There is another woman living in my apartment. She wears my clothes to work, she eats my food. I find her hair caught in the shower drain or stuck to the exposed glue where the label has peeled back from a jar of peaches. She is not neat. Her bobby pins snake across the bathroom like a string of boxcars, her clothes pour out of the hall closet, her dishes and unopened mail are scattered through the living room. I find dirty coffee mugs everywhere, leaving semi-circular stains on all my tables. I try my best to pick up these pieces of her, but her presence is virulent; if I sweep the dead leaves she has let in to the front hall, she is in the kitchen at midnight, baking with all my pots and pans, leaving flour on the counters. Like some climbing vine, I clear her out of one room, and she takes another.
Lately, she has grown secretive—she keeps odd hours. I find her cryptic notes hidden around the apartment. She is working on a novel, it seems, some great work she will not share with anyone. It’s not ready, she claims. Her reminders to herself seem the ravings of a madwoman, or a criminal. I find them everywhere. One, on the side of the sink this morning, read, “Memories of chess,” with an arrow pointing to the word “MOTHER”. At the bottom, she’d done a crude little drawing of the black queen from a chess set, complete with little spiked crown. I don’t want to throw these notes away, but there are uneven stacks of them in every room now, her messy handwriting slashing into napkins and the backs of receipts for my groceries.
I’m afraid she’s using me for material. Last week, I found half a transcript of a conversation I had with the delivery boy. He had been telling me some story about his sister’s house in the country and she had taken down a few lines, with the added note, “Old family house?” She underlined something I said about farmhouses. She’s certainly watching the things I do. She has made friends with all my friends and I have suspicions that she’s been calling my mother. I’m afraid that when I leave, she puts on my clothes and sleeps in my bed.
I think she’s stealing pieces of me for this book. The more she writes, the more transparent I feel. I need her strange notes to remind me of things I’ve done only yesterday. I found one that said, “January, trip to Leeds,” and couldn’t remember who of us had made the trip. Soon, I’ll have to keep my own notes only to make sense of hers. I must be going mad, and the mess grows worse around us. I find myself baking at odd hours of the night, working through some plot twist she has cannibalized from my life. I think there are three women in the apartment now—me, and her, and this character—I can’t be sure—perhaps I am the character—perhaps there are two of us, but either she or I is fiction—perhaps only one.