru porcelain saucers, at best drab. Wearing a rare childish smile, Sara admitted to coveting my beautiful Celery colored, Japanese Teapot, and matching teacups. Compared to all the other china, they really, “Stand out.”

In a rare moment of enlightenment, I said, “How would you like to have the Japanese tea set?” She stared and then in her Cheshire grin, thanked me more than once.

After she’d gone, I reflected, it had been nearly seven years since my Melissa, and I enjoyed our last Sencha Green tea. Now that my grief was finally full to the brim, I felt the haunting complete.

***

Before lights out, under a wise reading lamp, I pause and recall when you said, “I love you” for the very last time. You said, “Be brave, take the love we grew, and find someone new one day.”

Since I have become so good at Japanese, I am thinking about signing up for a French class at the local community college. I understand there’s a Franco group tour scheduled for the fall.


Dan A. Cardoza’s poetry, nonfiction, and fiction have met international acceptance. He has an M.S. degree in education from C.S.U.S. Most recently his work has been featured in Cleaver, Coffin Bell/2019 Anthology, Dime Show Review, Entropy, Gravel, New Flash Fiction Review, Poached Hare, Spelk, and Vamp Cat.

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