Tiger is my best friend.
I know this because he just told me.
Tiger and I are stood in the lobby of his downtown guesthouse. We have just met and we’re both perspiring heavily. Its 9.30 at night but it’s still unbearably humid. I think there’s a storm about to break.
As I bend to pick up my rucksack, I see my hand is shaking. I tell myself that I’m just tired and it will pass. This lie, in my minds eye, leans over our little chess game and, with the steadiest of hands, starts the clock.
Tiger is a nice guy. Mid 30’s, a short, chubby fellow who seems to be the proud source of an impossibly round head and a tireless ebullience. I look deep into his eyes as he talks and surmise that this smooth lake of “joie de vivre” is occasionally disturbed by an undistllled hatred. Like a bolt of lightning reflected on its cold, dark surface.
This micro-expression flashes over his face as I say thank you and goodnight and close the door on him.
I imagine him standing there, just the other side of the door, staring blankly, expressionless. Sinisterly drawing a finger across his throat before turning and chuckling all the way down the hall.
When I look through the spy hole, I think I see him perform this hideous maniacal mime, note for note.
Or do I? I can’t be sure of anything anymore. I sit on the edge of the bed, take off my glasses and let my face fall into my hands. Eventually, I let out a loud raspy wheeze, lay back on the bed and close my eyes. The pillow accepts me and I lay still following the sound of my breath. After a time I fall asleep, surrendering to an ethereal floating sensation.
I can hear my breath but louder now, the inhalations and exhalations are booming with reverb. They don’t really sound like breaths anymore – there is a crunchier, drier sound hidden within them. There is still a very definite, deliberate one, two, one, two, one, two… I wake, wide-eyed and with a start and realise that although I’m holding my breath but I can still hear the sound. The crunchy, clipped one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two…
The sound is footsteps.
He’ll be here soon. Stage left, unannounced.
I stretch open my right hand, palm down, and wait. It is perfectly still. 5 seconds, 10, 15.. Come on…20, 25.
There. My index finger twitches, almost imperceptibly, left to right, once and then again and again. I curl my hand into a fist and thump it hard into the bed.
A small whorl of dust exits the divan .
There’s a storm about to break.