Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012
I have no idea how her knickers wound up in my laundry basket.
I know they’re hers because she did a strip tease that night we had some friends around for a game of poker. She’d over-indulged on the Bacardi and thought it had been a good idea to dance on the table and mess up their river of cards, she sure as hell gave them a royal flush that night. Pale blue, with flowers and a tiny skull and crossbones just below the elastic. Size 18, though I wouldn’t have guessed it.
Afterwards, she had a loud argument with her sister over the phone and fell into a peaceful sleep on the couch. We balanced our ashtray on her hip and it stayed there till morning, so soundly she slept.
I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. When I first moved into my house she gave me a bin-bag and smiled with nicotine-stained teeth and fiddled with her crescent moon necklace and told me that she loved to help people out and that she expected nothing in return unless it was unexpected. Her hair had been dyed before, some sort of mousey brown shade. Grey roots shone through, pure silver winked at me and I remember wishing that she hadn’t tried to hide its beauty. I wanted to tell her so but I didn’t, such conversations aren’t really for first meetings.
I knocked on her door a week later with a piece of petrified wood I’d found on a beach which had formed itself into a crude star-shape. I’d told her it had made me think of her, no big deal. She was wearing a boring old brown cardigan but she made it look mysterious, like it had grown upon her from birth. She was so beautiful. She didn’t invite me in, she threw her head back and laughed and told me she’d add it to her shells and asked me how I’d known.
She arrived early to another poker game last week, it had gone from civilized to crazy in sixty seconds flat… something to do with a promotion or whatever. I stayed clear of it this time, I sensed that it would be wiser to hide away in my room. I lay in the dark and heard faded familiar tunes and tried to guess the songs by their bass-notes until I fell asleep. An explosive smash woke me in the small hours, I guessed that the old picture of the Ha’penny Bridge in the hallway had finally met its demise. Nobody owned it, it was here when we moved in so I didn’t care. I fell back into a deep sleep.
The next morning I woke to hear nothing at all. The aftermath of parties can be eerie sometimes, it’s a pregnant silence, the sort that grows thicker towards the area of most damage. The air smelled damp and stale, and kind of bitter. That was unusual.
I found out why as I began my descent down the staircase. There she was, crumpled in a heap at the bottom near the front door. She’d soiled herself, and there was vomit on the wall beside her. I called out her name but she didn’t move. I poked her shoulder and tried not to gag at the smell, I offered her coffee very loudly but there was no movement. Typical. My anger started to build, I wasn’t in the mood for scraping diced-carrots and slime off the wall, not before work.
I left her shortly afterwards, and as I drove away I wondered if I shouldn’t have sloshed freezing water on her face, or at least taken her pulse. Anger told me that it was her own fault, that I wasn’t her father, that she’d probably rouse herself at lunchtime and choose not to clean up her mess but just fuck off back home instead. Anger. Stupid anger. I had to get to work.
Her daughter called me later on, just before I was due to quit for the day. She’d searched for her mother and that search had led her to peek through my letterbox and see the mess. She’d broken in, and gashed her hand on broken wood. She was the one to finally take the pulse, she was the one who called for an ambulance and they were the ones who’d pronounced her dead, that she’d passed away roughly when I was biting into my lunch-roll at work.
She called me a stupid fucking asshole.
I’m battling with wet laundry now, on a day so windy that it seems the air itself is pure oxygen. It got me high, it whipped my face and made me nauseous. It tried to steal my clothespegs yet as I held up those knickers for a better look, the weather ceased to be. A vaccuum surrounded me and I realised I was haunted.
My own personal ghost.
Well… its knickers anyway. Skull and crossbones. Size 18.
I sleep with them over my face sometimes, but not when the girlfriend’s around.