by Ella Bernstein
Soon enough, I began to feel that I was living in someone else’s house. Each morning
when I turned on the lights, the furniture lurched out of the shadows, all things that I had never
seen before. I could still see the imprint of my body on the mattress, except it wasn’t my body, it
was someone else who slept there and then disappeared right as I opened my eyes.
And the walls came alive at night. I tried to stay up watching them, but I could never
outrun sleep once I was in its reach. Still, in those final moments, I could feel shadows stirring to
life, crawling around the edges of my vision.
The house turned my walks turned into wanderings. My feet moved on their own as my
mind somersaulted endlessly, like a dog chasing its own tail. It was on one of these walks when I
heard my name shouted from across the street. I turned. An old couple on the sidewalk strolled
hand in hand. Something hammered in my throat. Were they looking at me?
I looked away. Their eyes were burned into mine. Were they still walking on, or were
they stopped, watching me? Were they crossing the street, coming toward me? I sat down on the
curb, put my head between my knees. The grass waved in the breeze, a stray cat flicked its tail,
the street heaved up and down like it was breathing, all in rhythm. My whole body pulsing loud
in my ears. There were heartbeats in my legs, in my stomach, in the tips of my fingers. How
could I not have known?