An Own Voices story

About a life with OCD, expressing its overwhelming power and 'what it can be': Murder.

How it starts


July 2014

I have a plan

Beep, beep.

My cell phone is right in front of me on the windowsill as I twitch.

One message.

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

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

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

Thirty seconds later.

“No, I haven’t. And maybe I won’t ever again,” she replies.

I hesitate.

‘As usual’ she’s texted. Hmm, nothing about tonight is usual. Even yesterday, when I received the same message, I rolled my eyes at it. But today I can’t wait to lock her in. Because this time, I have to succeed. Come on, this time it’s got to happen. This time, SHE. HAS. TO. GO! I can’t stand her anymore.

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

I blame Sonja for every time that I suffered from migraine, when it completely tore me apart; when 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 managed to shrink my life to a small, oppressive box that she wants to continue to control. I blame her 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.

She is in the room next to mine. Now and again, I hear her. One of her light switches sits right next to my head whenever I’m in bed. When she has a problem with it, I have one too. Only if I put in my earplugs and play loud music, I don’t hear her never ending switch-on-switch-off anymore.

I’m thankful that her bathroom is on the other side of her room. But I must assume she gets on the nerves of her other neighbor a lot when she runs the water for minutes. Hours – well, half hours at least.

It’s all started a long time ago, her and me. Like several hundred years. Two girls who got along extremely well.

That’s why it’s so difficult; that’s why she thinks she can do with me whatever she wants.

We’ve all heard about these kinds of relationships when two people have been together for ages. When seemingly all appears fine.

But we also all know that we get deceived sometimes, right? That, deep down, one would have liked to leave but couldn’t.

So please understand why I have spent all that time sharing my life with her.

Yes, it’s been a nightmare. But now this is going to change.

Our rooms share a wall and are positioned at a ninety degree angle to each other. When I open my door and look out, Sonja’s door is to my right in the corner of the third floor. To my left is another room with its door facing the same way as mine. A man lives in there. I call him Mr. Stumble-Late. He often only comes home long after midnight. Drunk. The noise he makes wakes me up sometimes.

I have no idea who he really is and all we have for each other are nods when we accidently meet in the corridors.

In my room, I can live for myself, away from Sonja. Or shall I say exist?

Ever since we made our last clean cut and left all our belongings behind, I haven’t been bothered anymore about getting decorations to make my place look cozy. I’ve done it too many times, I’m tired of it.

The only personal thing I have put up is a picture of Roger, leaning against the little radio on my bedside table. Well, THE bedside table – it isn’t mine but part of this furnished room. The radio belongs to me, too, but I don’t regard it as something personal.

This is an empty room. I don’t like it. You wouldn’t either. It looks sterile and the smell of the new plastic floor just doesn’t want to fade. If I talked to myself, I mean out loud, there would be an echo. The only good thing about this room is that it’s away from Sonja. Kind of at least. Here, I can enjoy some privacy and let my thoughts wander. But when she knocks on my door, we spend some time together.

We talk; discuss; sometimes argue about what she demands. Her rules. We share meals or watch television. Anything really.

There are evenings, like tonight, when she really leaves me alone. But most of the time, as soon as I open my door, whether morning, afternoon or evening, she 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.

She’ll say things like ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Are you leaving for work?’, ‘Can I join you?’ or ‘Wait, I’ll come with you!’

I always thought I knew Sonja. Inside out. But I was wrong.

It’s one of the worst things to me when you think you know somebody that well but discover that you don’t. Again, we’ve all heard about it, right? When Hubby suddenly comes home and breaks the news he’s going to leave with another woman. Or when you’ve done just anything for your Queen but surprise, surprise, she says she has fallen in love with her new boss. How can all these things be? How did you not see them coming?

I didn’t see it coming. Not really, really. I’d never have believed Sonja is capable of it, but a few days ago she did it. She tried to blackmail me. And that way finally triggered 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 objected to that. She doesn’t want me to leave her alone and make somebody else the center of my life. She shouted and I shouted back. It was terrifying. Unprecedented. She presumably realized how serious I was.

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 gave the hug to try to give comfort to someone in a desperate situation. That’s not forbidden, is it? That’s not cheating at all, is it?

She tricked me and used her cell phone to capture the embrace. Now this picture is somewhere on her computer 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. She’ll claim I’m in a relationship with somebody else.

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

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. So this time I have no other choice.

It’s not quite eight o’clock. The sunlight is soft and very orange. It makes the outside world seem so much cozier than my room.

Today is July 22, 2014. I’m standing here by my window. The slats of the blinds are open. I can easily look through the gaps. Some of those golden sunrays reach my bare arms. I like that.

I can see into the yard behind this building and over to the neighboring one, which belongs to a small company. I regularly observe people in business clothes standing outside there during office hours when they smoke. I don’t like smoking but I like those people. I know them all and have close relationships with each of them. They are my friends. My only friends, to be honest. And that person, that is out there right now, the guy who I am talking to, that’s WHWM-Dad. Sometimes he’s with WHWM-Brother, but, honestly, I love it most when it’s just him and me. WHWM-Dad is such a good listener. And, he does late shifts almost every evening, which is one of the reasons why I have chosen him. He’s always there for me. I mean, most evenings.

I have talked to WHWM-Dad a lot. I have told him all about my plan, as well as that I have tried twice before but failed. He knows everything, even if he’s got no idea that I exist.

But that’s okay. If I am not deceived by his appearance, he must be warm and loving. He looks like a very strong but friendly bear. He would protect his Princess-Daughter with his big paws.

When he comes out through that door with his colleagues, he charmingly holds it open for everybody and smiles. His small belly seems perfect for a nice WHWM-Daddy-daughter-hug.

I know, he’s most likely not a former high school teacher since he’ll spend most of his time at work standing at a conveyor belt piecing things together. But I don’t care. I’d even treasure it that he wouldn’t come up with logical, all so annoying and heartless principles and make me lose argument after argument. I wouldn’t shed tears over WHWM-Dad.

Maybe Sonja would love a hug from him, too. I’d understand that, because he doesn’t look like he would threaten her with such an outrageous punishment as crapping on the kitchen floor.

‘WHWM’ stands for ‘Wish He Was My’.

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

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

Sonja wouldn’t stick her finger into this kind of dirt. Not without protecting it. She would use a piece of toilet paper or some other kind of tissue. Maybe even put some gloves on. Brushing dust off 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.

I’ve dusted about a third of the slats. I used my fingers.

The dust has fallen on the floor. I sneezed a couple of times – as I said, the blinds needed cleaning.

It’s past 8:00 PM now. WHWM-Dad has gone back inside. Sigh.

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’ll last a very long time until she’s finished. She currently 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 see whether WHWM-Dad has another cigarette or goes home. Let the hours pass quickly until Sonja goes to bed.

I hope by 3:00 AM she will be asleep.

I turn back to the text messages on my cell phone.

“Will lock you in at 11 then, as usual,” I lie, turn the cell to vibrate and put it back on the windowsill.

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.