I am. Kristoffer Patrick Cornils, born on November 17 in 1987 in Buxtehude and, from the beginning to the very end, nothing but a ghost.
I was born in a place which is believed to be fictional and has supposedly never existed, bearing my older brother’s second name as my first. Said name refers to the name of the bearer of Christ, the patron saint of all travellers; the guardian spirit of all the people that are temporarily displaced, like ghosts are permanently.
My life is untimely, too, for I was born into a non-place as a mere reiteration of something different. My older brother’s first name translates to ‘son of solace’ or ‘the youngest’. He meant closure. Before me, there was death. Neither present nor absent. No-one died until I grew up to be five and a half years old. My memory starts there, not three but four days before my mother celebrated the anniversary of her birth. I rolled around toy dinosaurs in the grass of our neighbour’s garden and was scolded for drinking straight out of the bottle. ‘You have a cough’, our neighbour said. ‘You are contagious.’
Maybe that was the exact moment in which those who had given birth to me told them to switch off the machines. Maybe it wasn’t. I will never know, as I did not know back then. Death, on that day, was neither present nor absent.
If that person had not been to die, I would have never been born. He was my other, oldest brother, who was different from three others for he received a name, one which he did not pass on to me. ‘We did not plan to have you,’ my mother once told me, ‘But we were happy that you were healthy.’ I was possible due to the impossibility of others.
Death has many anniversaries. It is all too familiar as it is all too familial. Not only a revenant abstraction, but what I carry in my genes.
I have never lived. Sure, I wandered off wondering what if. But I was just playing then, knowing there is no distinction between what is real and what is virtual. How could I ever die? I am and am not, indefinitely and untimely suspended.
It has been said that we do not grieve for the ones who died, but ultimately ourselves. Like I was when I buried my face in the cushions mourning the death of my oldest friend in the world. He had known me for over 20 years, had borne witness to my being. When he died, a proof of my existence vanished, just like my memories had done. That is ultimately why I buried my face in the cushions. One and a half years after his burial, I returned to the cemetery. They had moved the grave and I could not find it. This witness is indefinitely displaced.
It has also been said that all writing aims at cheating death and that all work is grief work. I write as I work and I work as I write. Do I, then, grieve by immortalising myself? Or do I immortalise myself by grieving? Both. Neither. I indefinitely suspend an already suspended state between being and not being.
I, Kristoffer Patrick Cornils, was born on November 17 in 1987 in Buxtehude as a ghost.
Kristoffer Patrick Cornils