The Flat Above the Street

I live alone.

The TV always plays what I want it to. I can walk around in nothing but a smile and talk to myself, about myself, at myself in the mirror. I can put on voices and shout “DOVAGHERIS” like I am Danaerys Targaryen. I can cry on the hall floor when I come home from work. I can make southern fried chicken at half three in the morning. No one can judge me. No one knows. I can watch the couple across the street without anyone’s interference. Without anyone calling me weird. I’m not weird. I’m not. I just like to watch. To remind myself that there’s a world outside midnight feasts and crying. A world with rules. I like rules but I don’t have any. Sick people get away with everything, anything, all things.

I see her wake up in the morning. I sit by my window, three stories up, and pretend to read a book while she opens her blinds. I usually like to walk around the house in a blanket. Sometimes draped around me like I am Anne Boleyn, freshly coronated Queen of all England. Other times I wear it like a cloak around my head and I am Anakin Skywalker marching into the Jedi Temple. But I don’t wear it while I’m at the window. She might notice me then. And if she saw me she’d know I was watching. And people that know they’re being watched don’t act like they’re invisible. They don’t wear blankets over their heads.

She disappears into the kitchen or bathroom or whatever rooms face the opposite street. I see the light flicker on as a bulb reaches the end of its life. I can see her shadow move across the floor, the gentle absence of light an indication where she is and what she’s doing. I imagine her filling a kettle with water from the tap. She places it in its nest and flicks on its tail. I bet she has a coloured one. I have a coloured one. Purple. Hers would be red. Or maybe amber. She reaches into the fridge as the water begins to bubble. A lemon, yellow as a daffodil and shaped like an egg. Slice, slice, slice. She…

She’s back.

She’s clutching a family bag of crisps in her arms and a large bottle of coke. Piggy bitch. Could she not just have green tea? Maybe her boyfriend wouldn’t tote around that thin, blonde girl if she switched to tea.

That was mean. No. I shouldn’t have said that.

“I am kind. I am grateful. I am nice.”

“I am kind. I am grateful. I am nice.”

Once more?

“I am kind. I am grateful. I am nice.”

I pretend to read my book. But I peek at her over and over. Eventually she stands up and closes the blinds. But she hasn’t noticed me. She couldn’t have. She’s just going to watch a film. Yeah, that’s it. A film. A film in the dark.

I stand up and go to take my meds. I need them. I see it again. Moving just outside where I can see. A little dark rabbit that laughs at me while I sleep.

“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run,” I sing as I go towards the kitchen.

There!

It moved, slipping into the bedroom.

“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.”

I open the biscuit cupboard where I keep the rattling tub and feel something watching me. “BANG!” I turn and stick my fingers out like guns.

“Bang goes the farmer with his gun, gun, gun. He’ll get by, without his rabbit pie,” the bottle lid falls off and I shake the hard little pellet into the palm of my hand. “So run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.”

The bin stinks. I can smell it from here. I let last week’s chicken go bad and haven’t taken it down to the black bins outside yet. I have to. I can’t bear it anymore. I march to it, soldiers on either flank, no rabbit following me this time, and pull the bin liner up and out. I ignore the clang of half a dozen wine bottles – I’m not supposed to drink, you see, not good with the antipsychotics – and tie it up tight. I’m in pyjamas, bright blue and obvious, but I don’t care. I grab my keys and shove my bare feet into dirty trainers and head downstairs. Wait. No. Leave the blanket. And I’m off again.

Outside is weird and horrible. It’s wet, which I like, but there are people walking up and down the street, junkies with Chihuahuas chasing them as they stumble along the pavement and students wearing shorts and grinning big stupid fucking grins. Idiots.

“Hey,” I hear someone call. “Hey you. Pervert.”

I hear the boyfriend hush the girl, telling her he’ll sort me out. I laugh. Honey, if you could sort me out then you deserve a…

“I’m talking to you. Come here.”

I laugh again. And so I walk across the street, quite unbothered of the ranty little man, ready to ask him all about the blonde girl. That’ll show him. Though do I want to hurt Piggy like that? Happy people don’t have crisps and coke for breakfast.

His face is red and scrunched with self-righteousness. His hair is wet with rain and damp on his forehead. She’s hiding behind him in the close. Her eyes afraid. Much more afraid than she should be. Maybe she has a rabbit too?

“Hey, you and your friend better stop looking in on us.”

That catches me short.

“My friend?”

“Yeah. You and your fucking friend better stop watching us. Pair of poofy creeps.”

“What do you mean friend?” I hear myself say but the familiar dread darts like a hare up my spine.

Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.

“Him,” the girl says as her boyfriend looks at me like I’m crazy. He’s not so tough now.  She’s pointing upwards. I follow her finger and turn towards my flat. My little slice of somewhere safe in such an unsafe world. And I see it. The fingers disappearing behind the curtains as they pull themselves out of sight.

“But…” I say as the rain grows heavier, “I live alone.”

 

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