Force of Habit
Val Griffiths

I never meant to be this person, you know? It wasn't as if, when someone asked me as a six year old (as adults, in their supercilious, sugarcoated tones of fake excitement sometimes do): what do you want to be when you grow up, Mikey? It wasn't as if the word--stalker? exploded within my six year old mind. I didn't ask for this.

It's just what governs me.

But in moments of clarity--of insight, such as this, I make myself sick; literally physically ill, with the comprehension of how far I've slid down the slippery slope towards virtual insanity. Of how freakishly close I actually am to losing it. I gave up working about a year ago. I grew tired of the ridicule and sniggers behind my back. The childish twirling of fingers beside temples and the stupid nick-names that no one thought I heard them call me. People think kids are cruel? Adults are far worse. At least kids don't know what they're doing. Not really.

The date today is the eighth. I knot, undo and re-knot my tie for the eighth time. Admittedly, it gets a little tiring towards the end of the month, but my feet will not allow me leave from before the mirror until the number of days and knots match. And now, because I have soiled my hands dressing, I must move to the basin in the bathroom to wash and disinfect them again, but not before I reach into the cupboard under the basin for a brand new, cellophane-wrapped pair of white cotton gloves. Most of what I receive from my grandmother's trust goes toward the purchase of these fundamentals, for I cannot wear the same pair twice. But without them I wouldn't be able to leave the sanctum of my apartment and enter the filthy, germ-infested world outside. And that is out of the question because she is there. I set the timer on the counter for ten minutes and go about sterilizing my hands with a scrubbing brush and liquid povidine iodine soap--the kind surgeons use in operating theatres. I have a monthly standing order for a box of twenty bottles of the stuff from my local pharmacy. I just love the smell of it. The antiseptic, hospital smell of it. I tried bathing in it a few times but developed a terrible rash on my unmentionables so I don't do that anymore no matter how much I am tempted.

It's 09:32. In another thirteen minutes she'll be at the gym on the corner of West and Third. Without fail, five times a week. You see, I am not the only creature of habit.

First published: August 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'