Demons by Katie Pecho
YOU ARE SITTING IN THE WINDOW of your apartment smoking a cigarette like you have so many times before and you think it bothers your roommate, but you do it anyway. There are people shuffling outside at the bus stop and the bus is late again, but no one complains. A young man lifts a paper bag to his lips and winces before saying something to the woman you presume to be his girlfriend and she doesn’t respond. It is snowing and the sky is white and you are cold in the window in your t-shirt and panties and your legs are smooth because you finally have a reason to shave them.
There is a man that you are seeing that you like and this is something. He has asked you to meet his friends and you didn’t say no or become distant, but instead gathered the clothing scattered across your bedroom floor and put it in the wash so that when he comes over later you look like you have your shit together. You scrub the sink with the absent, circular motion of someone who has done this before, with the same expectations. You hang a picture on the wall.
You look at yourself in the dim light of the bathroom mirror and think that you look older, but then the man at the gas station asks for your driver’s license, and you hand it to him with a twenty-dollar bill and he asks you when you started smoking and you tell him that you have since you were young. Since things became difficult. You strike the pack against your hand, tear the cellophane away and stuff it in your pocket. You climb the stairs to your apartment and there is more graffiti on the railing, but you have never seen them do it – it sprouts up unannounced like violence, like weeds. You sit on the steps outside your door and slide a cigarette from the pack and the sun is dropping out of the sky behind the long line of tall buildings and a man rides by on his bicycle singing show tunes. You light up.
Inside, the cat is waiting for you in the doorway with a toy in her mouth and you play with her until she doesn’t want to anymore and then you try to write. You write a poem and you hate it, but like everything else, you know that it takes work, and that it’s never really that bad. It’s just nice to hold a pen in your hand.
You lie in bed and light is streaming in from the streetlamps and a woman screams at the bus stop and you are watching the fan spin round. Everything is loud. Your phone lights up and it is the man you like and he is telling you that you are pretty and this is meaningful. You fall asleep. You do not remember your dreams.
In the morning, you sleep through three alarms and put on your clothes and brush your hair and put your makeup on in the car. The radio is blaring and you love the song so you sing, nodding your head and tapping your hands against the steering wheel and almost smiling. It makes you think of driving around in Jason’s van in college and you chuckle to yourself because the van was a piece of shit and everything was so much easier then. It makes you think of the man that you are seeing, because you are not used to being happy with men. You are singing too loud in too much traffic and you’re sure there must be a better way to get to work, but you’re used to this route, so you keep taking it and showing up later than you want to, but they still never hear you come in.
Your phone lights up as you sit at your desk and it is the man again and he tells you that he can’t get you out of his head and you like the way that feels. You tell him that you are excited to see him and you work all day and when you leave it is dark, but you have always liked the dark, because it is yours and you can choose how to spend it.
He introduces you to his friends and you smile and talk and you have fun. You see him looking at you in the soft half-light of the bar and he grins a little and you laugh and take his hand and it is big and strong and different than anything that you are used to. All of this is new. And it is beautiful.
And then later, after the bars have closed, you are lying naked in his arms as he strokes your hair and you wonder if this will be a thing to fight for, if he will be the one to keep you here, to keep you present. You touch his cheek and he looks at you like he sees you in a way that you haven’t been seen before, because with him you felt invisible. You wonder when you will tell him the things careening off the insides of your mind, the old account turned over and rehearsed so that it feels like a novel you read as a child instead of something that has happened to you, like a story you were told when you were drunk, so you cannot remember the details. They always want to know these things and you have to tell them. They always want to know these things and it always changes them, and you lie in bed with him, recounting in your mind all those who couldn’t bear to know or didn’t know what to say. The way their eyes flickered down, how they looked away. How their opinions of you changed.
In the morning, he will make you coffee and touch your thighs and light your cigarette and you will kiss him and go home. You will sit in traffic, the radio will play in a half-whisper, and you will kick open the gate because it sticks and walk in to find the cat sitting in the doorway with the toy in her mouth wondering where you have been, where you are always going, why even when you’re here, you’re not.
Read a few more haunting tales in SN7: Women’s Day – available on Amazon!