For the third time tonight I turn the corner and she’s there, glassy eyes bulging. The staring thing. Shuffling forward in green slippers and black nightgown along the stained carpet of the third floor hallway. She stops when she sees me. The right eye sees. The left eye is filmed over, like an Edgar Allan Poe story. She hisses deep in her throat. I wait until the reptilian sound fades. Finally she stirs herself, and speaks. From a dry throat, without much apparent practice at human speech. “I don’t know what’s the matter. I can’t sleep.”
Speaking, she becomes the non-supernatural resident of room 307 here at the Blessed Name apartment complex, where I work security weekends, 3rd shift. Doreen Lange. 85 years old. Lucky at Thursday night bingo. A bummer of change for the washing machine. With a strong resemblance to the dead woman in the bathtub in Kubrick’s version of The Shining.
On nights she can’t sleep, mind locked in semi-dementia, she plays scare the bejesus out of the security guard with me as I make my occasional rounds through the quiet corridors. I’m walking along, thinking of music, or sex, or maybe calling Domino’s for a pizza. Minding my own business. She likes to meet around corners.
Did I call these hallways quiet? I guess usually they are. But I’ve told you before about the noises in the small hours of morning. The voices raised in whines and pleading. Other voices raised in cadenced prayer. Not in a language I can understand, it’s not English or Spanish or Portuguese. A Russian friend stopped by long enough to tell me it wasn't Russian, then left in a hurry. “I’ll tell you: better you here than me,” he said. “You couldn't pay me.” Well, he has a pension. I need the money. Besides, it’s just old people in the hell of senility.
What do people in hell pray for? I wonder in idle moments. Eight hours of idle moments, sitting in the lobby staring at a reinforced glass door locked against the outside world. I make my round, come back to sit and
stare again. Thinking about what waits around corners. Staring like her. But at least I blink.
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