Happy Halloween, y’all!
“It’s very rude, you know, to try to evict someone without notice.”
She can’t hear me. I know she can’t. She’s never really heard me. And I know that the flaw is mine.
I lean back into the couch, resting my old bones. The couch is large and red and soft. It is the kind of couch you sink into and then end up needing to have someone help you up, holding your hands and pulling hard, until you rocket up into them, knocking into them like a poorly-thought out Three Stooges bit.
There is no one to help me up. She certainly won’t help me, fussing around the dining room table as she is. I know that she would not help me even if she could and, I have to admit, that hurts me a little bit. Kids these days have no respect for their elders.
Not that I’m her elder, exactly. But I’m somebody’s. And that should count for something, shouldn’t it?
She brought the couch with her when she moved in, and it must be said that for all its largeness and its obtrusive redness, the thing is certainly comfortable. It’s the kind of thing you’d want to lay around on for hours watching movies.
Not at all like the stiff brown plaid one I used to have. That thing was hideous. You’d sit on it just so you could avoid having to look at it for a little while, until one of the broken springs started poking at your tush. Maybe that’s why this generation watches so much television – you couldn’t have a Netflix marathon with springs and wires poking at your hiney, that’s for sure.
Uncomfortable furniture. That’s why my generation got things done, I suppose.
I glare at her as she fusses with the matches. It would be funny, if it weren’t so utterly rude.
Now she wants me out.
Of course she does.
I suppose, in her situation, I’d want me out too.
That’s one thing I do understand about this generation. Some people say they’re selfish. That might be true, but I understand. It’s a basic need, you know. The need to feel that something you own is truly yours. Possessive, maybe. But that doesn’t make it wrong, does it?
This place used to be mine. I would like to think that it still is. You can still smell my perfume, drifting around corners, mingled with the scent of the ointment I used to use when my joints ached.
Now it’s hers, mostly, anyway. She fills the rooms with silly pop music. The radio blasts at all hours. The scent of baking muffins and the acrid odor of nail polish override the stale scents of perfume and ointment, enough that you wouldn’t even notice it, if you didn’t know it was there.
I don’t see why we can’t share this place. She didn’t even know I was here until yesterday. Until someone was foolish enough to tell her.
I can imagine how the conversation went. The not-so-subtle coaxing to the grand realization.
“Have you ever felt like you were being watched?” they might’ve asked.
“Do parts of the space feel colder than others, without any particular reason?”
That’d be the kitchen, dear. I’ve always been partial to the kitchen.
“Do you sometimes hear dishes clinking at night?”
I just like my dishes in a certain order – it’s certainly not my fault that she’s so disorganized.
I can imagine understanding blossoming across her face, eyes wide, mouth open, struck slightly stupid-looking as she realizes.
And since, then, of course, she’s been taking action.
I smile at her as she shuffles her bundle of sage and her matches with shaking fingers.
She’s scared. I can see it.
Scared of what? Me?
Where’s the justice in that?
I mean, this place is mine as much as it is hers. I may not pay the mortgage or wash the windows or scrub the toilets. But I am here. I have been here for longer that it is possible for her to recall.
I am in the bones of this place.
I was standing in the bedroom the very first time she walked into it. I have listened to her sing off-key as she washes dishes. I have watched her dwindle away hours of her time in front of that idiot-box.
I have been here.
I was here before she came.
And I intend to stay.
We’ve been sharing the space quite peaceably, her and I. Or so I thought. She’d never voiced any complaints, certainly.
Although she’d never actually known I was here.
What you don’t know can’t hurt you, can it?
She fumbles with the matches. Can’t seem to strike them right. These silly young people with their modern conveniences. Can’t even light a simple match.
I laugh to myself, watching her.
Not that she can hear me.
Finally, with an exasperated sigh, she drops the matches, giving up the ghost, so to speak. She walks into the kitchen and I hear her digging around in the drawers. Somewhere at the bottom of the junk drawer, she finds the old candle lighter she bought ages ago.
She dips the long neck of the lighter into the bowl where she placed the little packet of dried leaves.
I know what she means to do. No doubt she’s seen it in one of those silly movies she loves so much. She’ll walk around casting the smoke in front of her, trying to cast me out.
I watch with a gleeful grin as the sage leaves catch fire, the orange light blooming against her pale face. She tries to blow them out, huffing and puffing like a desperate impression of the big bad wolf.
The flames almost leap out of the bowl, growing higher as she leans in, desperately trying to control them, ashes leap out, scalding the dining room table.
I can’t help an unladylike giggle as the flames singe her bangs.
All that time with the flat iron wasted, I suppose.
With a loud yelp, she darts into the kitchen, trailing ash, and I hear the rush of water and the hiss of doused flame.
It is with a freckling of burn marks on her forehead, singed bangs and a bowl of wet sage that she walks around the apartment.
I feel a tug as she calls my name, beckoning me, summoning me, telling me to leave this place. Telling me to go home.
The pull is not a strong one. It’s a bit like a child tugging insistently at your hand, begging for your attention.
She has my attention, if not my sympathy.
Because what she doesn’t realize is that I am home.
This is my place.
This was my place before she was born.
This is the place where I raised my children, where I lived my life. Where I grew old.
She stands in the room where I lay in bed, so many years ago and breathed my last breath.
This place is mine.
It was long before she came along. And it will be long after she is gone.
This is my home.
And I will fight for it.
I cuddle deeper into the couch, listening to the echoes of her voice from the bedroom.
This is my place.
And she has no idea what she’s started.