An Own Voices story of literary suspense

About a life with OCD. Thriller elements express the overwhelming power of this mental illness and what it can be: Murder!

How it starts

July 2014

I have a plan

“Beep, beep,” my cell right in front of me on the windowsill says, and I twitch.

“One message,” the screen says.

Who is it from? I press a key.

“Lock me in at 11:00 PM, as usual,” Sonja writes.

“With pleasure,” I type, but just hold myself back from pressing the send button. Delete, delete, delete…

“Have you called your father yet?” I reply.

Thirty seconds later.

“No, I have not. And I might not do so. Never ever again,” she replies.

“Oh well… Alright, will lock you in at eleven then, as usual,” I lie, turn my cell on vibration only and put it back on the windowsill.

Nothing about tonight is usual!

Even yesterday, when I received the same message, I rolled my eyes at it. Today, however, for the first time, I can’t wait to lock her in. 

Because this time, I have to succeed. I have tried twice before but failed. This time I feel is the right time, and this time she has to go.

If I don’t succeed today, I probably never will.

I can’t stand her anymore.

She is to blame for every time that I suffered from migraine, when it completely tore me apart as I threw up numerous times. Each time I begged her to leave me alone or hand me a gun to shoot myself. But, of course, she never had one.

She has restricted my life one million times and managed to shrink it to a small, oppressive box that she wants to continue to control. She is to blame for sorrow and devastation, and if I hadn’t managed to just about keep my head up, I’d bang it against the wall until I felt nothing anymore.

A few days ago, she finally triggered it: my plan.

I had told her that I wanted to move in with Roger. I had explained that it was time and that she needed to go her own way, finally independent of me. But she has objected to that. She doesn’t want me to leave her alone and make somebody else the center of my life. She shouted at me and I shouted back. It was terrifying, unprecedented and presumably because she realized how serious I was. Then she did something I thought she would never do to me: She blackmailed me!

Sonja has a picture of me and somebody else in the park where I regularly take my au-pair children. I’m very close with the person in that picture. But only in that damned picture – not in reality for god’s sake! I only tried to give comfort in a desperate situation. That’s not forbidden, is it? That’s not cheating at all, is it?

Sonja tricked me and used her cell phone to capture the embrace. Now this picture is somewhere in her email account which I don’t know the password for. She has made me understand that it would take her only a couple of mouse clicks to send Roger this picture and tell him that I am actually in a relationship with somebody else.

She’s going to destroy everything if I leave her. She claims she can’t be without me and that I must stay. But I am exhausted. She has depleted all my energy.

God, you know, don’t you? Please, God, if you exist, you know that I have reached the end of my tether. You know that I am done, and you do understand, don’t you?

It’s been most of a lifetime, her and me, which is too long. So this time I have no other choice!

It’s not quite eight o’clock yet. The color of the sunlight is softer and more orange than it has been during the day when it was very hot.

Today is July 22, 2014. Sonja is next door.

I stand here in my room by the window watching through the blinds. The slats are turned open so that I can look through the gaps they form. I can see into the yard behind this building and over to the neighboring one, which belongs to a big company. One can regularly observe a lot of people in business clothes standing outside there during office hours, holding cigarettes between their middle and index fingers. The fingers move them to all those mouths that jabber away.

Right now, at this time of the day, there are only a couple of people left who seem to be on a late shift.

The slats of my blinds are dusty. They need cleaning.

Softly, I move my finger over one at the height of my chest.

Sonja wouldn’t stick her finger into this kind of dirt. Not without protecting it. She would use a piece of toilet roll or some other kind of tissue, or put some gloves on if she was about to dust the blinds as part of cleaning her entire room. Having a little wipe, as I have just done with a naked finger, would be impossible.

But it’s not the dust that is the problem. No, the dust is not the dirty thing. It’s the slats of the blinds themselves. ‘Made in Germany’ is written on one of them. That’s why they are dirty. She still hasn’t come to terms with her own roots.

Sonja drives me mad. Terribly.

She obviously destroys not only her own life but definitely also mine.

I used to feel sorry for her, but not anymore.

She doesn’t understand that she ruins both of us.

Or does she?

Well, only she will know the answer to that.

She is in the room next to mine. Now and again, I can hear her or some noise of what she is doing through the walls. This is an old building in which one can rent a basically furnished room that also includes a washing area with a sink, but no shower or toilet in most of them. My room hasn’t got either but Sonja’s room has both. She might be able to hear me moving around as well. Thankfully, she cannot listen to what I am thinking.

One could rightly ask me why I have spent all that time sharing my life with her, as I seem to do nothing but complain.

I think I know the answer. It’ll help me to follow through with my plan.

I need to do it. I am getting older and life is going past me.

Our rooms here in this place share one wall and are positioned at a ninety degree angle to each other. When I open my door and look out, Sonja’s door is just to my right in the corner of the third floor of this house. To my left, there is another room with its door facing the same way as mine. A single man lives in there. I have no idea who he is and only greet him with a brief nod whenever I see him outside his room.

Here in mine, I can live a tiny bit for myself. Away from Sonja. Unless she knocks on my door and we spend some time together. Here or over in her room.

We talk a lot, discuss, sometimes argue about what she demands, share meals, watch television or do other things in a weird way according to her rules. Sometimes, like tonight, I am alone enjoying some privacy, but as soon as I open the door of my room, whether in the morning, afternoon or evening, Sonja opens hers as well and pounces on me like a cat that has been waiting for a mouse to finally come out of its hole.

I would be asked something like ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Are you leaving for work?’, ‘Can I join you?’ or simply be told ‘Wait, I’ll come with you!’

She doesn’t do many things that she fancies, as she strictly follows her rules.

Once a life situation is about both of us, she succeeds in driving me until I give in. I hate it.

For the most part Sonja has benefited from me. But I have to be honest and admit that I have also benefited from her. She has been such a close and faithful friend to me. She has never ever let me down – emotionally.

I used to find comfort when my father had upset me and she knew perfectly what I was going through. I have spent so many tears over him – a German former high school teacher – when losing argument after argument as he is unbeatable when opinions differ. But, at least, he wasn’t like Sonja’s father. He didn’t hate it when my mother cared too much for her children, neither did he threaten me with such an outrageous punishment as doing a poo on the kitchen floor.

Still, it hurts terribly knowing that my brother probably hasn’t even spent enough tears over our father to fill a teacup. He hasn’t needed to.

Some people have said that he was my father in miniature. I would agree with that if I was asked.

I feel it’s a loss for me – but maybe more so for him – that he told me that he didn’t need my wisdom and is angry with me ever since I offered some advice. It’s made me feel that Sonja is better off as an only child.

I have now dusted about one third of the slats of my blinds. I just used my fingers.

The dust has fallen on the floor. I sneezed a couple of times – as I said earlier, the blinds needed cleaning. The other two thirds of them still do.

It’s just past 8:00 PM. The two people smoking in the courtyard of the business building have gone back inside. Nobody is outside at the moment.

It is still far too early in the evening for Sonja to start getting ready for bed. She doesn’t like doing it at all and therefore keeps putting it off.

When she eventually starts, it lasts a very long time until she’s finished.

At the moment, I think she takes two and a half hours but there have been times when she took four.

Well, I’ll carry on for a while, standing here by my window, moving my fingers over some more of the dusty slats. I’ll keep observing whether the smokers have another cigarette or whether they’ll finally go home, while the hours go past until Sonja will have gone to bed.

I reckon that by 3:00 AM she will hopefully be asleep.

ONE OF US HAS TO GO is an adult Own Voices story of literary suspense about a woman’s struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a toxic friendship, and the dangerous lengths she’ll go to break her own chains.