I used to sling drugs out of my house. A lot of pills, sometimes acid, and of course weed.
I don’t sell drugs anymore. I had an experience that prompted me to stop, and it had nothing to do with an intervention or correction officers and inmates screaming in my face to “scare me straight.”
It was a young woman I’d never met before who changed my ways.
Toby called me at noon on Saturday, waking my hungover ass up.
“Yo, man, wakey wakey, eggs and motherfuckin’ bakey, baby.” He was always saying goofy shit like that.
“What?” I groggily answered.
“Man, I am in need of some greenery. Can I stop by?”
“Whaaaat? You don’t want my money, homeboy?”
“Yeah, I want your money, but, fuck if I got the worst hangover. I’ll call you.”
Toby was a loyal customer, so I felt confident in my gamble that he’d wait for me to buy his weed.
“Alright, alright. Hit me up, man.”
That’s how Toby ended up in the fucking locked bathroom with me, us contorting our bodies in the tub in an attempt to stay hidden as the doorknob of the closed door rattled.
I got a text that evening, right before I shot him a message telling him to come on over.
It was an unknown number. Normally, I didn’t answer numbers I didn’t know. You gotta play it safe when you’re selling. Never know what kinda shit you’ll get yourself wrapped up in if you’re too trusting. But I text back because they used my name.
“Yea what’s up? Who is this?”
I didn’t get an instant reply, so I text Toby.
“Hey man come on over”
I weighed his green, making sure I wasn’t inadvertently ripping him off. It was a smidge over ten grams, but I wasn’t sweating it. I made a lot of money off his business.
“OK man on way. See u n 20”
As I read his text, my phone chimed. It was a text from the mystery number.
I noped the fuck out. I didn’t sell to people I’d never met. And I sure as fuck didn’t appreciate one of my customers giving a stranger my name and number. Why didn’t they tell me their name? I didn’t like it, so I didn’t answer.
I watched TV until Toby beat on my front door like he was the police. It used to piss me off, but I was indifferent to it now.
“What upppp?” he asked, his 270 pound body ambling in out of the cold.
“Nothing, man, just hanging. Did you give someone my number?”
He squashed his face together in astonishment.
“Man, you know that ain’t how I play. What’s the number, though?”
“478-***-****.” I read it from my inbox.
“Nope, don’t know it.”
I gave him the baggy in exchange for his money.
“It’s all there.”
“I trust you, brother. Wanna smoke? Watch a movie?”
He rolled a joint and lit it up. I put The Conjuring on-it was October, scary movie month. I guffawed as Toby emitted freaked out squeaks during the scene where the mom’s locked in the basement. He’s a big motherfucker, so it was comical to see him scared.
My phone chirped. It was the God damn mystery number again.
Then, a second later: “I’m coming Stew”
“What the actual fuck?” I grunted to myself.
“What?” Toby asked.
I typed out an angry text.
“Who the fuck gave u my # & address? No the fuck u aren’t coming over I’m telling u don’t show up at my door man who the fuck u think u r?”
“That *** number has balls, man. They said they’re coming over. I’m going to fucking kill whoever gave them my personal information. I’ll find out, too.”
“Chill, I got your back, dude. They’ll turn their stupid ass right back around.”
“U can’t stop me b there in few,” the next text read.
“Fucking Christ. I don’t need this shit.”
I threw the phone onto Toby’s lap, so he could read the messages. He shook his head incredulously.
“Wooowwww. Some people. We’ll take care of it.”
I was grateful he was there with me. I didn’t want to break out the pistol on the top shelf of my closet-if I’d been home alone, I would’ve felt compelled to.
I text a few clients, asking them if they were responsible for this bullshit. They each vehemently denied having anything to do with it. The movie played on, but I was now too distracted to give it my full attention.
Lost in my thoughts as I was, I jumped when I looked up and saw a young woman with her face pressed against the glass of the window to the left of the TV. She had short hair and sallow skin. Her eyes were inhumanly big, unblinking in her sockets.
“What-?” I shouted. Toby abruptly popped up off the couch, like a Jack-in-a-box.
“Fucking fuck!” he yelled.
Angered at being scared, he marched over to the window and banged on the glass.
“Hey! HEY! Get the fuck outta here, man! What are you doing?”
She just stood there, unflinching, eyes locked on me.
“Dude, we’re gonna have to go out there!” Toby cried. “Bitch is high as shit or something.”
I was distracted by something I don’t think Toby noticed: there was no condensation on the glass from her breathing.
“I don’t know, I don’t know, Toby, man. Something is weird about this woman.”
“Shit, man, I don’t know what to do. I don’t wanna go out there, either.”
Suddenly, she pulled herself back and took off into the night.
“Oh, God damn, where’d she go?” I whispered.
As terrible as it had been for her to just stand there, staring, my apprehension increased tenfold when she stole away into the darkness that blanketed the perimeter of my house.
Toby backed away from the window.
I thought about calling the cops, but, man, I couldn’t do it. I had all sorts of illegal shit in my house. And she really hadn’t done anything yet, except freak us out.
When we heard the screen door leading outside from the dining room open, my heart seized in terror. Had I locked that fucking door? I couldn’t recall.
“Stew…” Toby said. “Is that door…?”
“I can’t remember if I locked it.”
He rolled his lips into his mouth and nodded.
“Fuck this. I’m going to confront her.”
We charged into the dining room and stood at the door. Toby’s hand flirted with the idea of taking hold of the twisting doorknob. I had obviously locked it because she couldn’t get it open.
“Maybe we shouldn’t,” I said at the same time the doorknob went still.
“The front door’s locked,” I reassured Toby.
I knew that one was locked because I had locked it after he came in.
“Let’s go look out an upstairs window and see if we can see her,” I said.
We’d gotten to the foot of the stairs when Toby began choking on words that were fighting to break free from his tongue.
He pointed into the kitchen, which we only had a partial view of. I’d forgotten I’d opened the window over the sink to air the house out. She was climbing-no, SLITHERING through it, unnaturally slack-jawed. She moved with ease over the dishes in the sink, not even disturbing them, like you or I would if we tried climbing over a mountain of plates and forks and cups.
I wasted no time sprinting up those steps, taking them two at a time. Toby was on my heels, breathing heavily. I felt like he was going to mow me down with his long, powerful legs. I knew, somehow, that she was gaining on us.
I slammed the bathroom door closed and locked it, then turned the light on. We didn’t hesitate to jump into the tub.
In the tub, still wet from my recent shower, we tried to force our bodies to form shapes that were just not attainable-especially for Toby’s giant figure-desperate to stay low. I don’t know why we thought we could make ourselves inconspicuous in the bathtub, anyway; even if we’d been as flexible as Gumby, there’s no hiding in a tub. The doorknob had begun to shake as soon as we’d locked it. The woman was fast.
I pulled the opaque shower liner closed.
“What do we do, what do we do?” Toby asked.
“I don’t fucking know! I-God damn it, go away!” I pleaded, though not loud enough for her to hear.
“What does she want?” Toby groaned.
The light went out.
“Y-you gotta b-be kidding,” he stammered.
The door’s hinges grated as the door came ajar, a sliver of light seeping in before getting shut out again as she pulled it to. How did she get the damn thing open? I’d locked it.
We shivered in the darkness.
The tap turned on. Swifter than should’ve been possible, steam built up in the stuffy bathroom. Sweat wet my face.
The light flickered back on. I could see her silhouette on the shower liner. Her body was unmoving, but suddenly Toby screamed and cried, “OH, FUCK ME, SHE SEES ME!”
He was focused on his side of the shower liner, where there was a gap between it and the wall. Sure enough, her huge globe-eyes filled the space between, gaping at Toby with hostility. Her jaw appeared as if it had separated from the bones in her face, making her mouth look like a deep, nightmarish abyss.
The light dimmed and brightened. In its fresh illumination, she was no longer there.
We didn’t get out of that bathtub until the morning, not wanting to tempt fate to bring her back to torment us. I’ve never been so God damn scared in all my life.
Toby and I had a silent understanding that we’d never talk about this again.
I broke that understanding a couple months later, when I was drunk and trying to lure in a woman I wanted to bed, who happened to be a customer of mine. Her name was Leanne. She was giggling, telling me about her attention-seeking friend who always claims her house is haunted. I raised a brow and said, real James Dean like, “I gotta story that’ll stand your hairs on end. And it’s true.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I told her all about the woman.
Instead of engrossing her, she seemed turned off by my story. The volume of her lips decreased as she tightened them and averted her eyes. When I was done, she looked straight up pissed off.
“You OK?” I asked. “I’m not jerking your chain, I swear!”
“No, no. It’s not you, really. It’s just, the way you described her, it sort of reminded me of my cousin.”
“Your cousin must be a bitch?” I asked jokingly.
She met my eyes.
My stomach dropped. I’d ruined my chance of getting laid tonight.
“Shit-I’m sorry. I had no idea.”
I sank back into the couch, feeling gloomy. Not all was hopeless, though-I could still be the nice guy who gave her a shoulder to cry on.
“Yeah. She, uh…she stole some of my stash.”
Leanne mostly bought pills from me-oxycontin and shit like that. Interest piqued, I was all ears.
“She stole some and took too many. Her dad found her in her room, slumped over her desk. She was so smart and fun. Shit, I’ve never told anyone this-I was too scared they’d blame me.”
I felt a prickle of guilt at being the one who had sold those pills.
“Well, it’s not your fault. She made the decision to take them,” I said, and I actually meant it.
“Wanna see her picture?”
I didn’t-I really fucking didn’t. But I couldn’t tell her no, so I nodded.
She pulled it up on her phone and handed it to me.
I gagged, but tried to play it off like I’d coughed.
“Are you OK?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah. She’s pretty. Listen, I just remembered I have to get up real early. I’d better go to bed.”
She snatched her phone back and shook her head in disgust.
“Fuck you, Stew. You’re just like every other guy-shit gets too real, you think you can’t get your dick wet, so you bounce. Fuck you.”
I didn’t even try to defend myself. I felt too queasy, and my thinking was too bogged down to think up a comeback.
“You got nothing? Fucking loser,” she said and stomped off.
When the front door banged shut, I put my head in my hands and cried.
The picture she’d shown me was of a doe-eyed, short-haired teenage girl. The same young woman who had crawled into my house and cornered Toby and me in the bathtub.