I started walking towards the apartment complex from the parking lot. The hot summer sun had started to descend. Our apartment was a veteran compared to its peers in the area. It had seen and survived decades of sun and rain and snow. I entered the complex and took the stairs for the first floor house. The squeaking sounds from the wooden staircase reaffirmed its age. I unlocked the door and entered the house. The burst of cool air and the distinct sound of the working AC clearly said the AC was switched on. He was already home. I called out and searched the whole apartment. He was nowhere to be found. Maybe I had forgotten to switch the AC unit off that morning before I left. I locked the front door and secured the latch so that nobody could enter the house even if they have a key.
Ten minutes later I was on the sofa watching a comedy TV show with a bowl of corn flakes in my hand. These comedy shows are really puzzling. You get to hear the joke and also people laughing at it. I have never really understood why they have to add that sound track of people laughing. Is it to make the audience aware that it was a joke or is it an assumption that audiences are so dumb that they do not understand the joke? I suddenly felt that I had heard something; like somebody had moved behind me. I got up and looked all around. There was nobody around.
This was not the first time it had happened. The other day I was working late I heard foot steps outside the room. The foot steps were rather heavy and I was sure he was outside the room, maybe in the living room. I dashed into the living room. I looked around and went to the balcony. There was no sign of anybody around. Suddenly I heard water flowing. It came from the kitchen. I rushed to the kitchen but it too, was empty. The taps were all shut and there was no sign of any water being let out. Maybe it was from the adjoining apartment.
This kind of experience in the kitchen was not new either. I had had several such incidents and close encounters in the kitchen earlier too. My closest ever had happened some weeks before. I was at the kitchen table cutting onions. I was constantly using my T-shirt arms to wipe off the tears. I could barely open my eyes and my nose too was filled with the pungent odor of the onions. Suddenly I felt somebody blow near my ears. I turned around. I knew it was him and this time he was the closest we ever had been. I tried hard to keep my eyes open. I looked in all directions and checked the entire house. There was absolutely no sign of anybody else in the house. I returned to the kitchen when a thought came to my mind. I had always thought he was around me and was trying to harm me. But why would he come so close to me, blow softly at my ears and vanish? Maybe it was a she and not a he. It had never occurred to me that it might be a she who was doing all this! Maybe she was the previous occupant of this apartment and she had liked this kitchen very much and that was the reason for my frequent encounters in the kitchen.
But I was still not very sure whether it was a he or a she. But the thought of a “she” was really good and I now wanted to know who it was. Months passed but there was really no breakthrough until that day. That day I knew my time to vacate this apartment had come and I had strong reasons for it. But the thought of whether it was a he or a she still lingered in my mind. I made up mind to find who it was and put an end to this, the next time it happened. I was washing my face when I felt a presence. I knew he or she was next to me. I waited for an opportunity to catch the person and so did not immediately respond to the presence. In the next few moments I knew the person was still next to me and he/she too might have been thinking why I still had not responded. Now was the time and I knew it. I prepared myself and quickly looked up. There I could see him in the mirror and it was only him in the mirror in front of me. He too was alone like me and there were nobody else around.
The sound of the boiling water on the medium kitchen flame broke my thoughts. I am standing in the new apartment into which I have recently moved as the lease of the previous apartment had expired. This apartment is smaller than my previous one but one word echoes in my ears whenever I think about this. “Location”; this was what the apartment office person had told me when I had come to look around this apartment. This apartment has shopping malls on three sides. I added the tea powder to the boiling water when I suddenly heard a sound and footsteps in the balcony. Somebody was there in the balcony of this first floor apartment. I rushed to the balcony to find it empty. I looked around and I could see nothing but the vast graveyard with rose bunches here and there under the setting sun. “Location”; the word again echoed in my ears. This apartment has shopping malls on 3 sides and a grave yard on the fourth. I closed the glass door as I again entered the apartment. I knew he was there and he was now inside this first floor apartment.
~Narendra V Joshi