One night he was there, the next gone. He appeared as the most substantial ghost whose spirit ever haunted an old dwelling. Tonight, his presence crashed into me like an eighteen-wheeler without brakes. After scraping myself off the floor, I tried to ignore him. He would have none of that.
I was scared to death of him, and eye rolls, I’m afraid, would have sent him into devastation mode. And so I gently mocked him, instead: “How are you, Your Honor, Julius Caesar?” This was a small salute to a ghost man who was no petty dictator.
“Don’t go there. I won’t have my feelings restrained.”
His voice irritated my already hyper sensitive auditory channels. It was, to put it mildly, like thunder. I tugged at my earlobes. “Will you please whisper?” I suggested. “What do you want me to do this time?”
“Leave this house for the night.”
“That’s all? If I didn’t already know it’s never just leaving the house, I’d go out for a pleasant evening stroll.”
With as much nonchalance as I could muster, I fell into my easy chair, swiveled it into recline mode, and reached for my Kindle. I had about thirty new books awaiting me. Thirty books would take a while. With as little strength as he could muster, he upended the chair, tossing me on my face.
I rose, somewhat shakily and stung, but otherwise fine. “Leave me alone, Caesar! You aren’t in control around here. You have me confused with some nitwit compliant type.”
He faced off with me, his large hand ready to swipe me down again. Before it could, I turned my back to him. The kitchen’s call was, at that moment, louder than his brooding anger. I was hungry, and I was pretty sure there was a juicy rare steak with my name on it. Or it would be juicy and rare after I lightly grilled it on either side. Add a side of steamed broccoli dressed with vinegar and oil, and I would have a happy at-home meal. I uncorked a bottle of chianti and poured a healthy six ounces into my favorite Ball jar.
Before I could drain it, let alone imbibe one drop, the jar flew past me and crashed into the wall. I gritted my teeth. Now, not only would six ounces of pleasant wine go to waste, but I would have to clean up the trails of red cascading down the wall.
“What the hell?”
“I told you to leave the house!”
“I’m hungry. Why can’t I eat first?”
His voice took on what I imagined to be a wolf growl. “You know why.”
“I’m afraid I don’t. Look, Dictator. I’m merely renting this place. You were already here, and I’m not part of whatever issues your spirit has with the world. So can you go pick on somebody else? If this goes on, I’m going to move out, and I don’t want to do that because it’s not that easy to come up with first, last, and a deposit.”
I slipped past his chilly, yet solid figure. I shuddered. He must have been a piece of work in life–he had the bulk figure of a fighter, but lacked the idiot, cow-eyed gaze of a man who had his head regularly pummeled.
“If you don’t let me eat, I’m just going to go to bed. I’ve been working all day, and I’m tired.”
I knew from experience I couldn’t avoid him. As I already said, I was scared to death of him. This was just my cat and mouse game, in which I attempted to avoid his injunctions as long as possible. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and massaged anti-aging cream into my skin. I inspected my reflected, mirror face for wrinkles. Why was I not surprised at the annoying snap of the mirror cracking?
His face overlaid mine in the mirror. He was such a hard ass. Why wouldn’t he leave me alone? I clawed at my own face as if I could peel his face away from mine. He was wrecking my shape and complexion. His jaw was wide, his nose large and nostrils flared; his hair was a wild mass of dark curls. My own pale face with narrow jaw and delicate cheekbones was lost behind his visage–I was hidden. Momentarily he moved to the side, and our faces were side by side. Despite our differences, we both wore stubbornly set grimaces.
He hovered his face over mine again, and I swatted at him. He sidestepped, pulled his face behind mine, then forward, then back. His face spun around mine, over mine, until I couldn’t take it any longer. He knew this. He knew this moment would come. I bashed the already cracked mirror with my fist; I bashed it again and again until it was a splintered mess, the pieces sagging toward the sink.
I turned and fled. I slammed the front door open and shut without stopping for a jacket. With his force inside me, I catapulted into the chilly night air and pelted down one street and then another. I ran and ran, my lungs like ice, my legs aching, my feet in my pinched office flats cramping and straining. I tossed off the shoes and only had a fleeting thought of wasting yet another pair. Since the Dictator had taken over, I’d shopped for the cheap Payless variety.
Shoes didn’t matter, anyway. Nothing mattered but my Caesar’s directives. Somewhere out there, there was a child in mortal danger, and nobody could save this child but me.