When you love a ghost

There is that awkward moment when you realise that you desperately fancy someone from three decades ago who is now not especially fanciable, if you were to run into them in the street. It’s an odd, vertiginous feeling, like looking down into a lake and seeing the sky. It makes you heavy with longing, but it is longing tinged with finality, bleakness. You can’t even fantasise about meeting and having amazing hot sex with the person because it was THEN that they were hot, not now.

Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, okay? It’s Bill Murray in Ghostbusters. Also, simultaneously, Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. Oh Lord, yes. I’m guessing that by now you’ll be seeing what most attracts me to people; I like funny guys. If you have a sense of humour and know how to use it, I’m basically there.

But I mean… I was about 1 year old when Bill Murray was being devastatingly handsome and wry and eyebrow raised. And his hair was already receding a reasonable amount. He had that craggy, weathered look which said he’d been a round the block and probably already had one divorce under his belt (I have no idea, I’m just guessing. He could have married his childhood sweetheart and still be with her for all I know. Actually that would be amazing. Now I am imagining that and loving him even more. Bill. BILL!).
What I’m saying is, even if I could leap into a Tardis and travel back to 1984, I’d probably already be a little late to the party. And there is a strange sweet grief in missing someone who doesn’t exist any more.

When I dated someone who is trans (M to F, if it matters) for almost a year, I had that bittersweet feeling. I still have it now - we are still friends. I have tried to tell them once how it feels to miss someone who is still alive and yet also dead and I think they get it, but it’s not really something I want to trumpet about, because how is it their problem that I miss someone they no longer are? It’s so not. Trans people have loads to deal with without me schmooping on about how I miss the scratch of stubble on my cheek when we kissed, or the leanness of muscle which has since melted away and been replaced with softer curves. But I do miss it, and it is a weird feeling to have someone you love and desire ‘die’ while still going on living their life. I guess that’s what happens when you are super optimistic and romantic and also young (glares at younger self), and decide to date someone who is just on the cusp of starting a gender transition. “What could possibly go wrong?”

I think that is why watching Ghostbusters with my 8 year old made me misty-eyed. I miss Bill Murray but I never knew him, he was already on his way to being someone else before I even discovered his name. Just like my ex. It’s like loving someone’s slipstream. It’s best to stand out of the way or else you’ll die from the fumes. Or get run over by a truck because you’re too busy moping to notice you’re still standing on the fucking highway.

Loved him in Lost in Translation, though.


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