I don’t usually DO fiction, but something moved me to write these thoughts as a sort of story or as the start of a sort of a story…
On the best mornings, he found no one else at the table. His book open to where he left it, he’d sit down with a cup of uncooled coffee and read. Though the words on the page weren’t his, he felt altogether solitary and serene at such moments. Those times seemed scarce.
Most days, he rose to find the guest already sitting in the chair across from him. Walking to the table, he glanced at the open pages and scanned the room to see if anything lying about had shifted or disappeared. Nothing ever did, but he never felt entirely sure—the thought circled like a faint scent, an unseen cigarette he never discovered.
The guest was always already speaking, and his voice flowed evenly. No floods, droughts, or tides altered its volume or tone or content. Each morning the two of them jumped into a conversation again, the guest’s voice so familiar he sometimes mistook it for his own.
Or was it that he tried to think of it as his own? They never reached the intimacy you seek in a visit. He still hoped they might. As a good host should, he must have said at one point, “Please, make yourself at home,” but either he hadn’t meant it or had been naïve about what the command meant. The guest remained a guest despite their many years together. He wanted to like his visitor and sometimes managed it briefly, but this guest was never quite what his host wanted.
And often—though he knew he shouldn’t say so—he despised this other entity who appeared as his first conscious thought and, just like yesterday and the day before, had to be addressed. After so long a visit, you might expect a presence so constant to become a given, borne like a chronically tricky shoulder you eventually forget. Yet the guest remained vivid, and vividly foreign. On those increasingly rare instances when the guest mysteriously vanished, his relief swelled. He prayed he wouldn’t return, and, when he did, he found himself thinking, “If only tomorrow…”
He suppressed those thoughts. They were unbecoming and rude, he told himself, disruptive and upsetting not just to him but to the whole household and those who had grown to rely on his being there. Others seemed to like the guest much more than he did. And he knew that throwing him out once and for all would place the fault on his side. He couldn’t muster the courage—if that’s what it was—to end the situation. As sorry as things might be, he certainly couldn’t admit that to them or to himself.
He also knew he should look for a beginning, not an end. Nearly every day, he resolved to rise the next morning and greet his guest with sincere affection. Over and over, he rehearsed what he would say. “After all this time,” he’d smile, “the two of us know each other so well. Can’t we be friends at last?”
He envied people who never needed such determination, people who lived effortlessly with whomever inhabited their household. Though he’d been told repeatedly that sincerity could emerge miraculously from pretending something was so, his belief in magic seemed too weak to create it. That was another of his flaws.
He was already awake when the alarm went off, and he knew what was next. Still, the sound startled him. He threw his body from bed.
Even amid the noise, he heard movement downstairs.