by Lena Schega (she/her)
It has found me again. Or maybe I tripped and plunged into it without notice. Whatever way it happened, it has found me. On a sunny Sunday at exactly 2 minutes after 2. Just barged right in. No knocking, no apologies, no polite shame. Nada. Forgive me, I’m being rude. I was raised well enough to have learned that one must call others by their name. It was not a thing per se, but a sensation. Which is good enough a qualification as any to be equated with a human, for what are we if not emotions bedded into flesh and bone? So, for the purpose of this story, let’s call it Ms. Navy. Ms. Navy never served in the Royal Navy of course. She was called that for reasons other than her profession. Even though her profession was nothing short of being in the Royal Navy, let’s be honest. I’m babbling. At 2:02 pm Ms. Navy found me sitting on a park bench, sunbathing with my eyes half-closed, and I was not thrilled to see her. In fact, before she made her appearance it had been a wonderful day. A bit lonesome perhaps. But the sun had been shining on my face for the past hour, warming my cheeks, thus I should be able to deal with a bit of solitude, don’t you think? And I can. I will. I am dealing with it.
‘Good day,’ she says while I pretend to ignore her. ‘And what a beautiful day it is.’
‘Don’t you have somewhere else to be? Somewhere rainy and cold perhaps?’ I ask, once the task of ignoring her becomes unbearable.
‘Not really, no.’ Ms. Navy shrugs, smoothing a wrinkle in her tailored-looking coat. Since our first get-together, I’ve never seen her wear anything else but a grey suit and this coat, crafted from dark blue fabric fading into black. I used to wonder how she’s not breaking a sweat under it. Now I don’t even think about it. Like most things, the coat lost its novelty.
‘And thank God,’ Ms. Navy adds, ‘I hate the rain and the cold.’
‘Good for you.’
Ms. Navy falls silent for a few minutes and I close my eyes, trying my best to refocus on the sun dancing over my face. Then my brain spits out a thought: You didn’t use sunscreen, you stupid imbecile. In a few years, people will be able to tell from your old, wrinkly face. It’s like your mother says, you never listen. Worse, you’ll get skin cancer. Yes, you! Great, I think and open my eyes. Ms. Navy is still sitting next to me. Hands folded in her lap, hair up in a tight bun. I catch her gazing at a pair of children playing, chasing each other over the grass. She looks sad. Regretful. I give in.
‘How is your sister?’ I ask, even though I don’t want to. What I want is for her to leave but I know she won’t go until she is done with whatever she does during these mandatory visits. Then and only then she’ll leave just the way she came. For no particular reason and without warning. Maybe once the sun is down, I’ll be able to convince her to go. Or maybe she’ll insist on holding my hand until I drift off into Dreamland and be gone the next morning when I wake. For now, she is here. Might as well have a conversation.
‘Miss Sunshine is perfectly alright.’ she says and looks over at me. Dark circles colour the skin under her eyes in shades of purple.
‘Is she making fun of you again?’
‘I’m not here to talk to you about that.’ Ms. Navy snaps and turns away.
‘Then what are you here for? You know, there are other places you can go to talk to someone. Like, therapy for example.’ I make my case, not for the first time.
‘That’s ridiculous. I come here for you, remember?’ she tells me.
‘I don’t think that’s true. I don’t want you here.’ I say.
‘Ouch.’ Ms. Navy fans air into her face as though she’s feeling faint, taken aback by my words. She’s such an actress.
‘Feel free to leave.’ I insist.
I know she won’t go. I get the feeling she likes being in my presence. I don’t know whether that’s a compliment or not. It’s clearly something I have to put up with.
‘Just pretend I’m not here then.’ Ms. Navy says and I sigh. All the chaos in the world will fail in making the silence within ourselves less absolute.
‘All I ever dreamt of was to be wanted,’ she mutters just loud enough for me to hear.
Told you. She won’t leave until she wants to.