I pore over the summer journal entries for several days. The words I read draw the shape of a man who is cold and bitter. They draw the shape of a man that only regards women as a thing to conquer and possess. They draw the shape of a man that I refuse to believe is me.
The Other is heartless. Ruthless. Sadistic. The words I read sicken me and make me restless. They set me to wandering again. Only now when I stalk these streets I know I'm not alone. I can feel him there with me. He keeps at my heels. An ominous shadow just beyond my peripheral vision. He makes me afraid to sleep. He makes me afraid to drink. He makes me wonder about every woman whose eyes linger for too long on my face.
Does she know me?
Have I had her?
He tells me I hate women.
I wonder if it's true.
For the second time in my life I am seriously considering suicide. I can't go on like this forever. It’s too difficult to keep him at bay. I have to sleep, but I fear it like death. I’m afraid of what I will wake up to.
I dream of Noor often, but in my dreams, he is there with me. He taints what should be pure. When he touches her he leaves a mark like soot between her breasts. Sometimes Lisette is with him and it is she who molests Noor. Her gypsy eyes, which had once drew me in, keep me locked in place with a cold stare while she steals Noor's breath away.
The nights we do haunt.
But am I the ghost or is he?
: : : :
If we weren't the same person I would probably kill him. He's done something to Dana. She won't take my calls and practically runs in the opposite direction when I see her on the street. So now I'm left without my favorite plaything and I'm way too pissed off and agitated to find another one. These sorts of things take time. It’s a rare woman who can accept someone like us. Most run away screaming in the opposite direction.
Well, if he is going to play dirty I can return the favor. It’s time for me to pay a visit to his precious Noor. He thinks I don't know about her. He thinks he is keeping her a secret from me. That's just like Joaquin to miss all the little details. If it weren't for me he wouldn't even know the Bindi Princess. Yes, it’s definitely time for Noor to make a proper introduction to 'The Other' as they have come to call me. We met before, but those other times I only pretended to be him and not myself. Tonight I’ll put it all out there. Tonight we will see who is the better man.
I post up outside of her 5th Avenue apartment building and light a cigarette before dialing her number.
"Joaquin..." she breathes into the line lustily. This might be more fun than I anticipated.
"I'm downstairs. Can you get away?"
"Right this moment? I only ask because my mother is here. Why don't you come up?"
"No..." I respond quickly. I definitely don’t want to meet the parents. It looks like this plan is a bust. "Forget it...I'll catch up with you later—“
"Hold on..." she holds the phone away from her ear and speaks to someone in her native tongue. "Joaquin?"
"I'll be down in five minutes."
Noor comes downstairs, kisses her mother goodbye and waves her off before turning to me. She approaches me apprehensively. For a moment I almost think my cover is blown. But then she smiles. The woman is breathtaking. For a moment I almost feel bad about doing this to her...almost.
"To what do I owe this surprise visit?" she asks.
I flick away my cigarette and walk over to her.
"I was in the area." I answer nonchalantly.
She laughs and I swear I hear someone playing the flute and an Indian guitar.
"Right because 5th and 56th is sooo close to the Bowery."
"Maybe I just wanted to see you...is that okay?"
"Sure..." She tucks her hair beneath her sari nervously. "When did you start doing that?" she asks pointing to the cigarette I just tossed away.
I shrug. "It's something I do from time to time."
"Hmmm," she hums, eyeing me quizzically.
"Does it bother you?"
She slowly shakes her head no. "So what do you want to do?" she asks, like a kid with too much free time on her hands.
"How about we stop playing games?"
She looks confused and curious. "What do you mean?"
I don't answer her. I just sweep her up in my arms in a way that I think is gallant and kiss her breathless. And she swoons. She actually swoons. When I pull away she is limp in my arms.
"Let's go up to my apartment," she whispers hotly.
I underestimated Joaquin. She seems more than ready, even though I can practically smell her innocence. There’s something in her kiss, too. I can feel it in my shoes. If she wasn't so damn beautiful, I would have been turned off by the fact that she’s so willing. It almost takes all the fun out of stealing her from him. I would have preferred it if she fought a little or was at least a little apprehensive in that sweet virginal way. By the time both of us are undressed it feels as if she is more in control of this encounter than I am. She arches into my touch. With breath and body she urges me to claim her. Then the strangest thing happens... when she reaches down and wraps her warm, little hand around my manhood and I freeze up. I can't explain it. Here I am, poised for penetration and I can't do it. She kisses me and tries to distract me as she guides me in with her hand.
"Wait..."I hear myself saying. But what was I waiting for?
She looks me in the eye and then it’s suddenly clear to me.
She knows. She knows that I am not him.
"How'd you know?"
"There's something different in your eyes. I saw it downstairs. Besides, this isn't the first time we've met," she says softly.
"You mean all those other times...?"
I sit back on my heels. How can she possibly know that? I thought I had put on a good performance those other times. I am dumbfounded. I had no idea that she was so perceptive. It must be one of the things that drew us to her.
"Well, now that you're here and we're being honest with each other...” She sits up, gathering the sheets around her to cover her splendor. “There are some things I want and need to know.”
It’s hard to tell her in the beginning. I trust her, but it still feels like I’m betraying him. There are things that I protect him from. Things he doesn’t know. All the things he can’t handle. The fear. The self-loathing. I do it because I know that he will be crushed under all that knowing.”
“I knew there was more to how he really felt. I just didn’t know she had possessed him so completely.”
"If he finds her, he will fall under her spell again. He can't resist her. He never could.”
She weeps for him in the end and once I am done she turns to me and says oh-so-politely, "It's been lovely talking to you, but...can I please speak to Joaquin?" As if she has known all along that only I have the power to force the changeover. I do so reluctantly. I’m afraid of what she might tell him. Afraid of what measures he might take to keep me from coming through again. As I give in and retreat to that dark nothing place in the back of our mind, it becomes obvious to me what stopped me from possessing her. It is his love for her.