I dreamt that there was someone in the bed next to me. A slight figure. Small. Not a man. Maybe a child. It was very still. I put my arm round it and felt that its hand was thin and gnarled. What are you I said. It said nothing but sat up and stared at me. The face was black as a corpse’s, and gaunt. It stared at me. I tried to scream but no sound came out. I could not move. I could not breathe. It just stared at me with its hollow white eyes.
I woke into a less frightening dream. I was in a house with all my girlfriends and we were trying on underwear ready for a party. There were dressers full of perfumes and gossamer thin knickers. We were in a square building full of light and mirrors. A house I did not recognise. The phone rang. It was my mother. I don’t remember what she wanted.
The phone rang. For real this time. It was Katy. She was calling from somewhere noisy.
“Cara, is that you?”
“Yes, wow, Katy, long time, how are you?” I tried to sound cheery. It must have been three am.
“Listen Cara, I need a favour,” she said.
“Ok?” I said. I was loathed to say no, I was probably her only lifeline. But she had blanked me for about a month, and I can’t pretend that didn’t hurt.
I could hear people talking in the background.
“Can you send a car?” she said, “I’m stranded out in L—— and I don’t have any cash.”
“What about Fraser?” I asked, “aren’t you with him?”
“I can’t ask him. Please Cara, I really need your help.”
“Ok,” I said. I didn’t have much choice. “What’s the address?”
She gave me the address of some Villa by the beach, and rough directions. “I’ll be as quick as I can,” I said. I pulled on some clothes wondering what on Earth I was doing. I was due back at the commune in the morning to pack some paintings, and I really needed my sleep. Five minutes later I was out the door, I had mascara smudged round my eyes from the day, and my hair was matted from sleep. I traipsed up and down looking for a cab. It was cold. I should have gone back for a hoodie, but then I would lose time. I felt like I had to get to Katy before she did something stupid. Shivering, I walked down onto the main street and saw a cab with his light off. I waved it down, bodily standing in front of him so he couldn’t not stop. “I’m on my way home,” said,
“I’m really sorry,” I said, “my friend is stranded and I need to go to her, I can pay you extra,”
He rolled his eyes, I got in, I think he knew he was being guilt tripped. “Thank you,” I said. Only just managing to not cry. I gave him the address and hoped I had enough money in my purse. We drove out of the city and bumped down a half-made road to the seafront. It wasn’t lit well and we trawled along looking for the right place. There was a high shrubbery, which I guessed was hiding a house. We had been driving for almost an hour, and I felt sick with not sleeping. I got out, “wait here,” I said, “I’ll be as quick as I can.” I walked up the path to the villa, I could see the remains of a party inside. A few couples canoodling on sofas, and a drunk standing by the swimming pool. “Is Katy Charleston here?” I asked him, “English girl, pretty, blond hair,”
“Yeah, was here, she left with TJ,”
“What, when?” I demanded,
“About ten minutes ago, they went back to his place up the coast,”
“Are you sure?”
I called Katy’s phone. It rang. But no answer. I left a message. I waited. It got colder. “Have a drink,” said the drunk. “No thanks,” I said. “Fuck, fuck,” I said, remembering the cabbie. “I bet he’s left the meter running.” I walked back to the cab, calling Katy again, and leaving one more message. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t find you, I’m going home, call me to let me know you’re ok.”
I got in the cab and cried all the way home. The whole incident cost me about $150 which I didn’t really have. It was light when I arrived at my front door. I had a shower and got ready for work. The ritual. The facade. Feeling sick and empty. Brushing hair, underwear, tights, dress, pumps, jacket, jewellery. Dressing as Cara, for work. Would I still be Cara if I turned up there in pyjamas, with yesterday’s mascara on my face. Or would they say go home, and send Cara?
Image: Drowning, by Connie