My own butterfly effect
It was a hot summer evening: the build up of electrical energy in the skies over the preceding few days meant that tonight, whilst it was boiling hot, there was torrential rain and thunder and lightning. It was pitch black outside.
The heat was too much for me. One of the benefits of living alone was that I could spend the evening dressed in no more than my underwear and no one would know!
As I recall I spent much of the evening lying on the bed in my studio flat listening to music. I can’t remember the songs anymore.
Eventually I decided it was about time I got ready for bed and before that, sorted out my clothes for work in the morning. Surprise, surprise my clothes needed ironing and I went to get the ironing board which was stored in my bathroom.
As I said, my flat was a studio flat: it wasn’t a totally open space, on either side of the front door were sectioned off areas, one being a kitchen and the other a bathroom. Both those rooms had windows overlooking the balcony walkway that ran in front of all the flats on my floor. I say “all”, there were four flats and we were the top floor. Four studio flats for singletons: there weren’t many visitors up there.
When it is pitch black outside, windows almost turn in to mirrors: you can not see out, you can only see your own reflection. This was the case tonight but as I glanced at the front door on my route in to the bathroom, I noticed that some of the blackness of the glass in the door was blacker than the rest.
My front door was wooden on the bottom half. The broken letter box was the result of the postman ramming something through with such force that the inner flap snapped off. The top half of the door was what I would call ‘swirly’ glass, i.e. glass that is blurry and you can’t see through unless you are pressed up close.
The ‘blacker’ blackness on the glass caught my eye. It was directly above the letter box at the bottom of the pane of glass. My immediate thought was that someone has half pushed a newspaper through the letterbox and it was jutting up at an angle but of course, if that was the case, some of the paper would have been showing in my side of the door and it wasn’t.
I walked right up to the door and with my nose pressed up against the glass tried to figure out what I could see.
I could see that it had depth. In the glass I could almost see a triangular shape going up to a point but peering closely through the glass, I could see greater mass behind the wooden part of the door. I couldn’t figure it out.
It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that my eccentric mother had left something outside for me without bothering to knock but she wouldn’t normally miss the opportunity to leave me a passive aggressive voicemail to tell me that she had done so. I’d had no message from her.
I then remembered that tomorrow was when the rubbish was collected and imagined that my lazy neighbours had maybe left their rubbish bag outside my front door but if so, it was a massive rubbish bag.
It was bothering me that I couldn’t work out what it was. My outside light had broken a few weeks before so I could illuminate the area to see.
Then I thought I could just open the door and have a look.
But it was dark and wet and I am a little bit pathetic so eventually I decided not to open the door and figured that whatever it was, would still be there in the morning.
So after being distracted for what must have been several minutes, I stepped back to carry on with getting the ironing board.
The moment I stepped back, I realised what it was.
The triangular shape I could see in the glass was the shape that would be made by the hood of one of those waxed green rain jackets, if it had a head inside it. The mass I could see further down, was a body. What was outside my door was a person crouched down in a rain mac, in torrential rain, watching me, either through the letterbox or the glass. And I had been stood up close to the glass in only my underwear. And he was still there, unmoving, perfectly still, watching me.
Until the moment I stepped back I really had no idea what was out there.
To think I almost opened that door to have a look fills me with utter horror. One small action could have had a consequence that I can’t quite compute even now, eight years later.