She’d been up late watching old episodes of “Friends.” It was early autumn, and the weather had just started to change. Too early to remove her air conditioner from the window. Thank god her ex had installed it, too bad he couldn’t help her take it out. They lasted a summer, but this winter would be cold without him holding her. Stop thinking about it, dumb-dumb. Stop it.
The voice in her head could have been Monica, or Phoebe, or even Joey on a good day. Get over Ross, dumb-dumb. It’s season 3, and she didn’t watch it when it was live airing, but she’s catching up now. She’s knows enough that Ross & Rachel are sitcom MEANT-TO-BE, and Season 3 is just a part of this will-they-won’t-they cycle. A slowing down of what’s inevitable. Get over him already. Get over him.
It’s very cold, air is coming in through the window with the air conditioner. But she has candles burning on either side. They cast a shadow on her closet door. She lives in Brooklyn but she has a closet with a door in her room and that air conditioner, and she feels very proud for both. Not to mention the plants that are growing and not dying. Her cactus gets little nubs that become bigger stems, and she loves it and takes very good care of it. She waters him on Thursdays.
The leaves on the big trees outside are in motion. It’s windy and cold. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches the shadow on her closet door. It has a weird shape to it. She gets a tight feeling in her chest.
She has a fire escape behind her other window. The window without the air conditioner. The stairs are very clear in the shadow. Every night before she goes to bed, she checks the shape of the shadow. It gives her some comfort to see the clear shape of the stairs because she knows that there is no one on the fire escape if she can see the row of stairs.
She has a dream that comes back again and again that someone is on her fire escape. That he breaks through the window and comes into her room. He pushes past her plants, her little cactus that she cares for falls to the floor, and he approaches her bed. She screams and screams, but her roommate basically lives with her boyfriend (lucky bitch). And her sister in the third room sleeps with ear plugs in.
On the TV, Rachel messed up someone’s coffee order.
On the door, the shadow doesn’t look right.
She gets up and crosses to the window, pushing the covers off. She’ll just take a quick look.
In her dream, she tries to run, but he is taller and faster and wider. She’s wearing pajamas, and he grabs her by the flannel. She tries to fight back. She tries as hard as can. She has mace in her purse. She should have kept it in the side table instead. Fuck, too late now.
Outside the window the leaves are fighting back and forth, back and forth with the window. They make a woosh sound that is almost deafening. White noise. In the thudding in her head, she can hardly hear the cast of “Friends” bickering. Her heart is pounding and the hair under her flannel pj bottoms are on edge. (Who does she have to shave for now?) It’s dark outside and as her eyes adjust, she sees that shape. A new one.
In her dream, she can’t see his face, he’s wearing a mask. And he’s in her room, and where does she go? There is nowhere to go. She’s alone. No one to defend her.
She leans in close to see what’s outside.
She always wakes up before the inevitable. The bad inevitable.
Her heart stops for a moment.
It’s just a baseball.
The kids in all of the apartment buildings next door like to play baseball together on the grass outside. Sometimes they hit one and it makes it to her fire escape. Her ex used to go get them and throw them back down. She hasn’t been as kind.
Why did she get so worked up? She has an over-active imagination. No one is there. She knows there isn’t a person. Dumb-dumb.
She crawls back into bed and blows out her candles. Monica is on a date with a heavy drinker. And she’s drinking to cope (haha). She turns off the TV and pulls the covers up over herself.
Good night dumb-dumb.
Her body freezes.
Aloud, for the first time, “Who said that?”
She turns to check the shadow on the closet door. It’s gone. Because the door is open.
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