There is a man in the wall

by Monim Wains

I’m alone, I think. Or at least, I should be.

The door is locked, the window closed. The air is still, quiet. The only noise is the slow, soft, fall of my breath. I am alone, safe.

But those eyes, those eyes in the wall. They follow me.

Everywhere I look, everything I do.

Every morning, and every night, he stands there in my room, staring at me. The man in the wall.

Sometimes I don’t mind him; I’ve gotten used to him over the years.

But then there are the other days, the days when I wish I could see anything but him; when I wish I could escape.

But there’s nothing I can do. He’s always there, in the wall, staring.

I stare back at him this time, taking him in, observing every inch of his skin.

He’s trapped, frozen, as my eyes peel him down.

His face is rough, scratched with faint lines and ugly spots. His eyes don’t match, one higher than the other, and his nose sits crooked in the middle. All just a little not right.

He’s embarrassed, ashamed that I can see him, twisting his head a bit to show his good side.

His eyes plead for me to look away. But I won’t. Not this time.

I work up the courage, get closer.

It takes a second; he’s nervous… but he takes the step.

And again, closer still, almost right up to him.

Closer still, until our faces almost touch. I can feel his breath mingling with mine.

I can smell him, alone, like he has always been.

He’s afraid of this; of being known; of being truly seen. 

But he has no choice. I am alone in this room, and there is nothing he can do.

He is mine.

Slowly, I let my eyes fall shut, releasing him. I can still picture him standing there, looking confused I would guess.

I lift my fingers, my hands, my arms. I reach forward, slowly.

He’s unsure. He doesn’t know if this can happen. He doesn’t know if he should. This isn’t meant to be for him, he thinks.

But it is. I mean it this time.

I reach out, further, eyes shut. 

Gradually, bit by bit, I feel my arms disappear. They’re sinking in, stretching on. 

I find him. I can feel his worry now, his shame, trembling in my hands.

‘It doesn’t matter. It’s ok.’

Gently, I pull him closer.

Forever, he has waited, trapped in the wall, desperate for this. Watching me, thinking that it could never be true for him. Not him.

I pull him closer, grabbing, wanting – needing this for so long…

And then the impossible happens. At last, the mirror shatters, and the weight of me falls into my embrace.

‘I love you,’ I say, holding tight. Like I always should have done.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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