Sometimes I hear people
right behind me,
and I don’t know who they are.
All that I know is that
they’re not really there.
It all started with Alice.
That wasn’t her name.
It was what she was after…or who.
She wouldn’t shut up about it.
I take long walks, you see.
One day her voice caught up to me
and out of thin air came:
“Alice wasn’t home today.
I want to show you where she lives but
I follow you. You don’t follow me.
You can’t. That’s not the way it works.”
“What? Hello?” I turned around and saw no one.
“Is anybody there?”
“Don’t be a lunkhead. I was fucking telling you about Alice.”
From there it didn’t stop.
Next came James,
“Alice always wears green, but don’t tell her I told you that.”
“Alice isn’t as nice as she comes across. Her kindness is a charade.”
“Alice pretends that she doesn’t want me. But that’s all it is, pretend.”
I don’t know what they look like
because I can’t see them
but they are right there
and nowhere at the same time.
I started walking faster, but it didn’t help
because the voices were always
just behind me:
“Alice is being a real bitch.”
“Oooh, I just love your skin.”
It wasn’t just one place, one walk, one road.
It was at the mall, at the bank, the bakery,
on the street or in my shitty apartment
as I sat on the recliner watching TV.
“What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there staring at that talking screen.”
“Does Alice know?”
I don’t know who they are
(who the fuck is Alice?)
or what they are or where or
how they can see me or if they only see me
or a million other things.
The only thing scarier than this being all in my head and that
I was going batshit crazy
was the possibility that this wasn’t
-that this was real and
what that implied.
Two weeks later I got my answer
from once again, the unlikeliest of places
because our expectations of life
and all that it entails
are meant to be smashed, obliterated,
run over and then set on fire
every single step of the way.
So, there I was on a Monday
at the shop when
Marcus (the mechanic)
nodded me over, wrench in hand.
He wasn’t working on my vehicle just yet
and I didn’t really know him so
I approached with caution
because humans were dangerous.
As Marcus went back to changing a tire he said,
“Alice’s friends have been telling me about you…”
in a happy, sing-song voice.
“Alice?” That sounded so familiar that it was painful.
It still took me a second to process because,
“you mean the voices in my head?”
I wanted to grab Marcus and shake him
and scream and cackle madly
but I just stood there staring at him…stunned,
because none of this seemed real.
I could smell the oil, the exhaust, the lubricants, the cold air outside.
The lighting was harsh and glaring as usual. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
But yet, everything had changed forever
in one casual conversation.
Marcus shook his head and laughed.
He slowly turned to me,
set his wrench down on the cart
and with excited eyes said,
“Can you see them yet?”