I am blinded by the light fracturing against the small glass figurines that are set up in long, well-ordered rows on the cabinet shelves. The sparks in my eyes hurt and I shut them, instinctively, and wonder why my instinct would make me do something so dangerous. What if the light were a sign of hostile intent? But evolution, perhaps, didn’t know that light could be used as a weapon, since the only thing relevant to it was the sunlight.
“Who’s there?” I ask. I get no response, but the light goes away and I open my eyes to see Mr. Clairmont, the next-door neighbor, peering at me through slits in his eyes. His cheeks are sunken and his hair stands up in white tufts on the sides of his head.
“How did you get in here?”
He doesn’t answer. He turns around and puts his face into the corner. The flashlight he was holding drops from his hands. He moans and begins to rock back and forth. I don’t know what to do. Should I try to comfort him or see if his caretaker is at home or, if she’s not, call an ambulance?
“Let me stay!” He shouts at the top of his lungs, into the corner, without looking at me. The sound seems to travel up the corner and reverberate across the ceiling towards me. I remember wishing I could stay away from my parents when I was a kid. It was sometimes heartbreaking to leave my friends’ houses where, it seemed to me, everything was so much better. I wonder if Mr. Clairmont can possibly feel the same way. He’s mumbling into his fingers now and he’s turned half towards me so that I can see that his eyes are darting at me with quick, short glances.
“Okay,” I say. “Tea?” He shakes his head. “Hot chocolate?” He shakes his head again. “Warm milk?” I try once more. He shakes his head again. Okay then. I don’t know what he wants, but if he wants to stay, I suppose he can. It’s not like he could attack me in my sleep. For one thing, he’s about eighty and I don’t know how much strength he’s got in those wobbly arms and skinny legs of his. He still refuses to look straight at me, so I sit at the table and wait.
But not for long. I get impatient. So I go to my room and lock the door. I can’t sleep well, though. I keep imagining him out there and I wonder what he’s doing and whether or not he’s lonely. His wisps of white hair make me want to cry when I remember how I saw him on the street the other day trying to make them lie flat across his head, when they insist on flapping about in the wind.
I try to turn the radio on, but then I realize that it’s not plugged in and I don’t feel like getting out of bed to stick the thing in the socket. It seems like so much effort, and I can’t help but think that I should have made up a bed for Mr. Clairmont on the couch. But I don’t think he would actually down.
I must have fallen asleep because the clock now says that it’s five in the morning. I get up and slowly go to see if Mr. Clairmont is still here. I have this horrible feeling that he’s still standing in that same corner, waiting for something that he can’t put into words. Why didn’t I go to his house and see if his caretaker was there?! How could I have been so irresponsible? If he’s lying dead on my kitchen floor, I’m going to get sued. Or worse. Maybe I’ll get accused for neglectful murder? Is there such a thing? Is it like third degree murder or something?
I’m not sure how I get myself out of my room but I do, somehow. And – Mr. Clairmont is in the kitchen, but he’s not in the same corner he was in. He’s humming and wiping down the counters. The moment he sees me, though, he drops the sponge and looks guiltily at the floor. As if he’s expecting me to chastise him or something.
“How are you doing, Mr. Clairmont?”
He looks up at me and smiles. He has a tooth missing. It suddenly seems as if he’s looked like this – exactly like this – since he was a six year old kid who just lost his first tooth. I think he’s had an okay night.


2 thoughts on “Cornered

  1. aloudhush says:

    I’ve been popping back and forth to your blog and I have to say, I love your writing. I love the “why” section – I know you get that all the time, but I appreciate that you are just so honest and straight up. It’s great.

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