Amputees often experience a strange phenomenon. Most describe it as feeling the limb that isn’t there anymore: a throbbing pain or an itch where there is nothing to scratch. This condition is referred to as a ‘phantom limb’, the spectre of what once was a part of the person.
It’s a discomforting feeling, by most firsthand accounts. A constant reminder of what you lost, an annoying sensation that never quite lets you get accustomed to your new life without the appendage. A prosthetic limb, while it contributes in functionality, does nothing to ease the malaise of the phantom limb.
While the condition is a little understood phenomenon of both physiology and psychology, it can be quite analogous to things and experiences we go through in our lives. This hits upon the idea of a phantom person.
A phantom person is quite like the phantom limb: the mere image of someone who once was truly there. It is the reminder of a friend who passes, or moves, or, by the exigencies of time and distance, ceases to be a friend. It is the familiar scent of a lover as you walk past a perfume store in some pretentious market on your way back from a pretentious bar where you paid way too much for a little liquid fire. It is the knowledge, no, the wisdom that often while people leave, they don’t quite go away. They remain in some form, from the notes of some sappy song or the theme song of that ridiculous sitcom that you often binge watched together.
Could one say, then, that people can be as close, or as meaningful to one as their own limbs? That the severance of an individual from the life of another individual could cause trauma approaching the very real condition faced by thousands of people every day? While it might be callous and ignorant to equate the two, one can certainly see a parallel in the phantom limb and the phantom person.
Both often stay with you longer than they really do, and both bother you when you least expect them; while you’re going through the motions of your functional life and beginning to forget, the phantoms remind you.