Don’t be fooled because she wears flowers. On her hair, on her dress, on her lips in a balm. Her shadow, dragging behind her, is heavy and thick as molasses. That Sunday morning I heard her feet, her careful, creaky steps across my wood floor. I did not open my eyes.
I did not want to see her face. Or hear the vibrations of her breathing. I knew she had a message for me, but I did not want it.
“Can’t you ever send emails? Can’t you ever send texts or letters?” I said.
“I have a message for you.” There she goes. This is her trick. Her voice is so soft you strain to hear it, you must lift your head from the pillow and move toward her, you must really try. This is her trick. I am determined not to fall for it this time.
“Leave a note. There’s a pad by the phone.” I said this without lifting my head.
It was sickeningly bright. I felt the warmth pressing against my head and lifted my covers higher. I then felt the sweating in my arms and thighs, the tightness in my chest, but I ignored it. I could smell her perfume and I knew she was too close.
“Leave a note, please.”
And then, finally, the welcome sound of her footsteps toward the corner of the room. A soft clicking while she tried to pick up a pen. I had a headache. I was warm in my bed. I could still smell her perfume. And even now, I can smell the thick heat.
Every Sunday it’s the same. Every Sunday this girl enters my house, steps into my room, and tells me she has a message for me. For a while I listened, transfixed, frightened as hell. I did what she told me to do. She had me do things around the house, mostly. Opening and closing cabinets. Checking inside my closet and lightly touching the coats and sweaters hanging inside. Peering behind boxes. Glancing up walls. Always looking, looking, while she followed me, her hand on my shoulder, her perfume making me want to vomit.
For years this went on, and every Saturday night I thought that maybe if I didn’t go to sleep the next day would never come: that if I didn’t close my eyes and give myself to the night, that the night would last forever, that the hours would last through heaven and hell with every turn of the earth. But every Sunday morning the angel came, and told me she had a message for me. The first time she held me by my hair, she dragged me out of bed while my bare feet tripped and slipped, and I screamed into her hand as her nails sliced into my cheeks.
I live alone, you know. Ah, there it is. Have you heard the sighs? There was a chorus of them when this information was revealed: from the nice policeman I tore from his shift in the middle of the night, from the minister in confession as I sobbed into the screen, from the therapist that told me some things cannot be cured. I live alone in that house in the woods. They sent me there after that Easter Sunday.
(I have already told the story of Easter Sunday. All the children know it, the telling of it to the younger ones is practically a rite of passage. The minister still blushes when asked about it by the earnest journalism students that pass through town, tape recorders in hand.)
Once I asked the angel her name, and she held me by the wrist until my skin turned white and my veins blue. I woke the minister at dawn to ask for his guidance, and he said that a heavenly message must never be ignored.
I do not read her notes anymore.
Sometimes, in the middle of washing dishes, or as I sift through the items on my desk looking for my morning pills, I can smell her. Out of nowhere I can smell her. I smell all my things, my clothes, the air, trying to see where it’s coming from, but it comes from nowhere. A sick, thick, bubbling toxic smell they bottle and sell at JC Penney. One day, lying in bed with the covers under my chin, I cleared my throat and asked her what perfume she was wearing.
“Obsession,” she said, setting her pen down on the pad.