Make sure to read Part One Here First. Thank you!
I gotta tap the table three times with the knuckles of my right hand every time I walk past. Flip the light switch on and off, on and off until I get it just right. Check the locks on windows, doors, windows, doors. Check again. I’m sure I missed one. Tap, tap, tap on the table. Do it again. I did it wrong. Tap, tap, tap. Check the locks one more time. If it isn’t right then the world will end and it will all be my fault.
I’m just sure of that.
“Leon? Are you still messin’ around in there?” Stella asks. “It’s time for breakfast.”
“Yeah, I’m comin’,” I answer.
But it ain’t all that easy. I got a couple more of my rituals to do before anybody can see me. It’s exhaustin’. But I don’t want nothin’ bad to happen to nobody.
I been doin’ this all my life. When I was a little boy I seen somethin’ that scared me so bad. It wasn’t good and I hate to talk about it. But it done me in. Ain’t never stopped bein’ afraid ever since. My mother used to call me “The Cowardly Leon”. It made me hate her so bad.
One thing I learned quick when I was a boy, though, was that I could stop my fear. I’d walk back and forth through the hallway, tapping the wall every time my right foot hit the ground. When I did it perfect, I was fine. But I had to do it over and over till I got it right.
“Leon, you gonna wear that carpet from all that pacin’. Quit it out!” my mother would holler at me. “You drivin’ me batty, boy.”
But it worked. Every month or so I’d add somethin’. Didn’t nobody notice a lot of them. Like when I’d touch my nose before taking a bite or blinkin’ my eyes three times. Blink, blink, blink. Every single one of them rituals kept me safe. If I did them, I felt okay. Skip one and the world was upside down.
It just kept gettin’ worse and worse, though. The older I got the more people seen what I was doin’. They’d ask me what the heck I was doin’. Stare at me. Talk about me when they thought I wasn’t listening.
Then that last day, the day I knew I couldn’t never go back to work. It was bad. Somethin’ in my head snapped. Or somethin’ like that. None of my tappin’ or blinkin’ would make the panic go away. All I remember was holdin’ up in the men’s room, waitin’ for everybody to go for the day. I got home late that night and never went back.
“Leon!” Stella’s yellin’ now. “I ain’t holdin’ breakfast for you one more minute.”
I’m livin’ in a group home. They’re nice to me. Everybody else who lives here got quirks of their own. So, nobody looks at me sideways or nothin’. I like it. Just wish my Misty would come see me.
The other three been over. Barbara, Les and Renee. They seen my room. Don’t think they understand me or why I act like I do. But at least they come once in awhile. Not Misty, though. I guess it been hardest on her. That’s what the other three say. She took care of them while their mother had to work.
It’s a terrible thing to feel like you ain’t been forgiven for somethin’ you didn’t control in the first place. But she don’t know that. All she knows is that I failed her.
I gotta check the locks one more time.
(to be continued)