It’s All in Your Head
She wears the headphones for a reason. They drown out all the sounds in her head—the random thoughts and wayward musings of everyone around her. She blasts the music so loud sometimes people give her the side-eye. Without it, though, she couldn’t function. There would be no room in her head for herself.
It doesn’t drown out him, though.
He’s been following her for three days. She’s never seen him, but she can sense him. Somehow the background noise that is his roving brain eases past the blast of screamo and dubstep that constantly inhabits her skull. It’s a soft voice, so she’s not sure how it manages to find her in the midst of the chaos, but somehow it does.
Mostly it’s a low murmur, like white noise, a burbling river. Like those music tracks you get to help you fall asleep—the ones that don’t wok for her because they aren’t loud enough. But sometimes there are words.
I see you.
It doesn’t scare her as much as maybe it should. She’s used to weird things going on around her, both inside and outside her head. She’s lived with that her whole life. But even if it doesn’t scare her, not really, it puts her on edge. Why is he here? What does he want? Is he even a he?
Three days. And after breakfast today, when she realizes she hasn’t heard him, she wonders where he is.
Not very dedicated, are you? Stalk me for three days and then give up? Weak.
She starts her car and heads in to work. Sometimes she can drive without the headphones on, but not always. Today she sets them on the passenger seat and gives it a try. She knows from experience that cops will pull you over if they see you driving with headphones on. And somehow, the movement of the car eases the cacophony in her head. It’s a respite of sorts.
Today it’s surprisingly quiet, at least once she gets onto the highway. She takes a slow, relieved breath and leaves the headphones where they are. Sometimes the music is as disturbing as the voices.
Where is he? she wonders idly. If she can hear him, can he hear her? Is he, maybe, on the highway with her right now?
She gets that feeling—that weird itch even normal people get when somebody’s watching them. She looks to the left, at the car coming up beside her in the passing lane. The driver looks right back at her and smiles.
God. It’s him. Is it him? She shoots her attention back to the road in front of her. She doesn’t dare look at him again, but that face is burned into her memory now, emblazoned on her retinas.
Black hair. Blue eyes. Cheekbones that could cut glass. And then she hears the whisper.
I see you. I’ll talk to you soon. Soon.
What do you what? she demands in her head, though her lips move to match the words. Why are you following me?
But there’s no answer.
* * *
After work she heads downtown. It’s raining, and it’s dark—the sun goes down early this time of year. It gets quieter downtown as it gets later. Soon there are only a few people here and there. The din dies down, but it’s more fractured. Many of the people who linger in the streets after dark are broken. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, PTSD—she’s heard it all.
This time, though, the headphones are as much to strangle her own thoughts as to drown out everyone else’s. It was a difficult day at work, overhearing her boss thinking about firing her because she’s withdrawn, antisocial, and what is it with the damn headphones every damn day? For some reason she couldn’t block him out, not all the way. It’s never been like that before, and she can’t figure out what changed to make it happen.
The temperatures have dropped with the darkness and the rain, and the cold against her face feels good. She shoves her hands deep into her pockets and ducks her head, just walking.
Suddenly a hand touches her shoulder.
She spins, and he’s right there.
Black hair. Blue eyes. Cheekbones that could cut glass.
“We need to talk,” he says, and smiles.