WatchersShe told me her name, but I no longer remember what she said.  It was almost one in the morning when she rang the doorbell.  Twice.  I wasn’t too concerned at first, although it did seem a bit surreal.  I peered through the window panes of our front door to see who it was.  “Go away.”

‘I need help.”  She paused.  “I don’t want to be a bother; I have no place else to go.”

I reluctantly unlocked the front door and looked up at her.  She was maybe six-and-a-half-feet tall.  At least.  Long black hair, dyed, with matching lipstick–although most of it had smudged off.  There were human lips underneath.  Beneath her black leather jacket she wore a black, heavy metal band t-shirt with silver letters and logo.  Thrasher maybe?  Her yellow-and-brown plaid skirt was hiked up almost to her hips, accentuating long, smooth white legs that fit snuggly into tight, brown leather boots.  She was wrapped in a dirty, tan blanket and carried three black leather bags.  She explained to me that she had a tablet, and could use the outside outlet for electricity so she could contact someone to pick her up.  Mike had left her with Dave, and Dave had left her alone in our neighborhood in the middle of the night.  Her mother was asleep, but she would be of little help had her eyes actually been open.  This strange, helpless girl admitted to being homeless for most of the past three years, and she looked and smelled the part.  I guessed she was twenty-something.

I brought her into our house.

My wife had just gone to bed, but I had discreetly awakened her before I had unlocked the door so she knew what was happening.  It seemed like the responsible thing to do at the time.

The girl, whose name I still can’t recall, asked for my laptop because her tablet was apparently inoperable.  I offered it to her as she squatted cross-legged on the cold tile floor in our foyer.  She asked if I was alone, and it sounded like a proposition.  I answered in the negative while searching her neck for an Adam’s apple.  I realized that I was starting my Friday morning in the company of a very sexy man who drew the interest of both of our cats and was starting to scare the shit out of me.

As I crouched on the floor beside her, I asked about the hospital band on her wrist.  She replied that she had “checked in to get off the street,” and that she simply needed her meds.

Holy Mother of God, what had I gotten myself into?

She told me she needed her space and asked me (twice) if I could stop hovering over her.  I moved over to a living room couch and watched her punch buttons on my keyboard in my foyer in my house–wondering all the while if she was secretly contacting any number of her sociopathic friends to participate in her home invasion.  I imagined duct tape and rope and gags and torture for me and my wife.  I smelled the acrid scent of fear and realized it was me.  My wife had already gone back to sleep, imagining I had the situation under control.  She had never been more wrong about anything.

Minutes dragged on like hours as the stranger looked up phone numbers on a variety of social network sites and called people up on our home phone.  The conversations were short and fruitless, and she was getting visibly upset.  She rambled on and on to me about getting to Chicago, and how her own mother only offered her a cigarette and a beer the last time they had gotten together–and then complained about her accepting both.  The girl that was probably a guy and most likely a hooker that sat cross-legged in my foyer inside my home at one-thirty in the morning was getting very upset and I was trying to keep everything cool, trying to keep him from becoming enraged and violent.

And then my computer died.

With a defeated look, she abruptly got up and put on his jacket, and then covered her shoulders with a blanket before picking up his three satchels that she had placed on the floor when he had first entered my life.  I told her that I was sorry I couldn’t help him, and asked for our phone back–the one she had just deposited into her jacket pocket.  Once she was all geared up and ready to leave, he returned it to me.  It occurred to me at that moment that she felt so vulnerable, she had to reclaim her own clothing and belongings before she felt safe enough to return my phone.  She had been holding it hostage.  She was more afraid of me than I was of him.

I apologized for not being able to help, but I was secretly relieved to see her depart.  I wished him well and locked the front door behind her.  He walked away from our house in the suburbs into a dark, rainy, and uncertain night, carrying his three bulky satchels closely, like hungry infants whose cries for milky breasts were answered by the sound of boot heels on wet concrete sidewalks.

I wish I could remember her name.

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3 responses »

  1. Ben Sharpton says:

    Deeply disturbing and meaningful at the same time — something a good story should be. Thanks, Rick, for sharing it.

  2. Joe Compton says:

    The best “fiction” is reality.

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