I saw a ghost today with salt and pepper hair, sitting behind the steering wheel of a large, white work van. Sitting with that posture that I could recognize from worlds away. I saw the man who hurt me when I was a young, tender girl. The man who turned a confident, happy person into a haunted house.
It's been about 16 years since I've seen him. The last time being when I looked into his chilling blue eyes before a courtroom full of family and strangers, and unloaded all of the feelings that had been locked into a dungeon for almost a decade. No remorse, no sorrow, but an empty and vile glare that warned me of my unforgiving confessions. I lived in paranoia of ever seeing him again.
He spent 5 years in prison, yet he was irrationally omniscient in my mind. Although his presence was terrifying when he was in scope, it was at least fairly predictable. I knew his work hours, his patterns, the slyness of working around my family's timetable - he had restrictions. But now that I couldn't see him, I anticipated him in every alley, at every red light. So I saw him in every man with a thick build around 5'10". When I passed any blue work van, I slumped down in my seat, hoping he wouldn't see me, know my vehicle, or worse, follow me.
For years I dreamed of him circling my home, waiting for me. Dreams of him standing beside the fresh remains of my loved ones, promising me my time would come. The years were dark, my free years were darker still. I avoided my home town at all cost. I wouldn't even drive past his old hang outs, or the gas stations he frequented. It was as if he had served his time, and now had permission to move on. I never had that luxury. He haunted me for most of my life.
Time has passed, more healing has come, and I visit my home town several days a week. I work there. He lives close, and I know that. I no longer hurry in and out of town like I used to. I don't even think about him every time I'm there. So when I pulled up to that four-way stop and I saw him opposite of me, my heart raced, I gripped the steering wheel a little harder, but I didn't cower down in my seat or worry that he now knew what I drove. I stared in his direction, turning my entire head his way as we passed each other. I know what he drives now, and I don't care. My life is turning around, and he harbors all of the memories of what he's done - the criminal record that will inhibit jobs, the relationships it will impede, the parents who keep their children a little closer, and I have to think that now, now I am his ghost.