Phantom Playdates

Ayo Derejska Acuity enjoying a rose twig

Phantom Playdates by Sophie Lou Cobb


ACUITY steps out onto the patio and into the evening chill, ceremonial spliff in hand. Tonight the moon is full and bright and ACUITY feels small and dull. They stand beneath its stare in hopes of absorbing some kind of something to replenish their apparent soul chamber. The seven flower bushes that line the patio unintentionally illustrate the life cycle of the pink plant. On the far left lives a bush in full bloom, flowers bursting for your attention. As you read the bushes from left to right, they grow smaller, less vibrant. They begin to wither and shed their petals, until you turn your gaze toward the very last bush, which is barely a bush at all. Its limbs have been severed and there are no sprouts to be seen. The bush is dead, past the point of no return. The rusted hinges of the wooden driveway gate screech behind ACUITY, signaling the approach of another apparent chamber of sorts.


(PHANTOM): Hey loser, I can smell you from next door. Willing to share yr treats?


ACUITY sways the spliff into the darkness beside them, expelling smoke from their lungs as (PHANTOM) moves forward to fill the empty space. A hand reaches out and plucks the cure-all from ACUITY’s hold.


ACUITY: Movement is emotionally charged.


(PHANTOM): I redact you.


ACUITY: No, really. The other day I’m in the backseat of some guy’s Toyota and a man crossing the street looked straight at me yelling, “Yo! I’m looking for this guy.” And I’m thinking, what guy?




ACUITY: Who is this guy he’s looking for? And why is he seeking guidance in me?


(PHANTOM): It’s loading in reverse.

ACUITY: And space is so expensive, so moving through any space is fraught with anticipation.


(PHANTOM): I became the voice that was lacking—swooped in gracefully, stayed for a few, and exited gently.


ACUITY: That’s kind of a beautiful use of space.


(PHANTOM): Thanks. I got it from some guy’s weed strain review on Leafly.


ACUITY: Poetically charged.


(PHANTOM) latches the wooden gate and moves deeper into the patio to rest on an adirondack chair. ACUITY follows. Beyond the bushed lining of the patio is a woodsy hill. The foliage rustles about as creatures traverse invisibly through the blacked out landscape.


ACUITY: So I’ve been thinking about maneuvers of freedom.


(PHANTOM): Bro, I’m literally a ghost.


ACUITY glances quizzically at (PHANTOM). (PHANTOM) rolls their eyes.


(PHANTOM): I don’t know what freedom means.


ACUITY: You seem like a spirit to me. I don’t get trapped vibes from you.


(PHANTOM): There’s more than meets the eye.


ACUITY: Touché.




(PHANTOM): I’m excited but I forget why.

ACUITY: deep&dope!


(PHANTOM): I’m experiencing hard truths. Those always seem to generate exhilaration.


ACUITY: Passive aggressive items are always in flux.


(PHANTOM): I’m feeling so anticipatory. Wrapped up in curiosity.


ACUITY: I feel like I’m walking through goo.


(PHANTOM): Don’t shrink yourself—I’m urging you.


ACUITY: Facebook stabbed that in the heart!


(PHANTOM): Spiritually I’m walking through goo too.


The ceremonial spliff reaches a natural end as the pair swap it back and forth. ACUITY places the remnants in an ashtray that lives within the adirondack chair armrest.


ACUITY: yr saying such beautiful words. How did you find them?


(PHANTOM): They came to me in a dream. Kidding! Actually, my mom shared those with me.


ACUITY: Who is yr mother?


(PHANTOM): Myself. Aren’t you your own parent?


ACUITY: I try, but sometimes the child in me takes over.


(PHANTOM): I think that’s a beautiful use of space.


ACUITY: Hey, thanks!

(PHANTOM): Sorry for calling you a loser—that wasn’t very kind of me.


ACUITY: It’s ok. You’re just a projection.


(PHANTOM): Ouch.


ACUITY: Ok, now I’m sorry.


(PHANTOM): I redact you.


ACUITY: A feather is falling on your head.


(PHANTOM): Oooh, I hope it floats!


ACUITY: Floating for you.


(PHANTOM): It’s enriching the space!


ACUITY: Precisely. The space is of higher value now.


(PHANTOM): How do we attribute value?


ACUITY: Selfishly, most of the time.


(PHANTOM): The face on the screen is ultra commodifiable, like my zest for life.


ACUITY: Don’t commodify joy!


(PHANTOM): Why not?


ACUITY: If you’re cheating yourself, you’re cheating another.


(PHANTOM): I think I’m a Saint!

ACUITY: What makes you say that?


(PHANTOM): Just a hunch, an inkling, a vibration.


ACUITY: The guy at the Apple store said I had chill vibes right after I had dozens of tiny needles inserted into my skin.


(PHANTOM): I guess you’re pretty alive.


ACUITY: My right wrist clicks at every turn so guess I am pretty alive.


(PHANTOM) How are you writing then?


ACUITY: I live on. Acutely.


(PHANTOM): Now I’m no human, but I don’t know if that’s ok.


ACUITY: Just listening to a podcast and popping some bubble wrap.


(PHANTOM): That moment when bro is hitting the vape and turns the light out.


ACUITY: They said whenever they hear shoegaze they think of a little mouse in a shoebox.


(PHANTOM): There’s a syntactical square to that.


ACUITY rises from their adirondack chair, steps forward, and traces the border of a stone patio rectangle before returning to a seated position. (PHANTOM) raises their eyebrows before slowly clapping.


ACUITY: That spec was leaping around the quarry of worries with an astronomical hankering for resplendence. I felt the stencil of particles circle around the thing like a sarcastic dog.

(PHANTOM): Bark scratched finger seeks absent place to point toward.


An emotion sweeps in, unclaimed, bubbling over nobody’s pot. Feeble host passes by, unassuming, suddenly motivated by a swing in mood to venture astray into the thicket. ACUITY points.


ACUITY: There’s that absence.



Sophie Lou is a French American writer and musician living in Brooklyn, NY. Via co-apprenticeship and bewilderment, their language piles up in tender investigation of the insatiable lacuna.

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