"Late at night I can see it staring at me from the dark of the woods, when no one is around and I am alone. It does not speak to me, or try and get to me. During the winter I can see it clearly, the snow lighting up the night. The thin sheen of fur, its head the shape of an upside down raindrop, the glow of its eyes when the light reflects off of them, and its teeth like dart tips are all clear. And though it as alien as anything I have ever seen, it is my oldest friend.
I spend a lot of time alone. Not on purpose mind you. My schedule, my line of work makes it hard for me to relate to other people. Regular conversations are almost impossible, as people mutter about this and that, and I am left admitting to myself that what they speak of is something I do not and cannot understand. My life isn't normal, and hasn't been normal for a long time.
I know that normal is dirty word, something that seems to be outdated nowadays, but there are some things that remains normal. Sitting down at night and watching TV for example is normal. Going out with friends is normal But I spend my nights in restless sleep, broken up with the moans and groans of someone in need. And on the days when I am not tasked at watching them, my mind remains fixated on the complex emotions I keep buried.
It is a different kind of experience, watching another person. Not in a doctor, patient relationship. But instead overseeing a piece of your family, and watching them degrade over time. I had assumed in the beginning that the work would come easy to me. I have a lot of patience, and are compassionate naturally. But there are many things you have to learn along the way. There are many things you have to learn to endure. Thankfully, I have help.
No matter how tired I am, how many times I am asked to awaken from my slumber, I know I can look out my window and see that thing watching my from the branches of the trees. And though I know we are separated by the glass, I know that even if it is only watching me, that it is also witnessing my experiences as well.
Thoughts like that make my time a little less isolating of an experience, and though few would find comfort in some strange creature looking in on them night after night, I cannot help but look forward to it. Searching for it, and spending a moment looking back is like taking a walk or having a cup of coffee. It helps make me feel a little less alone, and with that, a little more sane.
For a long time I just thought I was imagining things, but one day my brother looked at me from his bed, with a smile on his face.
“It came back again today,” he said.
I asked him what he was talking about, following the pointing of his finger out the window. And there I saw it, up in the trees, watching the both of us. And that is all that it does. It just sits there, perched in the branches. It looks at me with neither love nor malice. It does not judge me. It just watches. It sits and watches in the dark of the woods. It is my friend.”
Most of the time, the pieces I receive from the Unknown Author are delivered anonymously, through the mail. But yesterday she delivered the story to my door, along with a plastic wrapped plate of food. Since my parents passed away, I have always avoided Thanksgiving meals. Seems that more than any other holiday, it is one that is meant to be spent with your kin. Every year several of my friends still offer to let me come over and spend time with their family. I always turn them down though, not wanting to bring my own issues to the tables.
Maybe it is the difficulties I have been facing, but when she arrived at my door, offering to share a meal, I decided to accept. They were leftovers from her own dinner with her family, and though they were a few days old it was still nice in a way to be able to taste something like that again. There is something about the combination of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and cranberries that immediately brings to mind memories. For me, it is the first time in a long time that I think I have been able to look fondly upon the holiday.
She said that she had been thinking about what I had been going through, and felt that having lost my family must make this time of the year particularly hard for me. I apologized for the way I had treated her in the park. She had been right to warn me, and I had refused to listen. I had a report ready yesterday, but felt that under the circumstances I should share her writing first. I have spent season after season alone, this year being harder than most. I owe her a great deal. Positing her piece first was naturally the thing to do.
I have tried to contact my friend, to wish him a happy holidays. He is still not responding to my calls, and I am beginning to worry.