The Strange Encounter
Watching him leave this time created the most horrible, devastating feeling within the recesses of my broken heart. My eyes were full of large, salty tears that fell down my face. I had lost him and I knew it. Even a baby wouldn’t make him stay because he never was or would be mine. It was another pipe-dream shattered. Every time I knew the writing was on the wall. A man would use me as a receptacle for his specimen and then forget I existed once he walked out the door. Even armed with that knowledge, I never used it to my advantage. I never really did anything at all with it. I only ignored my best instincts and continued moving forward into the abyss of empty promises. This was my pattern. It was my destiny and if I continued on this path it would soon become my demise. My heart could no longer bear the loss of him as my knees buckled. I fell to the floor with my palms on my face, allowing the salty tears to soak them. Then in my fit of sadness, I felt a tiny hand on my shoulder.
“Mommy? Mommy? What’s wrong?” Noah’s concerned little face was so troubled by my anguish. I turned around and looked up at his questioning eyes as I tried to pretend that my tears were only an illusion.
“I’m okay sweetie pie,” I comforted him. “Mommy just needs to get this trash off the floor and dust got in my eyes. I’m doing okay.”
“Okay Mom,” he said. “Jameson said I can’t play video games when we go upstairs because it’s his turn to watch TV and it’s not his turn. It’s my turn.”
-----And the tattling started.
“Well, tell Jameson I said he has to give you your turn okay?”
Noah turned around and began to walk into the back room. I stood there for a while holding back my emotion. I was so focused on Gary, I forgot that I was still at work. Not only was I at work, but I was at work with my kids. I really needed to put on a happy face at that moment, but it was difficult. I wanted to feel miserable. I wanted to wallow in self-pity until I found my next Gary if only to experience the lowest low so that the high would be all the higher. This knot in my stomach would have to do for now as I pressed on. Once I get home, it’s on. I thought.
The emotional torment in my soul would begin to tear me apart bit-by-bit as I analyzed every moment of our relationship. I would play the events in my head as if there was something I could have been, done, or said to save it all. After all, the internet says I can fix it. All I have to do is behave in a certain manner or pretend certain things. There has to be a way right?
I contemplated the idea of turning once again to the phone, aka torture device. I’d search endlessly about why I had lost my love; waiting, wondering if he would ever return. I hoped that he would text message me again, but I knew in my heart he wouldn’t. He was just another notch in the belt, a man I used to know. He would go into the category of the past, never again to be seen in the future. My heart ached at the thought, but deep inside I felt a sense of relief and slight excitement at the prospect of someone new. This time he would love me. This time he would treat me well. This time he’d want the whole package. This time it would be different.
That evening, the boys were playing on their Xbox as they always had. Their shrill voices on top of one another was wearing on my nerves. They couldn’t decide what was fair and many tears were shed over the loss of life on the damn game.
For God’s sake, it’s a fucking video game! I’d think to myself, but to them, it was the most important thing. It was as if their world would crumble if some milestone had been lost due to not saving the game. I had many fits over my threats to turn it off when they couldn’t behave.
It’s funny how detrimental those things can be to a young boy. The game can be restarted, whatever is lost can be retrieved, and a lost life means nothing other than having to start over again. I didn’t understand why it was so devastating to them, but it in many ways it was like my love life. Even though I was attractive enough to start over again, I just wanted to see it though, complete it, and conquer it. Anything short of that was an utter disappointment. I suppose the boys faced the same tragedy even with the knowledge that things can always be started again. So, with that, I shrugged at the disappointment and encouraged them to get along the best they could without placing so much of their own value and emotion into a fictional realm. The possibilities could overcome the defeat.
I waited by my torture device as I always had. I could hear the boys muffled chatter through the door. My mom had declined our dinner invitation for pizza and chocolate ice cream that night. She didn’t desire too much to spend her evening in a sugar-induced uproar. So, it was just the boys and me. In the solace of my room I partook in the one indulgence that couldn’t reject me, chocolate ice cream.
I sat on my bed, totally dissatisfied with the world around me. My pint of chocolate ice cream sat on my lap as I scooped one spoonful after another. I shoveled it squarely past my lips savoring the flavor and allowing the cold chunk to melt to liquid. It trickled down my throat, soothing it from the constricted state that Gary had put it in. It was so satisfying, yet I knew my thighs would suffer the consequences. I was half-way crying, but mostly just numb. I stuck the spoon back into the thick part of the ice cream so it stuck straight out. My limp hand placed it on the table next to my bed.
With my head propped against the pillow, my eyes labored to stay open. As I tried to push a few steady tears from their ducts, keeping them open seemed impossible.
The video games began to fade off into the distance as my head nodded off. The spoon in the ice cream was no longer standing straight up, but began to lean to one side. The fabric of my clothing felt heavy on my extremities. My hair was loose all around me, and the day’s make-up was smeared across my face. In my agony, an ice cream sugar coma had laid claim to my body. The shrill voices that once plagued my ears had quieted in my dark room.
I could hear the minutes ticking by on the clock that hung over my bedroom door. My eardrums began to vibrate with the pulsation of each heartbeat in my chest. Like a drum in a parade, it sounded for only my ears to hear. Thump, thump, thump. My brain told my arms and legs to move, but they held still.
Was I in my room? Surely I was. I thought. My brain told my eyes to open. I could see, but I wasn’t sure if it was with the eyes beneath my closed eyelids. The furniture in my bedroom had cast large shadows on the wall. From a distance, I could sense something coming toward me in a gentle, yet deceptive manner. Shuffling footsteps across the floor aroused a sense of panic. My stomach clenched. Beads of sweat permeated from my forehead.
Open your eyes, Liza. I thought. Thump, thump, thump. My heart was pounding. The sweat beads had turned to a steady stream of cold sweat running down my neck. Bump. Something had fallen on my mattress.
Move your arm, Liza! I thought. Thump, thump, thump. My heart was now beating like a bulldozer, hard, heavy, and fast. I shivered as the cold sweat swept over my trembling body.
Like a sack of potatoes, the heaviness of presence rested itself next to me in bed. Thump, thump, thump. There was a shadow from the corner of my eye. It was the silhouette of a man. I could feel his breath on my neck which grew heavier and heavier.
There’s nobody there. I reasoned.
My body, now paralyzed only tried to hold still enough to go unnoticed. My brain told my mouth to speak. It told my voice to let out one single scream. My body would not oblige these commands. My eyes rolled to the side to try to catch a glimpse of the entity that had made his way to my bed.
It was a shadow with no face, a man with no soul. The shadowy hand pressed down on my sweat-ridden leg, wiping away the remnants of my terror. He slid across my stomach rubbing in a circular motion. I felt the hands moving upward to fondle my breasts.
What would he do to me? Would he harm me? Would he rape me? His hand made it’s way up to my face as he rubbed my cheek and brushed the hair away from my eyes. My breath had quickened at his boldness, allowing only small breaths to leave my lips.
“You’ll be home soon, Liza,” he said
How did it know my name? I wasn’t even sure he was of this world at all. The answers could be more terrifying than I anticipated. I squeezed my eyes shut; as tight as they would go.
There’s nothing there. I reasoned with myself again. Thump, thump, thump.
I could feel the beating in my chest begin to slow as reason set in. The thumps grew quiet. I could no longer hear the ticking of the wall clock. The shadow man next to me began to dissolve into black fog. Then all at once, he wasn’t there anymore at all. My brain told my eyes to open and they obliged this time.
The tightness in my chest eased into relaxation as my arms and legs moved about. My body shot up in bed. What had just happened? It was either a very bizarre dream or a supernatural experience. I grasped my phone in my hand and tapped the button. The screen illuminated. It was 1 am and still no text from Gary. The spoon that I had stuck in the ice cream had fallen all the way over to its side. The thick part of it had melted into a dark chocolate goo.
I picked up the lid and shoved it back on top. I walked through the living room to get to the kitchen. The only light still on was that of the TV. My boys’ mouths stood wide open as they breathed the heavy breath of a deep sleep. They looked so content, so safe, and so happy there in my living room. I loved how adorable and vulnerable they appeared as they slept. They had no idea of the nightmare I had just had. Feeling close to them and knowing they were safe was all the comfort I needed. It was the only true thing that mattered. With that, I stuck the ice cream back in the freezer. Then, I picked the blankets up off the floor and placed them over their sprawled out bodies. As my lips kissed their foreheads, I thought to myself how foolish I had been. My dreams already had come true. I didn’t need Gary. As I crawled back into my warm bed, I curled up and fell asleep again.
The sun was bright that Saturday morning as sunbeams gleamed through my blinds. My eyes fluttered open at the sound of birds chirping from the window sill. I could hear the commotion outside my door as the boys argued over their video games. They didn’t know I was awake yet so, they were “quietly” entertaining themselves until I was ready to get up and make breakfast. Sometimes I would let them force me out of bed, but after the scare I had experienced the night before, I wanted to get up and spend time with them if only to feel close and safe for a little while longer.
“Good morning my sweetheart, sweet-tarts!” I beamed while kissing them on their smooth little foreheads. I flung the door to the refrigerator open and popped open the cinnamon rolls as I switched on the coffee maker with the other hand.
“Guess what guys? You’re going to Ms. Wendy’s house today while Nana and I go the flea market!”
“What?” Jameson whined. “I want to stay home today mom. Who is Wendy?”
“She’s one of Nana’s friends from work. She’s watching you guys today so be nice.”
“Does she have an Xbox?” Noah asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “but it’s not as if we’ll be gone all day.”
“Can we take our Legos with us?” Jameson asked.
“I’m sure that’s fine,” I responded as I set the cinnamon rolls into the oven.
I poured a cup of coffee and made my way over to the couch where the boys were sitting. I stroked the back of their heads while I sipped my coffee. The undesirable feeling of terror began to creep back inside of me in light of what had occurred the night before. I wished I could become so entranced with games as they could. Their eyes were mesmerized by the screen full of games. They knew I was there, but oblivious at the same time.
The strange encounter I had the night before haunted me like a ghost in a condemned building. The thing is, anyone could do whatever they wanted to me, but if they hurt my children, it’s over. I’d kill them. That’s it. The shadow man seemed only to want me however.
Ding dong, went my door. Startled, I looked out the window. Of course, my mom was ready to go bright and early. Why on earth had she rung the doorbell? She was wearing her jean shorts with a flower print blouse and her purse strap slung over her right shoulder. I suppose it was appropriate for a day at the flea market in the Texas heat, but I found it quite tacky. I unlocked the door nervously, flinging it open.
“Mom, why did you ring the doorbell? I’m not ready to go yet.” I started rattling as she came through the door.
“Well Liza, dear, you locked the door and why aren’t you ready to go? Early bird catches the worm you know?” she retorted.
“I just woke up. Do you want some coffee?” I asked.
“No, I’ve already had some. Now, please go get dressed. Boys, get on your socks and shoes. Wendy is waiting for us.” She commanded.
Her school teacher voice was never one to be questioned as we did what she said. She had a schedule and intended to keep it. I always appreciated her so much, but sometimes I just wanted to tell her that I wasn’t ten-years-old anymore. We filed down to her SUV and loaded up like obedient little soldiers. I assumed she knew where she was going. The truth was, I had never met Wendy and hoped she was alright. I trusted my mom’s intuition about her however and attempted to settle into the car ride free from anxiety.
We drove to the other side town, of which I wasn’t altogether familiar. Winding down several streets through the woods in the middle of nowhere, we ended up in a small neighborhood of red brick homes. My mom had the directions written down on a small slip of paper on her lap, looking up and down with each turn she took. She squinted at the piece of paper as she made her way to through the red house neighborhood.
All the houses looked the same to me with their cookie-cutter single story appearance. The only real difference may have been the landscaping in the yard. It was odd to me, but again I trusted my mother. Finally, we stopped at a red house with a green bicycle parked in front of it. A very elaborate Christmas tree was visible from the curb through the window.
“Um, a Christmas tree?” I looked at my mom puzzled.
“She mentioned they were having a celebration at their house tonight,” my mom replied as if it weren’t odd at all.
“Mom, it’s April,” I blinked.
“You know Liza, people are individuals. I know Wendy really well. She’s a great person. If she wants to put up a Christmas tree in April that’s perfectly fine,” She replied. Her phone buzzed with a text message and she looked down at it. “Oh, she said to just let them walk themselves in, she’s giving the baby a bath.”
“Don’t you think we should walk them in or something?” I asked.
“Liza, seriously?” Mom asked. She was notably irritated and ready to get started with the flea market day. “Boys, get out of the car now. Ms. Wendy said just to walk on in. She’s in the back with the baby. Do you need us to walk you up?”
“No Nana,” said Jameson. “We are big boys. Come on Noah.”
Jameson opened the door to the car as he waited for his brother to follow him, then slammed the door shut. I watched my boys bounce up to the house and let themselves inside. I could see them through the window observing the Christmas tree in all its splendor. Their little eyes looked up at the twinkling lights with the same mesmerizing gaze they had with their games. More troubling still, the boys clasped hands together. They had detested such displays of affection. This did not sit well with me but, I said nothing, only seeking to please my mother at this moment. My stomach turned as we drove away.