Monday, October 29, 2018

Someone in My Chair

The apartment was dark as I entered, which was not unusual, as I never left the lights on when I left. It's just that it seemed darker than usual, but, perhaps, that was because the television was on, the sound turned down to a vague hum, and the dim light from the screen highlighted the darkness in the rest of the room, filling it with weird shadows and flickering lights.

The television was the problem. I was sure I hadn't left it on. I hadn't even been watching TV before I left, but, yet, there it was, its pale light glinting off of the hard surfaces in the room. Glinting off the whiskey bottle dangling from the hand of the man sitting in my easy chair...

There was someone sitting in my easy chair! What the fuck?

I stood silently by the door, not moving. Not breathing. Trying to still the sudden slamming of my heart in my chest through force of will. The pulsing of the blood in my ears and the hammering of my heart drowned out all other sound and, for a moment, I wasn't sure if, maybe, an earthquake hadn't started while I was standing there. The room seemed unstable enough for it.

But, no, it was me. My world spinning. Someone in my home, sitting in my chair, drinking my liquor. I was frozen in indecision, not unlike a squirrel in front of an oncoming car.

I held a squirrel once. It was injured, and I picked it up with thoughts of helping it. I'm not sure what I thought I would do to help it since I don't know the first thing about first aid or medicine, especially to do with animals, or anything of the sort, but that's what I had thought. Its little heart pelted my hand with tiny blows as I picked it up to carry it up to my apartment. I spoke softly to it hoping to soothe it, but I could tell it was freaking out. As I was going up the stairs to my building, without warning, it sprang from my hand and bounced down the stairs. I retrieved it quickly but, by the time I had gotten up to the door, it was dead.

I felt like that squirrel, gripped by some strange hand holding a whiskey bottle. Frozen but ready to leap. If only I knew where to leap. To the phone? Could I make it to the phone and dial 9-1-1 before the man reacted to my presence? What if he had a weapon? Not that that would matter; I wasn't a fighter. I wasn't really a lover, either, but I certainly wasn't a fighter.

Should I back out the door? Matilda was just a few doors down. I could use her phone. But it was Wednesday... She wouldn't be home. Wednesday was bingo night. Leave it to me to have an intruder on the one night during the week when my one friend in the building wasn't home. Which left me wondering why I had never bothered to make any other friends in the building. Not that I really had to wonder. I knew what kind of person I was, the kind who hung out in bars with people who were your friends as long as you were buying the drinks. People whose names I couldn't remember from one night to the next. And who couldn't remember mine.

Matilda was only my friend because she'd taken it upon herself to befriend me, bringing me actual food for dinner rather than allowing me to subsist on an all alcohol diet. In exchange I did the occasional chore for her, like carrying her trash down to the bin or...

Well, it didn't matter. She wasn't home, and my only other option was to go banging door to door, and I wasn't going to do that. Not only wasn't I going to do that but doing that might arouse the intruder from all the noise, so I certainly wasn't going to do that. If only pay phones were still a thing! But I couldn't think of the last place I'd even seen one...

Other than the bar a couple blocks over, the bar I spent most of my evenings in. They still had a pay phone! It was a pretty far way to go to call the cops on an intruder in my apartment when I was standing in the door to my apartment, but I didn't see what other option I might have. Which, I suppose, serves me right for never bothering to get a cell phone. Which I didn't need. Since I never called anyone.

Really, I just hadn't seen the need after my partner died three years ago. He was the social one. The one who liked to have friends over and who, evidently, maintained all of our connections. Right up until he got really sick and people quit coming around. Despite all of the talk, it seemed people still had that same 80s fear of AIDS and, yes, people still die of it. Excuse me, people still die of complications caused by AIDS. Why bother with a cell phone; I didn't want to talk to any of those people.

A low moan drifted up from somewhere in the vicinity of my chair -- my chair! -- and I was reminded of what I needed the phone for in the first place. Stupid stupid to let my mind wander around like that with an intruder sitting in my chair not much farther away than spitting distance from me. What was wrong with me? I hadn't had that much to drink. I hadn't even needed a ride home from the bar..

The pounding of my heart in my ears was making it hard to think. I just needed to get away but, when I reached for the door so that I could ease back out, I bumped it closed instead. The noise was deafening. Or may as well have been. It was enough to attract the attention of the intruder, and his head slowly turned toward me.

You'd probably expect that someone intruding in someone else's house would have a stronger reaction than to slowly turn one's head at an unexpected noise, but he wasn't just holding the whiskey bottle, it seemed. The bottle was nearly empty. Not that I really noticed that at the time. At the time, I was frantically trying to get out the door of my own house. That's somewhat more difficult to do when you're trying to move against the opening of the door.

It didn't help that I was being stared at by a bleary, bloodshot, yellow eye.

Maybe there was another moan. Maybe it was me trying not to scream. Maybe it was the squeaking of the chair. I couldn't tell over the pounding of my heart and the scrape of the door as I wrenched it open. Then I was gone. I don't even know if I shut the door behind me or not. Not that it mattered since there was already someone in my apartment. At that moment, I didn't care. I just wanted away. What to do about the person in my chair was a problem for some other time.