“I’m Not Alone”
It started with a feeling just over a week ago. Pause for a sec — and there it is again. That nagging suspicion that I’m not alone.
Keys, wallet, notebook. I’m going to be late for work. Work is only an eight-minute drive away, but I always push it to the last minute.
To my surprise, I clock in just in time, grab a smock, and head out to the produce section. I start stocking a display with waxy red apples. I get into a rhythm and that’s where my wandering mind takes over. I wish I could carry my notebook out on the floor with me and jot down ideas as they come. I’m happily withdrawn into my own world as I stack the apples one-by-one.
And there it is again. Is someone watching me?
I return to the apples with my senses a little heightened. I finish the display and break down the empty boxes.
I spend a lot of time working by myself at my job and I like it that way. I stack. I clean. I point customers to the right aisles. I like the days where I have a list of simple tasks ahead of me. I work at my own pace crossing them off and I love when my progress is something visible — a dirty floor now clean, a sparsely-stocked shelf filled. My job isn’t anything fancy but I’m proud of my work and I’m a great employee. I’m happy here.
I make my way to the break room and grab my notebook from my locker. I take a seat and jot down, “mason jar floral arrangements — buy twine.”
I spend most of my afternoon stocking the produce section and my shift is up before I know it. Clock out. Keys, wallet, notebook.
I climb into my Mercury Tracer — it’s an oldie but a goodie — and crank up the heat. Even on that short drive home, I feel like I’m not alone. I glance in the rearview mirror several times wondering if someone is in my backseat. Nothing.
I shake it off, park the car, and head into my apartment. Pants off. Netflix on.
Keys, wallet, notebook. Today is my day off and I’m on my way to visit Amelia, my newly-engaged, super excited little sister, to go over wedding ideas.
Amelia lives in an adorable ranch house on the edge of town. A cheesy cement goose sits to the left side of her front door. She dresses it just like grandma did. Today it is wearing a blue summer dress even though it’s a cold October afternoon.
“I want to make you an arbor. I’ll collect sticks and grapevine and we can decorate it with tulle and artificial flowers. I saw a bunch on Pinterest.” I show Amelia a few of the pins on Pinterest and she’s in love. She hugs me and thanks me. I respond, “You haven’t even seen it yet!”
“I know, but you always do beautiful work,” she says.
I excuse myself and stop to use the bathroom. I do my business and I swear someone is looking in the window. I glance over and no one’s there. I wash my hands and head back to the kitchen where Amelia is busy ordering pizza — pepperoni and sausage — our favorite.
I always have a great time hanging out with Amelia and I love helping her with her wedding plans. Jessie is a wonderful woman and they make a great couple. I know they’re going to be happy together for many years to come.
There it is again. On the drive home I swear someone is in the backseat. I glance in the rearview mirror and this time I see a slight shadowy figure. My stomach drops. I glance again and nothing. I figure I’m just tired. The rest of the drive is uneventful, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the night.
It’s strange but I’m scared. I don’t want to turn the lights off. I go to bed with most of the lights in my apartment on and I feel the need to cover my head with my blanket. I need to hide, but from what?
Keys, wallet, notebook. I didn’t sleep well last night but I really feel the need to leave the house so I’m dragging my tired ass to work. I clock in, grab a smock, and head out on the floor. There’s a mess waiting for me — a salsa spill in aisle fourteen.
There it is. I know I’m not alone. The shadowy figure brushes past me and disappears. Are other people seeing this? Am I losing it? A woman and a small child standing in the aisle see my startled look and ask me if I’m okay.
“Yeah, oh yeah. I just remembered something I forgot to do. I’m okay, thanks.” I lied.
Who or what is this figure? I know it’s the same one I saw last night in my car. What does it want with me? I try to return to my work but I’m hypervigilant, jumpy, and overwhelmed. What the fuck is going on?
I like my life to be simple. My job is straightforward. My apartment is small and basic. So is my car. My needs are met and I don’t have a lot of extravagant wants. I spend most nights watching TV or reading. I shy away from drama. Everything has a place or explanation so having this shadowy figure — this terrifying mystery — hanging around is really making me lose my shit.
I see it several more times before the close of my shift. I’m exhausted but still jumpy.
Keys, wallet, notebook. I head home hoping a good night’s sleep will make this all go away. That has to be it. I’m just too tired.
3 am. All the lights are on. I tucked in at 11 pm and haven’t gotten a wink of sleep. I’m pretty certain all eyes are on me. The shadowy figure has sauntered in and out of the room a few times, but I think there’s more of them. What do they want with me?
I head out to the living room and turn on Netflix. I scroll for something light-hearted that could possibly work as a distraction.
I think he’s a “he” — the shadowy figure — he’s a he. What does he want with me? Why me? I’m a simple guy that stays out of trouble, out of the limelight. What could he possibly want with me?
The rest of the night is foggy but I woke up on the couch in the morning. The apartment was quiet — too quiet. I take a shower and throw on a hoodie and jeans.
Behind my apartment is a small woodlot and I decide to start collecting sticks and grapevine for my sister’s wedding arbor. An hour or two in the crisp fall air will do me some good. I focused my energy on doing something useful. Here’s a good one. I piled the sticks and grapevine in the garage. I can’t wait to get started but it will have to wait for another day; my shift starts in half an hour.
Keys, wallet, notebook.
I begin mopping in aisle twenty-two and I can feel him watching. He occasionally appears and I notice that the people around me don’t seem to see him. He stares right at me with a passionately angry look — blood red eyes. He knows how much he scares me. He disappears and appears again. I try to focus on my work, but it’s useless. How could anyone concentrate in this situation?
Clock out. Head home.
I open the front door, go straight to the bedroom, and crash. I’m exhausted and my body can no longer keep up with my racing mind. I don’t even take off my clothes.
Morning comes and I wake up late. Thankfully it’s my day off. I actually feel a little refreshed but the more I get around for the day the more I remember seeing him these past few days. It just keeps getting worse. I’m once again jumpy and hypervigilant.
I may be losing it but I still have work to do for Amelia and Jessie’s wedding. I pull out my notebook and start jotting down flower ideas to decorate the arbor I’m working on. “Baby’s breath. Peach carnations. Red and pink roses.”
A couple hours pass and I’m enjoying a quiet afternoon scrolling through Facebook. Nothing special.
Then it happens again. I’m being watched. I run around the apartment making sure all the lights are on, but it doesn’t matter. He’s sitting on my couch.
He talks now. He knows my name. I’m always jumpy because I never know when he’s going to appear. He is in control. He is in control of every situation. I am not.
Keys, wallet, notebook. I need to get the fuck out of the house.
I drive to Amelia’s. Spending time with my amazing sister will definitely help me. I need to focus on what’s important.
“Are you okay? You look like you haven’t slept in days.” Amelia seems pretty concerned.
“Do you believe in spirits? Or curses? Or hauntings?” I start to sob. “I don’t know what’s happening.”
Amelia hugs me and we sit down in the kitchen. I spill my guts. I tell her everything. We both cry.
“Maybe you should see a doctor,” Amelia suggested. “Do you remember Uncle Will? It seems like you are experiencing something similar.” She thinks I’m crazy.
“You’re not crazy but there aren’t any spirits either. Something’s wrong and you need to get it figured out. You need help. I’ll go with you — whatever you need.” She’s younger than me but sometimes I think she’s smarter. What am I feeling? Maybe a teeny bit of relief. She’s right. There has to be an explanation. I need to get help.
Three Months Later
There is an explanation: psychosis. There’s also a solution: medication.
Amelia was right. I needed to get shit figured out and she was by my side the whole time. This is a medical problem that requires medical treatment. I take my pills like clockwork and I’m feeling like myself again.
My descent was when I lost my anchor in reality. I had no stable ground to stand on. My sister reminded me to question everything because there’s always an explanation.
Today, Amelia is coming with her truck to pick up the wedding arbor. I can’t wait for her to see it.
But first, off to work. Keys, wallet, notebook, medication. My life is back to simple and I’m happy.