Blog

It’s back

The package—it’s back!

It’s fucking back and I don’t know how.

I moved back into my apartment today after the police couldn’t find anything. They told me, with a tone telling me the opposite of their words, to call if I noticed anything strange.

I walked in and there it was, sitting on top of my coffee table as if it had always been there. I didn’t know what to think. At first I thought the cops had left it. But as I got closer, I recognized the shape and size, and the unmarked paper-wrapping.

So I can’t be rid of this thing, apparently. I threw it away in a dumpster for crying out loud! I fucking watched the garbage truck empty the dumpster. The package should be in a landfill right now. But, here it is.

I’m sick of this. I have to know now what this is all about. I’m going to open the damn thing. Hopefully, once I see what’s inside, I’ll be able to end this odd chapter of my life.

I’ve spent the last five minutes working up the courage to open it. I thought writing this blog post would help me think through it, as well help me vent some of my frustration.

Well, it’s not going to open itself. Here I go. I just hope there’s not a bomb or anthrax in it.

I’m opening the package now.

Ugh…

The title says it all. I fell like crap.

Ugh…

You ever have those days where you just can’t do anything? Where it just feels like everything you do is worthless.

Nothing’s been working out. Not since that goddamned package.

I’m still shaken up. My home has never been broken into before. I just feel so angry that someone was in my apartment. Who the hell were they and what were they looking for?

I’ve been trying to write more “Doom Truth” but the words just haven’t been flowing. Every new sentence sounds stupid when I read it aloud. The plot, characters, it’s all uncertain. I feel like I need to just start over from the beginning.

And to top it all off, the big piece I’ve been working on for nearly a month was rejected by my editor.

I went in this morning to talk with Ed Slizawski, my editor for the Boston Crier. I had gone in sure my article would do well. Again, I’d sunk a whole lotta time and love into it. I titled it “Den of Thieves: The Rise of Boston’s Most Notorious Crime District”. It was on the increasing levels of crime in McAffrey’s Place. I’d even gone there to do research! I was sure I was going to be robbed like six times.

But when I walked into Ed’s office, Ed had a grim face. Nothing unusual there. It was when he said, “Please sit down, Raymond,” that I knew something was wrong. Ed only says ‘please’ when he’s got bad news.

I sat down. The leather squeaked underneath me.

Ed stared at me over clasped hands. His narrow eyes were framed by the fat, black rims of his glasses.

“I read your article,” Ed said.

“…And, what’d you think?”

Ed puckered his lips and let out a long puff of air in my face. His breath smelled of mint, “Well I certainly liked parts of it. But, as it is, I don’t think I can publish it.”

“What the hell? Why not?”

Ed’s eyes turned into two, dark lines, “Well for starters, what was the point of it? What are our readers supposed to get out of it after they read it?”

“That there’s bad shit happening at McAffrey’s Place and the city government’s not doing much about it!”

Ed clicked his tongue, “See, I don’t know why you wrote that. We can’t go pointing fingers at the mayor and the city. Besides, it’s been shown that recent government programs have been reducing poverty and organized crime. You seem to think the opposite.”

“Because I went to McAffrey’s. I know what I saw there. And I did my research.”

“I’m sure you did,” Ed looked down and now busied himself with straightening the already straightened pens on his desk. I knew by that he was done with this conversation. But I pressed on.

“C’mon, Ed, you can’t stop the article just over that. If there were actual criticisms I could rewrite parts—”

Ed glanced up, “I do have actual criticism. I am not going to allow you to accuse the city government wrongly. You could always remove those sections, but I know how stubborn you can get. Particularly with me.”

“Gee, I wonder why,” I muttered.

“If you won’t change the article, then I will not allow it to be printed.”

“Fine,” I jumped to my feet, “I guess we’re done here.”

“I’m sorry, Ray, but that’s the way it’s got to be.”

I grunted. As I walked out the door, I pushed one of Ed’s hanging photographs so it hung crooked. I could almost hear him twitch behind me. That gave me some satisfaction.

 

Someone broke into my apartment

I cam home late from the bar. After I’d come in and flicked on the lights, I didn’t notice anything at first. I had a good buzz going and I was enjoying myself.

But when I crossed the living room to get to the kitchen, that’s when I first had the sense that something was off. I couldn’t say exactly what it was, but there was something that didn’t seem right.

Maybe it was just my paranoia flaring up.

I walked around and peered at my furniture. I got on my hands and knees and looked under the coffee table at the stacks of books and magazines.

Before going to the bar, I had been sitting on my sofa, reading a copy of Dash! magazine. I had been rereading an article I’d written 3 years ago. So, I distinctly remeber putting the magazine on top of all my other magazines and newspapers because I wasn’t done reading.

Now it was no longer at the top, but tucked under a folded newspaper.

I scrambled to my feet, my buzz gone. I looked over the rest of my apartment. Now it seemed to me that someone had gone through all my stuff.

I’m no detective, but I could see where things had been put back in place with care and intention. Normally in my apartment there is a conflict between order and chaos. The book tossed carelessly on the couch; the neat stack of post-its next to my computer; the random plate or microwave tray on the counter; and the shoes lined up neatly in the cubby by the door.

Everything was there, but they bore the invisible mark f having been touched, probed, and put back by some other hand than mine.

I was freaking out. After I made sure my stash of cash and documents were all there, I checked the doors and windows. They were untouched. The windows were still even locked from the inside. The burglar appeared to have walked through the walls.

I called the police. While I waited for officers to arrive, I sat on the edge of my couch and breathed, trying to clear my head. I wasn’t successful.

After ten uneasy minutes, two police officers knocked on my door. I told them my story. They looked over my apartment, gave me scrutinizing looks, and told me they’d do what they could, but from what they could tell there was little in the way of evidence.

I took their advice and spent the rest of the night in a motel.

As I walked down the hall carrying my duffel bag, my new neighbor poked her head out of her door.

“What happened?” she asked in her rich voice.

“Nothing. I think someone was poking around my apartment while I was gone. You didn’t see anything did you?”

“No! That is very bad! I am sorry, but I saw nothing.”

Only now, in retrospect, do I think there was something odd about her tone and the glimmer in her single, visible eye. Maybe she did see something but was choosing to be quiet about it.

Bah, I don’t know.

God damn it! Ever since that meeting last week, my life has gotten all screwed up. I’m so goddamned paranoid about everything. I’m still shaking, even as I’m writing this. I’ll be amazed if there are no spelling erroros.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t think. I can’t write. All I can do is sit and drink and wish like hell my life was back to normal. I feel so vulnerable, naked. Your home is supposed to be… I don’t know, safe. You know what I mean?

That’s been my crappy day. Hopefully yours has been a little better. I’ll stop now before I keep rambling on. I need to sleep. That should help me process all this.

Before bed though, one last drink.

Back to normal

Threw the package away.

That’s right: I never opened it, never knew what was in it, but you know what? I don’t care. I threw that damn thing away in a dumpster and walked away. My hands are clean.

Everything should go back to normal. I’m just a normal guy living a normal life, I didn’t want any of this excitement.

The fact that the guy at the cafe knew the title of my book still worries me. I can’t help feel like I’m being spied on. I changed all my passwords just to be safe. I’m working on a big piece for the Crier: once that gets accepted, I’ll splurge and buy a new computer to wipe the slate extra clean.

This one is starting to get slow anyway.

Ugh, I feel like I just woke up from one of those really long and tedious dreams, the ones that are too close to real life to offer any rest. I may need to take my vacation sooner rather than later. I could drive up to New Hampshire for the weekend. At least I would be out of the city.

Anyway, I guess I can go back to writing about normal things. The article I handed in did pretty well. It was on the looming homelessness crisis because of skyrocketing housing prices in the Boston area.

I thought it was pretty good. I did a lot of walking around and speaking to a number of homeless people in the downtown and Cambridge areas. Pick up a copy of the Crier wherever newspapers are sold to read it.

Alright, I think that’s enough for now. I’m going to get back to work on my latest article. I’ll tell you what it’s about once it’s published—until then, it’s a mystery.

I’m just glad everything is back to normal.

Let me tell you about my weird dream

So yesterday I had that strange new neighbor girl come over.

The day before that, I had the meeting at the cafe.

And now last night, I had the strangest most vivid dream I’ve had for a long time.

I was in the corridor again. The door stood as shut as ever at the end of the hall. The corridor reminded me of something you’d see in a manor house or hotel from the 1800s. It was dark and dusty, yet it had been beautiful once.

I walked forward, step by step, down the hall. The door grew closer and closer. A heartbeat, echoing through the hall, boomed louder and louder the closer I got. Finally, I reached out a hand and turned the handle. The door opened with a sigh.

In the room, dust motes drifted through the air and cobwebs clung to the corners. A gray light, like sunlight slipping through the cracks of boarded-up windows, filled the space. Before me stood a mirror as tall as I was. I looked at my reflection, which grinned back at me. In some remote part of my brain I was weirded out. But in the dream, I thought this was all very normal.

My reflection self held something up. I squinted, leaned in close. It was an address. Then a hand reached from inside the mirror and pulled me in. A freezing cold wave struck me, driving the air from my lungs.

Then I woke up.

The address was still in my head, so I wrote it down. I think—I don’t know how this is possible though—that it is a real place. The street, at least, I knew was real.

341 Newcastle Street.

I don’t know what to do. This is all too much. No amount of morning whiskey has helped clear my head. I’m due in the office to hand in an article, so figuring this out will have to wait. I’m too scared right now anyway to go to the address.

A strange morning visit

Ok, so I just had a weird morning.

I woke up late. I hadn’t slept well. I bet you can guess why.

I fumbled around with the coffee maker for five minutes. My groggy mind was too preoccupied with the mystery box. Eventually, somehow, the coffee maker started huffing and puffing. I hoped I had actually ground the beans.

Then there was a knock on my door.

I froze. I even stopped breathing for a moment. A thought flashed through my mind: it was the lanky man from the cafe, here to slit my throat or something like that.

Whoever it was knocked again, a light rap-rapping.

I swallowed and worked up enough courage to cross my apartment and peer through the peephole.

A woman—a young woman—stood in the hall. She was cute enough that I opened the door. The chain kept me from opening it all the way.

“Can I help you?” I asked, unsure of what I wanted the answer to be. Maybe she was an unusually attractive Jehovah’s Witness or a grownup Girl Scout selling cookies.

The girl smiled all of a sudden. Her face before had been rather hard and mysterious. Her smile was nice. Her teeth were very white. Her cheeks dimpled. A wave of dark hair covered one of her sparkling blue eyes.

“Hello! I am new neighbor. My phone charger broke, and now phone is dead. Can I maybe borrow your charger for a minute?” She spoke with an accent I couldn’t place. Russian?…or maybe French. Ah, I’m terrible with accents.

I knew someone had just moved into the apartment across the hall. I’d never seen the new tenant until now. I liked what I saw.

“I only take a minute!” She said helpfully. She held up her dead phone as proof of her words.

I stood there and chewed on my lower lip. I was so weirded out by yesterday, I thought maybe she was part of it. Or, she really just could be my neighbor with a busted charger cord. Something about her voice echoed in my head. After thinking over it a moment more, it seemed to me a great idea to let her into my apartment. I only wish I could’ve cleaned up a little first.

“Why not? Come on in,” I shrugged.

I undid the latch and let her in. She beamed at me in gratitude. She looked over my small apartment with her shining eye. She seemed to approve of my place.

“Want anything?” I asked, “I have juice, coffee, tea—the water here is excellent.”

She smiled again, “No thank you!”

I walked over to my desk. Except for the kitchen and bedroom, the apartment was a loft split by a half wall. The low ceiling made the place claustrophobic and cave-like. I liked it.

As I bent down to get my charger, the girl spoke. She asked me how long I’d been here, was I from Boston originally, stuff like that. The she said.

“Has place ever mismatched mail before?”

“Huh,” I said as I pawed through a drawer. “What do you mean?”

“I was expecting package soon. Did you get it instead?”

Something in the way she said it made me freeze. Maybe I was imagining it, but I swore at that moment she and I both knew exactly what package she was talking about. I found the charger and stood up. As I handed it to her, I glanced to the coffee table. Fortunately, the half wall blocked it from view. I edged around the girl to the end of the half wall and put my back to the coffee table.

“Uh, no I don’t think I’ve ever had my mail go to the wrong person here. And I can’t recall a package. Now I would love to chat more, but I have a meeting I need to get to. I hope you understand.”

She looked a little upset, “Oh, ok. What about your charger?”

“Keep it: I have a spare.”

“Thank you! If you see package, will you tell me? I have been really expecting it.”

As she walked to the door, her single, glittering eye swept my apartment. She was looking for it, I knew it then. When her head was turned, I reached behind me and slid the package behind the sofa. I stood up straight when she looked back at me.

I walked after her, said good-bye, promised to look for her package, and slammed the door behind her. I redid the chain.

What the hell is going on?

My meeting at the cafe

So it’s Sunday. I just got back from the cafe and I want to write it all down while it’s still fresh.

The meeting was so weird.

There was actually a guy waiting for me. When I walked in at 1:15, I looked around and saw this guy sitting in a booth. He grinned at me. Something in his face told me he knew who I was. I figured he was the guy I was here to meet.

Once I’d sat down and ordered a coffee, I looked at the man across from me. He was tall and lanky. He was like a traffic light pole, especially in the long gray coat he was wearing. I asked his name and he simply grinned at me.

“I have a gift for you, Raymond,” he said in a hushed, raspy voice.

He slid a paper-wrapped box across the table. The package could have had a book or a pair of shoes in it. I didn’t take it.

“What’s this all about?” I asked, “Who are you? How do you know me? How do you know the title for my story?”

The man grinned, “You want to know who we are. This package is the first puzzle piece to answering your question.”

“Huh? What the hell are you talking about? Did you even hear me? I asked you how you knew about ‘Doom Truth'”

He said nothing, only grinned.

“Actually, I do have a question: what’s to stop me from calling the cops on you for stalking me?”

With a grin, the man said, “Do as you wish. But then you will never hear the answer. Never know what it is you are seeking. Never know what is behind the door, at the end of the corridor.”

That got me. How did he know about that? The door in the corridor was a dream I’d been having off and on for months now. Always I’d get a little closer, but never reach the door. I grabbed the package. Damn it, even if there was nothing inside, my curiosity had been roused.

“Fine! I’ll take a look,” I glanced down at the package. “How will I contact you if I have questions?”

But when I looked up, the man was gone. He’d left a calling card on the table. I grabbed it, tucked the package under my arm, and hurried home.

I thought—though maybe I am imagining it—a man had stared fixedly at me while I was on the T. There was something I didn’t like about his face. Fortunately, he didn’t get off at my stop.

So now here I am, back in the safety of my apartment. I’ve been staring at the package for an hour, while it sits on my coffee table. A glass of whiskey hasn’t helped me work up the courage to open it yet. The man’s card had nothing but a phone number on it.

This is all just so weird. I don’t even know what to think about this damn package, the lanky man, or the email.

I need sleep. But before that, another shot of Jameson.