Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
— William Hughes Mearns, Antigonish
The familiar stranger turned up at my door unannounced again. I opened the door and he gave me the key. He looked at me with such sad pity that I couldn’t turn him away — I simply stepped aside and let him in.
Within minutes he’d already outstayed his welcome and was crashing against my walls. He grabbed my things and roughly handled them. Disarranged trinkets, rearranged pictures, sometimes he drew on them so I didn’t recognise them at all.
I would imagine myself asking him to leave, forceful with intent, sometimes perhaps a bit obtuse. I would slam the door behind him and say: ‘don’t you ever come around here no more!’ And like a lazy dog he would trundle away with his tail between his legs and his legs slightly bent.
But he didn’t, he stood in my hallway peering over my guarded shoulder into this room and that and even though he has been here many times, many times he is still curious. He opened up old doors — doors I bolted long ago or perhaps merely forgotten about.
Like a state of disorder that reaches familiarity, he looked straight through me. He didn’t listen or pretended he couldn’t. And I wasn’t strong enough to face such an impulsive force and turned my cheek.
We sat in silence at the kitchen table and reluctantly sipped tea. Later he felt tired and took over my bed. I sat on the edge and looked at this stranger in my place. A stranger whom I’ve always known, who in certain angles when the light looks blue, perhaps in the morning when the sun peeks over the hills, then a thought hits home of how much he looks like me. And yet he is different in so many manners and ways.
He left without a word in the night, leaving me to gather the pieces and rearrange the disarrangment in his wake. I don’t want to see him again, but as sure as night follows day, as long as the birds will sing, he will return unannounced one day.
I want to leave this place in case he calls again. But then I ask myself, why should I run and abandon my home to this stranger? Afterall, this stranger is my only friend — the only one who sees and knows who I am.
I sat by the window today and waited for him but he didn’t come.