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"Boyfriend," Tito says.
We are back on the porch. He has re-lit the cigar from the afternoon.
"Fred Lup," I say.
"Old Freddy Lup."
"Was he the guy from the meat shop?"
"No," I say.
"Good. Didn't like him."
Tito holds the cigar to my lips. I take a small puff.
"Fred Lup was my cable man, after I moved back to Kansas, after I was dead. He hooked everything up. He had a tattoo on his lower back. An arrow that pointed to his ass. His pants never rode down, but every time he bent over, his shirt would hike up, and I could see the arrow."
"You had to have him."
"When he was done, I told him he turned on more than my cable."
"And it was love."
Puberty could only be delayed so long. I was seventeen. There were rumors. The accident was lucky for the studio. Afterwards, I was approached by legal. They suggested that Ghostboy could die of complications, that we could part ways in peace. They offered financial compensation.
I would have continued acting as long they let me. I was willing to go on. But I could see how this was more fitting.
My career was easy to leave because I wasn't used to being famous anywhere but the set and publicity events — it took makeup and swarthy black fabrics to appear as Ghostboy.
Without experiencing my own celebrity, it's hard to miss it.
Fingers are different.
I was on the ladder, for a movie, reaching for a book. I was acting, had made myself forget that the book would flash. And then there was a hiss, light and corrosives, my fingers coming apart, disintegrating.
In a few seconds, I was less than I had been.
I could have had clamps and screws, a number of prosthetics. They wanted to take the whole hand and rebuild from there, but I didn't let them. I was used to having things beyond my control shape me. It felt cheap to replace anything. I had been too young to consciously grieve my parents or my childhood. After the accident, I probably felt like I deserved to fully experience my loss.
I did therapy and minimal surgery, but nothing re-constructive.
It was probably stupid. After about six months, I started regretting it, but have never changed my mind. For several years, I had a full staff to help me. Now I have Tito and Wellbutrin.
Still, I don't have fingers.
I was able to touch, to twist yarn around and behind my fingers, to knot my shoes, and than I wasn't. Without prosthetics, my fingers are a metaphor for the internet, virtual sensation moving on electricity.
What I have grown to replace the fingers is suspicion. I don't miss the touching so much — I miss trusting it. Fingers are nothing if not loyal, a network of spies. When they return from the front with a description of chiffon silk or wet metal, there is no doubting the news. And now, I can't be sure of anything.
But there are tradeoffs.
I can sink my ghostfingers into walls, through a mirror.
I can reach outside a closed car window.
I can feel past our molecular shells, into other people.
I am permeable.
"Boyfriend," Tito says.
It is the morning, after breakfast and Tito's webpage update. We are in the kitchen, with coffee. I use both hands.
"Tim Vargus," I say.
"Ever go by Timothy?"
"No. I was on location, in South Bend, Indiana. He was a normal sixteen year-old kid. Except he had a paper route. He spent a lot of time watching the shoot, his bag slung over his shoulder."
"And you decided to make him yours."
"We mostly went on walks. He let me stuff papers in boxes."
"He had orange hair," I say, and they stop to imagine.
It is about an hour before lunch.
Outside, Wellbutrin is busy with his kite.
Tito is on the phone, setting up a meeting to buy the next house.
I am alone with the box.
Again and again, I watch Ghostboy on the ladder.
I use my palm and thumb to move the mouse, clicking on sources and interviews, a coalition of tragic glances. Tito has included links to several biographies, fan pages, tributes, the official Ghostboy site.
The whole story.
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