Ghost:

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So there’s this: was a kid, one of the crew, always a bit more daring, a bit more wild, a bit more in the face of the world. In high school days he was more likely to challenge an enemy to a proper fight than get in a sucker punch. He was more likely to gobble a tab of acid and stay all day at school, advertising his eyes to his homies. He was also more likely to run when a cop told him to freeze. This kid vanished, in a manner that seemed gradual to his crew but, they all admitted eventually, might well have been very sudden. When did you see him last? I don’t know…six months? You? What about you? Perhaps more than any other hijinks, this kid was known for the seeking out sucking down of adrenaline, which proved most effective via tagging the city’s face at ever-increasing heights, literal and figurative: a billboard off the freeway; an exit sign over downtown’s busiest ramp; the 34th floor ice-black windows of a sky scraper that erupted just as high school wound down. These feats seemed impossible to people who didn’t know him, but to those who’d carried spray cans alongside him or at least gunned a getaway car after application of his peer pressure, they knew—he could shimmy and leap like a monkey, use his feet like hands and also vanish into thin air upon the arrival of the cops. He wrote lots of things: blue! (the exclamation point calling into question the association of sadness); dikt (from “addict,” some said); live, sometimes and, others, evil, and others both placed together by the angle of a window’s reflection—liveevil. The kid did not discourage the rumors that flowed around him, especially the one about him having native blood and some of the sleight and smoke of the trickster. It was after a few rounds at the grimy tavern that the crew of boys habited on Thursday evenings that they decided he really was gone, be it gradually or suddenly. Seven smart phones sat flaccid on the scarred table—no trace of him caught in a single filter accessible via the World Wide Web. Later, the crew of boys—now men, with jobs, some, wives, others, kids, one—would agree that it was the next morning that they saw Ghost, looped across the cheap façade of the tavern they drank at. Certainly none of them had noticed the tag before, and certainly its appearance on boxcars and bathroom stalls and bus bumpers and freeway exit signs crowned with nests of razor wire, was new. The crew of men thrived on this mystery, sending text messages and photos to one another whenever a new iteration was glimpsed, no one ever coming straight out to say it, but everyone hinting at it: he’s back. A year and some weeks after the conversation at their tavern, the crew of men celebrated one of their weddings on the waterfront and as per custom, they orchestrated an escape to suck down a doobie and relive whatever felt urgent to relive. On a tiny rooftop deck of a deco hotel, the sun bleeding out in the jaws of the mountains, one of them spotted it—a ferry, fat and slow, chugging away from the city, pumped full of strangers and their various lives, their tangle of victories and shames and hopes. Ghost, the size of the flank of the boat, four times the height of any man, painted with a hurried precision, sliding toward illegible in the growing dusk. The men did not speak of him again. When one or another would consider it during one of the increasingly long lulls in barroom chatter, he would think: what is there to say?

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