They melt away when you try to reach them, my mother says. And perhaps there's not much sinister about them. “I think they were probably just looking for a warm place to stay the night,” she confides to me. Still it's a whole crowd of them, in a house that's supposed to be empty. Well, it's not supposed to be empty. But it's supposed to be empty of strangers, anyway. Her husband is overseas, getting his mother settled in a nursing home. No one knows exactly when he'll be back.
Three children playing on the floor. And a tall, shadowy couple that called her name through the door. She doesn't know who they were.
In the hospital, they think it's the UTI infection. Fair enough. She can catch their conversations, though. And sometimes she can see their emails, scrolling down the whiteboard where the nurses write their names. There are two groups of them, in conflict. Some of them want to kill her, and some don't. Dr Phil comes into it, at this point, and she carefully tics off his list of different sorts of people. There are baiters, and helpers, and traitors, and... she frowns at not being able to complete the list. But anyway, there are no “baiters” in this group. That's her point. She smiles at me, winningly. I smile back, and take her hand.
They won't believe her about the people. It's hard to know who might be in on in and who might not. But there were some of them riding on top of the paramedics' van when they picked her up: how could that be imaginary?
But something happened Sunday night. That's when the whole scam began to come apart. And that explains why some of them were trying to get into the house. They were just looking for a warm place to sleep.
I consider remarking that the evening outside of her air-conditioned house that evening had been a particularly warm, even sweltering, summer night, and decide against it.
A great sadness and weariness comes over me. There is a whole crowd of them waiting for me, too, I suppose. They come at sunset, when the shadows are long, and shapes move on the windows. Every obligation I failed to meet, every lover I disappointed, every deadline I missed. Everyone I ever failed to attend to when they needed me. And now, with the light draining out of the world, it comes to me to make arrangements, to know what to do? It's laughable, a fantastic notion, far more ludicrous than gangsters perched on top of an ambulance. Someone has made a mistake.