The whirling fan above my bed had kept me occupied for a few hours. My mind easily fell into the blur of rotating blades. There was no joy gained from watching them but the mindlessness kept my depression at bay. The sun rose, the sun set. It was easier to deal with the pain in the darkness.
I stood up and stretched. My body was sore. Everything was. I headed to the bathroom to shower. Once out, I walked across the hall to my room. The floor was colder than I remembered it but I shrugged it off. The curtains were still open. The lush trees outside bowed to the autumn wind. The harsh glow of the building lights peaked through them. I went to close them when I saw him through the pane.
At first I thought perhaps it was just his back. Plenty of people walked their dogs in the field behind me. There were trails and trees and a creek farther down the way. Although it was late, it wouldn’t be the first time. But his posture was different. His black shoes shone in the light. They had been buffed to perfection but his crumpled trousers and ratty sweatshirt suggested a transient lifestyle. I thought he didn’t see me but then a smile slowly crept across his face. His eyes were fixed on mine.
I snatched the curtains closed. It was just my eyes playing tricks on me but I could still feel his eyes on me. I shook it off and took a sleeping pill.
Weeks passed. I hadn’t told anyone about the man in the field and I hadn’t opened my curtains since. I thought I just hallucinated. I had too much to occupy my mind. I didn’t need to further complicate things with delusions. I changed my schedule. I started going to bed earlier. I would still wake up in the middle of the night but I was able to quickly fall back asleep. The sleeping pills helped. Things were finally getting back to normal.
I was waiting for the repairman to come take a look at the air conditioning when I heard the tapping on my window. Living on the third floor I thought it was one of the blue jays flying too low. I opened the curtains but didn’t see any birds; none by my window, none in the trees, none in the field. It was odd, but there must have been an explanation. I shrugged when I heard the doorbell. Just as I was about to close my door, I heard the knocks again. Three distinct taps coming from my window. I froze.
I turned around to see nothing but the trees swaying. No birds, no squirrels, no hidden ladder, just an empty pane. The doorbell ran again. I didn’t wait to answer it this time.
“Yeah ma’am I checked your vents and your water heater. Everything looks fine.” The repairman tapped the tank with a wrench to indicate his hard work. I rolled my eyes.
“Are you sure? The temperature stays locked at 60 even after I move the thermostat.”
He rolled a piece of gum around his mouth nervously and gave it some thought.
“It’s an old building lady. If you want something better, move. I won’t charge but here’s my card in case anything changes.”
He shoved a wrinkled business card in my face. I didn’t take it. He shrugged and left it on the table.
“I’ll see myself out then and remember if you need anything, any time of day, give me call sweetheart.”
I locked the door behind him. Asshole.
But no sooner did I close the door did the creeping feeling fall over me again. The sun was setting and I didn’t want to be alone in the apartment and awake. I grabbed the bottle of sleeping pills and decided to take one and a half. “Just in case,” I told myself, “ just in case. “
Bleary and exhausted I opened my eyes to my dimly lit room. I was hoping it was early morning but it was nearly three in the morning. Shadows cast against the wall sporadically. The building light was flickering outside. My curtains were wide open.
I tried to go to sleep but the light was too much. I covered myself in blankets but still it flickered. If it wasn’t the glare it was the monotonic sound it made. I would have to close my curtains.
It’s just a window.
I started to take my covers off.
The faster you do it, the faster you can get back in bed.
I jumped out of my bed and blindly reached for the panels. I grabbed two fistfuls of air. I opened my eyes and tried to focus on the curtains but my gaze drifted to the field outside. There was no one there.
I sighed. No man, no creepy vision, just an empty field and a huge cluster of oak trees. The wind blew through the leaves. The light stopped flickering; it was actually a calming sight.
It was all in your head silly.
A plastic bag stuck in the branches flew off onto the trunk. The near transparent white was a sharp contrast to the black shoes they fell onto.
The same size, the same pattern, the same shine. I started to panic. They weren’t moving. I immediately dropped to the floor, out of sight. I crawled to my nightstand and grabbed my glasses. I sat there on the carpet, back to the wall, hands wrapped around my knees, eyes tightly shut. I couldn’t tell if I was shaking because it was freezing or because I was scared.
It’s all in your head. It’s the pills. It’s just a side effect of the pills.
I repeated the mantra until I felt calm enough to try and close the curtains again.
I crouched down underneath the window and pulled the bottoms of the panels towards me. I was fully awake. I had to know whether or not this was real. I barely lifted my head over the sill. The curtains were closed but I could see through them. I navigated my gaze back towards the trunk of the tree. The shoes hadn’t moved. I looked up from the shoes to see the same crumpled khakis and grey sweatshirt in between the billowing vines. My hand covered my mouth to keep me from screaming.
The light went out again. All I could make out was the movement of the leaves and grass.
I sat there breathlessly for minutes. I needed to see where he was; I needed to know this wasn’t my imagination. The light began to flicker again. It was too dim to make out anything. I pulled back a tiny portion of the panel and tried to concentrate. The air was still. The light still wasn’t at full capacity. I leaned in to the pane.
Just go to bed.
I was looking directly into the dark field when something rapped against the pane. At first it was just light tapping, then knocking, then banging. The glass vibrated. The curtain rod fell off the wall. There was no one on the other side. The man wasn’t outside anymore. The last image I saw before I blacked out was the pane cracking down the middle.
When I woke up the sunshine was filling the room. I was in my bed. The curtains were hanging from the wall and pane was still in tact. I tried to suppress the night’s memories but I was visibly shaken. It had been nearly a year and I thought I had conquered my insomnia and night terrors with the pills but these hallucinations weren’t worth it. I had to stop.
I got dressed and decided to inspect the window. It was an old building. Maybe there was some faulty structuring. I pulled on the panels and the rod didn’t budge. I knocked on the pane and it didn’t vibrate. I checked the caulking around the sill. Nothing was out of the ordinary. I closed and opened the curtains again and again. Nothing.
I opened them one last time and to my surprise I saw the man waving up at me. He didn’t look nearly as menacing. He smiled toothlessly and kept waving. I needed to know he was real. I raced downstairs and ran around my building. He hadn’t left. His smile stretched across his wrinkled face. I approached him cautiously and examined my boogieman. His eyes were wet and his beard grizzled. He was bent over and his shoulders drooped. He looked disoriented but couldn’t stop from smiling.
“Hello!” he said confidently. He put his hand out for me to shake. I stood there silently, waiting for any sudden movements.
“I’m sorry I’ve scared you. It’s just…ever since my Rosie…I’ve just never seen anything like it.” He grabbed the ends of his sweatshirt and started to twist them in his fingers. Black marker scribbled across the inside read PROPERTY OF GRACYWOODS NURSING HOME.
“Like what?” I tried to say as intimidatingly as possible. It was barely audible.
He turned towards the creek and pointed.
“I met my Rosie down there years ago. I remember the way she looked at me the first time I saw her and when she…when they took her away I knew I didn’t want to stay in this world much longer. So that night I walked back to where we met and I waited for some kind of sign from her, for something. Then I saw your light and wandered over and there it was, there was the sign! I came back to see you again because the two of you reminded me of us. I just wanted to say thank you.”
I scratched my head. “The two of us?”
“Your boyfriend. The man who was with you. He looked at you the same way Rosie looked at me. That’s how I knew it was her sending me a sign,” he said, his smile never leaving his face.
“Sir, I don’t live with a man. I don’t live with anyone. You must be mistaken. Maybe we should get you back home.”
He wiped his brow and looked at me as if I was joking.
“Oh really? Then who’s that?” He pointed up towards my window.
I followed the direction and looked upward. There, in the window, my dead fiancé smiled and beckoned for me to come back up stairs.
“A love like that only comes once a lifetime. I should know. Hold on to him and he’ll never let go of you.”