That’s the feeling, at least. It had spikes that patiently tore at everything in me that was once peaceful. It never rested, it never stopped, and because it never left me it seemed to promise that it would remain for the rest of my life.
When would I see her again? Where would I see her next? She followed me everywhere and watched me. She never seemed pleased with my awareness, she wasn’t entertained. She always looked so uncomfortable, actually. I tried only once to speak to her and she mimicked me word-for-word, fear in her stare.
In the mornings I’d hesitate to open my eyes, I knew I’d see her soon. She’d never tried to attack me, she’d never spoken to me without me speaking first. She just followed and witnessed my life, and that made it all the more disturbing. She had no mission, there was no endgame, there was no ransom requested for the safe return of my peace of mind. We were partners in life without my consent. We were a play as long as life, one actor and one set of eyes in the audience.
I sought out help in the beginning. First everyone seemed concerned for my safety, then found it all very funny. It was brushed away, their theories that they passed to me were beyond absurd. I somehow found myself alone in this struggle. I was forced to exist with this shadow of mine, watching and waiting for nothing.
I’d pour my coffee and then see her with the same mug, wearing the same blouse, hair pinned the same way, blush poorly applied just as mine because I was never taught how to do makeup. And the slowly rolling metal ball would go cold as I wondered at this trick, how she knew, how she could so quickly prepare.
I couldn’t come to accept her entirely as a part of my life. I began each day with a drop of hope that I wouldn’t see her again, that I could truly be alone and at peace. And then I would see her meeting my eyes when I sat up in bed. There she sat herself, on her own bed across from me, face pale and eyes tired. She looked disappointed every day when she recognized me.
Her existence quickly ruled my life, nothing was considered sacred enough for her to avert her eyes. My life no longer contained friendship or romance. Sometimes I’d look up at her to perhaps ask permission, but she seemed to already know what I was about to ask, and I knew the answer. And the slowly rolling metal ball would grow heavier.
I was perhaps the only person among my coworkers who looked forward to going to work, it was the most time I would have to myself. When I went to work she left me alone for the most part. She followed me to the ladies room and went into the stall across from me every time, but at my desk, in the lunchroom, at business meetings, in the parking lot she was nowhere to be seen.
First one month passed this way, then one year, and then five. Each morning began the same and every evening ended the same, with hope and dread. And while I never embraced her presence I eventually came to get used to it. I desired true companionship but no longer expected it, I longed for friendship outside of a workplace but the effort and explaining that it would have to involve pushed me away from ever trying.
If the loneliness had become crippling then perhaps I would have tried harder. But with my ghost, my shadow, my mirror, I never felt truly alone.
Hannah-Elizabeth Noelle Thompson Newell has a long name. She is also terrible at starting bios.
A restless little whippersnapper, Hannah grew up never staying in the same town for longer than a few years, and eventually she never stayed in the same state for very long. She currently resides in Fairmont, West Virginia. Her spare time is spent fixing (and accidentally breaking) her typewriters, making things one might call ‘art’ (Hugs Are Sent), and attacking everyone online and elsewhere with hugs (if you’d like frequent hug attacks, you may follow her on Twitter @SherlockMadame.) Also she kinda loves you. And she is terrible at ending bios.