It suddenly struck me how odd it is that the most terrifying thing is human.
As I stretched out my wet rain shell over the chair when I got home today to my empty apartment I saw that one of the lights in my hutch was on. Just the left one. It was shining a strong yellow on the martini glass inside.
My first hypothesis was that it had been on for days. I went logically through what might have happened: I had tried the light days before to show my parents; it didn’t work. Maybe it eventually turned itself on. But I had tried it days ago, and I was here all last night, alone, assembling my furniture and collapsing on the couch. Surely I would have noticed if a light was on all this time.
A few minutes later I was in the kitchen making rice and sauce. I took an overripe tomato out of the bowl on the counter and started cutting away the bad parts. Suddenly the electric kettle was on, rumbling with a little water inside. I spun around and turned it off, my hackles up. I hadn’t turned it on. It was taunting me. But then, hypothesis two: I must have just have knocked its switch when I fumbled with the nearby tomato bowl. These things do happen.
But minutes later I was making my sauce and it called for a tablespoon or two of hot water. A little gingerly I popped the kettle back on. Now I had the stupid, unshakeable feeling that someone was in the apartment with me, doing kind things. She fixed my bulb in the hutch and now she knew I would need hot water, and helpfully turned it on. I almost started talking out loud. What does one say to exorcise oneself? “Please go, you are not wanted here”? I imagined my neighbors hearing me. Kept quiet.
But I equally knew that she was there. I started to think about that dream I had a month ago about the house being haunted. It was such a strange dream, such a vivid picture of that little triangular room at the far end of the apartment, sticking out into the intersection like the prow of a mouldering ship, the one with the windows on all sides. There had been a woman in that room, in my dream. One who lived and died here a hundred years ago.
How many little signs would it take for me to accept it?
For the rest of the night I’ve been sprawling in various configurations on the couch. At one point I thought I was hearing periodic breathing or sighing, but I think it was just the traffic going by on the newly rain-slicked road. And at one point I thought I heard a little laugh or cry. Maybe I did. Maybe it was a neighbor, or the television.
Still, above all the truly brainless and heartless serpents and insects that legitimately could infest my home and my bed, above the impending explosion of Mount Rainier and an unpredicted earthquake and all the things that could should and do go wrong every day, why is the worst thing I can possibly imagine the lingering spirit of a kind human? If I am lonely why would I fear and not crave the presence of someone near me, watching?