He slowly lumbered up another flight of stairs and angrily huffed at himself for putting on an extra 32 pounds. He was proud of himself for taking the stairs but also annoyed he decided to do it before his next appointment. The 11-story building is on rollers for earthquake safety, so every time Paul Fosteer walked down the hallway to his office, the floor shook. This didn’t help his ego at all.
She was there already when he opened the door. Backlit from the wall of windows behind her, Helen’s silhouette looked larger than her small frame. Her presence gave him goosebumps on his legs with a slight chill at the back of his neck. He couldn’t tell if she was facing the street, or him, so he applied a small smile to his sweaty face and hoped he didn’t look too out of breath. The sky had an uncanny purple hue with the promise of snow and he imagined the glass cool to the touch.
A muffled bubble of laugher rose up from another office. Holiday parties were in full swing on every floor. The two sat down in their respective places with an understanding to begin without greetings and small talk.
When I was a child I used to hide a lot. I’m not sure why I started hiding but it felt exciting, like I was tricking someone. I don’t know who, honestly. It was comforting to be in a small, dark space where I didn’t have to focus my eyes on anything and could just zone out in peace. I felt like I was being hugged by the darkness the way crawling back under warm covers after a bathroom trip feels in the middle of the night. It felt good to feel like I was missing and no one noticed. I fantasized about a million different lives one could potentially lead. I thought about how fun it would be to try all of them.
That could’ve been the first time I consciously thought about the possibility of there being multiple personalities, somehow, inside my brain. Or maybe I’m just a serial killer trying to make excuses for my righteous lifestyle. You be the judge, please, dear reader.
Now, it’s really important to explain why this needs —
“Helen,” interrupted Dr. Fosteer, Helen’s psychiatrist. She opened her eyes to a dingy non-colored ceiling and florescent lighting. “I’m not your reader,” he said. A darkness came over Helen’s face. She looked out the window and saw tiny bits of snow falling down like a warped hourglass in slow motion. She could hear drunken Christmas carols being sung in an office nearby. The sun already dipped low on the horizon, making the sky a dark purple now and the windows like mirrors. A silent helicopter marked the sky with a faint red blinking light.
“Well of course you are!” Helen stopped to assure her doctor with a cartoony voice. “I’m the heroine.” It was irritating to loose focus but she knew she would stay on track tonight. Tonight she needed to let off some steam and this court-appointed session was not going to stop her cleanse. She continued.
I used to fantasize about killing my littlest cousin when he was a baby. I knew I would never do it so it became more fun than stressful to come up with different storylines. There was no pressure to follow through so it became an arrogant game I played with myself, certain I could claim insanity as a young girl not even in school yet. One time I smeared the innards of a nearby aloe plant all over his face, then added discarded crumbs from a cookie and stuck it to the aloe gel. I was imagining taking the mixture and shoving it in his mouth, making it hard for him to breathe. Or put it in his ears and confuse his senses. Maybe he’d stop being. And maybe I’d be an only grandchild again! But I could tell he loved me and something told me he would be sad if his dead self knew I murdered him. Or his soul or whatever. I knew it was in there and I wanted it.
So, maybe I wanted his soul and not exactly his life? That tracks but I need to figure out what I needed his soul for. And why.
Paul wrote down a few notes on his iPad. Clearly she’s lost in the sheer volume of decisions an adult has to make every day just to survive. She has no idea how to choose which one is more important than the other. We’ll need to work on that.
Helen smirks at Dr. Fosteer scribbling on his dumb iPad. He must think he has more time but she feels the tightness in his chest. Sadly, it’s just Dr. Fosteer (rhymes with ear), a fat man with an average face, common eyes and boring hair. He sniffs the air after she farted a stinky version of her lunch. Like old men with dementia mark their territories with urine, Helen likes to mark Dr. Fosteer’s office with her scent. It’s the decay of food that disarms the average person but the doctor looked her right in the eye.
I’m in my mom’s closet by her shoes and I can smell the leather of her favorite white huaraches. Her long dresses rest on my shoulders as I crouch down and wait. I need to figure out what’s changed in me that’s desperate to know what other souls feel like.
Paul felt a hot flush rise up into his throat. The darkness fell over Helen’s face again but this time he nodded in understanding. Helen started humming “The First Noel” from a distant memory and slid her hood back on to cover her head.
I’m the heroine. I’m the writer, too.