It was the year when summer was late. Although the month of June was deep into the second week, it rained hard every day, and the temperatures were too low for late spring, so Jasmine always had a feeling it was November. For June 17, they predicted rain again, and that was the day when she was supposed to go on a local business trip to a client firm in some remote place to install the software they were looking for. Jasmine liked to drive only in the first few years after he passed driving test, while it was all still new and fun, but even then, driving was stressful. It appeared dangerous, and she constantly had fears that a pedestrian or a cyclist would jump in front of her car, or a car would cross into her lane at full speed, right into front collision. Driving in the rain or at night was an even bigger challenge.
The software job was not a problem, given that she had done those installations many times, but it included maybe an hour and a half of driving time. If she went along the main road, she would drive on a relatively well-known and urban route, where there would be no problems even for her “Yugo”, almost twenty-year-old junk of a car. It bothered her that the damn installation was scheduled later in the afternoon, which meant she would have to drive back in the dark, in the rain. She was not a great driver, nor was her car even remotely reliable. She wasn’t thrilled either that her boss told her to ”make the process longer" to make it look like the whole thing was harder and more complicated than it was. This will increase the charge, but she will have to stay there longer and may be forced to communicate with clients and conversations have never been her strong suit. The smoldering fears that she would accidentally say something stupid or insulting, that she would be boring and dull, bothered her to such an extent that she reduced communication with people to a minimum. What if she says something offensive?
Sitting on the window she watched the raindrops hit the glass and the roof of the next building. Heavy clouds descended over the city like an old moldy duvet. So long she has been alone. Fourteen months without touching, kissing, holding hands and all the other tenderness that couples exchange. But finding someone for a relationship was hard, harder than finding friends (and that was also hard), it required investment and giving yourself and your time spent with yourself. Making friends was already difficult enough. She had so many fears when it came to conversation and getting to know another person, that there was no opportunity for anyone to get to know her better. Her appearance did not reveal her fears though, she did not look like the shy, withdrawn person she was. She did not have big, sad eyes and a tiny, slim body, as introverts are often described in novels and movies. She was tall, attractive and quite noticeable, with a strong, athletic build, and her facial expression seemed mostly cold and uninterested. Her voice sounded confident, but cold. That certainly didn’t help with getting to know people.
Jasmine rarely went out, she was just too tired, and previous attempts to go out with her friends only discouraged her even more. She preferred to spend the weekend alone at home and spend hours reading novels and drawing illustrations. What was the alternative after all? Going out wasn’t fun for her, the alcohol could make her more relaxed, but it caused unpleasant dizziness, she didn’t know what to talk about, she didn’t know how to flirt, and her going out with a friend ended up by both going home early because Jasmine and her friend were both bored. She would feel lost and lonely, cigarette smoke was suffocating, the music was too loud, people seemed distant and strange around her, and no matter how hard she tried, she could not find what was so joyful at parties and in bars that other people seemed to find so easily.
Relationships with men were even harder for her. Men who have similar personality as Jasmine were, like her, deep into their world, and she was deep into her own world, and in the end, they would not see each other at all, probably never even met. Two isolated worlds could not connect. Men of the opposite, extroverted character would gladly accompany her and take her out, where she was forced to listen internal jokes of his friends and their anecdotes for hours, sitting in a cafe with loud music where everyone was shouting into each other’s ears and where cigarette smoke was longing around them like a super toxic fog. She could not find a middle ground between the two, probably because she did not have the opportunity to meet many people in her life. Her appearance was attractive enough to attract a man who had high self-confidence. But to keep him, it just didn’t work.
What’s wrong with her? Why didn’t she know how to have fun like everyone else, to talk without fear, to relax, to at least smile from time to time? She rarely laughed, she was seldom cheerful. She had no idea how to flirt or recognize who was trying to flirt with her.
With a sigh she took out a pad of paper, fastened one with paper clips, and began the sketch, but was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a loud bang from the bathroom. The apartment was small of a studio type, and almost every corner of it could be seen from where she was sitting, only the bathroom door was closed. She decided to ignore the sound, but then it happened again, then again. It sounded like someone was hitting the tub inside with a fist or foot. She felt the tingles rising down her spine. The building was old with only two apartments on each floor, hers and one still uninhabited. Upstairs, in each apartment lived one older woman with hearing impairment, and they were screaming almost endlessly across the hall at night in a futile attempt to talk. When she moved into this building two years ago, she thought that, due to the small number of apartments and the deaf old women who lived closest to her, this would be an ideal place for a person who loves silence. However, the old women seemed to suffer from insomnia and shouted across the hall all night, and in one apartment, a floor lower from Jasmine’s, lived some teenage boy who likely often threw noisy parties, with loud music accompanied by sounds of breaking bottles, light bulbs and windows, screaming and giggling in the hallway. The young man could not have been much older than eighteen, but he was impressively active in terms of parties, loud music, renovation of his apartment (with drills and hammers, of course), as well as something that sounded like orgies. The man who lived on the same floor with that teenager, in the other apartment was some annoying middle-aged man who regularly stared at Jasmine on the stairs always trying to strike up a conversation, with obvious attempts to flirt with her. She avoided him as much as she could.
When a very loud thud and hollow sounding thud came from the bathroom again, as if something heavy and bulky had fallen into the bathtub, Jasmine quickly jumped to her feet. With one leap, she was in a tiny kitchen taking the largest knife she could find in the drawer. Regretting that she didn’t have at least pepper spray or something like that, overwhelmed with fake courage, she approached the bathroom door. Complete silence. She stood listening for a while. Encouraged by the silence, she pressed the doorknob, but the moment the doorknob released, and the door opened, she heard a rapid, scratchy sound as if something was desperately trying to escape clawing from the bathtub, accompanied by a human sigh and a grunt of effort. Her legs almost gave up and she could barely hold on. There was no chance to get inside now, and even her knife didn’t seem particularly comforting.
She decided instantly to run out of the apartment into the hallway looking for someone, anyone to help her. Upstairs, old women with bad hearing, for a change, slept and none of them opened the door to Jasmine’s desperate banging. She ran one floor lower and headed for the door of the noisy teenager’s apartment, suddenly aware that she was dressed only in an oversized old T-shirt, panties and barefoot. A middle-aged neighbor would probably be a more reasonable choice, but she was worried that if she made a mistake and there was no one in her bathroom, she would have a really hard time getting rid of him once she brought him into her home. She was knocking for a good few minutes before the young man finally decided to open the door. He was standing in front of her, dressed only in boxer shorts, a tall, thin and pimpled kid with broad shoulders and short blonde hair.
“What do you want, ma’am?” She asked with a nonchalance of a teenager to whom anyone over the age of twenty-five is the equivalent of a pensioner.
“Gogi, who is this? Please come back inside?” a voice from the depths of the apartment sounded frighteningly young.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I need help. I think someone sneaked into my apartment. In the bathroom. I can hear him."
“Well, call the police, not me,” the kid said, ready to close the door in front of Jasmine’s nose.
“I can’t go back to my apartment, can I call the police from your phone?”
The kid sighed heavily and began to reluctantly put on his sneakers.
“I’ll go look, if you want.”
Before they left, a freckly, skinny girl appeared from one of the rooms in his apartment. She was naked except for the sheets she wrapped around her tiny body.
“Gogi, where are you going?” You’re not going to leave me here all alone, are you? Who is this lady?”
“Wait for me here, we’ll continue later, okay?”
“Okay. But this better not be your wife.”
"Don’t be stupid, she too old!" Then he added, and it was obvious that he was angry. “You’d better not lie to me about this intruder, ma’am.”
“My name is Jasmine Delic and I’m only twenty-eight, okay? You can call me by my name” she began to feel quite old. He said his name was Goran. They reached the door of her apartment, which was still half open, and Goran fearlessly entered.
“Is there anyone!” He broke through and before she could stop him, he turned on the light in the bathroom and went straight inside. Jasmine was already prepared to run away, but Goran said that there was no one and nothing inside her bathroom.
“What? How?" Jasmine went carefully after Goran. Small bathroom was clean and without any intruders.
“Sister, I don’t know what drugs you took, but I advise you to find new dealers,” said Gogi, suddenly switching from condescending to direct insult. She turned around the apartment. It was tiny and every corner was visible. There was obviously no one there. Whoever the intruder was, he left.
“I’m leaving, my chick is waiting for me,” Gogi said, grinning in her face, “and you, sister, if you’re lonely, try it with my neighbor. He is closer to your age.”
Too tired and traumatized to get angry, she let the little asshole leave without saying a word, closed the door, and collapsed on the couch. Is it possible that she imagined everything? That she fell asleep for a few minutes and dreamed that someone was fidgeting in the bathtub? Just in case, she inspected dark corners of the apartment, opened the closets and looked once more into the bathroom accompanied with a wave of horror. There was nothing, no one in her home. But how will he even fall asleep now? When she was sure no one was hiding in her apartment, she locked the door and set up the chain. Tomorrow is Thursday, a working day, and she must go to work. She didn’t have a close friend to ask her if she could sleep with her, nor any siblings, and her parents live in another city. She made a couch into the bed and rolled fresh sheets over it. Then she undressed, and skipping the evening shower, just in case, she threw on her old nightgown and went to bed with a book in her hand, as if it will defend her from everything that was threatening.
Surprisingly, despite all the stress about intruders in her home, she fell asleep quickly. During the night, she got up to turn off the light, and then fell into a state of semi-sleep, the state when we see strange and frightening things that come from dreams, apparitions, creatures from the dark, but we are too drowsy to care. The light of streetlamps and the full moon broke through the darkness into the room, and the rain was still persistently tapping into the windows. Jasmine was hovering in limbo between dream and reality, dreamily observing the semi-darkness around her and familiar shadows. Occasionally, some humanoid figures appeared near her, some known and some unknown, existing and invented in her mind, and one of them said something that she will forget when she wakes up. The words, quiet as a lullaby, she could barely hear them:
“Woman. What a beautiful woman. How nice to see a woman. I am happy.”
She felt a gentle, barely there touch on her face and before she fell into a deep sleep, she saw two human eyes watching her from the semi-darkness. Before she could panic, her brain informed her that it was probably just a dream and Jasmine surrendered to it.