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'The Man, Woman and Me' - Asha Barr (Year 12)

There was an man lived in our apartment, an old man, a quiet man. My girlfriend and I didn’t quite notice when he moved in. He was just there one day. He kept to himself mostly, sitting in the corner eating Saltine crackers and honey. We didn't mind him at the beginning. He was something to show our friends, laugh at behind closed doors and was useful as a coat rack or doormat.

Soon after I didn't get my promotion, the man became more of a presence. He would often use up all our hot water and wifi. He would put the empty milk carton back in the fridge and eat the two-day-old Chinese food that my girlfriend was saving. I got blamed. He was too big to be a doormat and too awkward to show to our friends. When the man was close, cylinders of silence seemed to form around my girlfriend and I. It wasn’t that we didn't want to speak to each other, the man just kept getting in the way. We stayed silent. Until we began to be very loud.

It started small at first. We would squabble about the man putting his red socks in with our white laundry and bicker about the man leaving the bread out to go stale. We would fight about the man leaving his shoes in the doorway, which caused us to trip, and dispute about the dog-earing of all our books. The man became a large fluoro roadblock. I yelled at my girlfriend because the man, munching his Saltine crackers, was the only thing I could hear. She yelled back because the man, spreading honey on her new Persian rug, was the only thing she could see. I yelled at her again because the man was biting my thigh. My girlfriend screamed at me and slammed the door because the man was giving her a wet willy.

I began sleeping on the couch after that. I would wake up and find the man sitting on my chest and I would know that I had made a terrible mistake. When I ran into the room to apologize, the man had his fat, dirty hands all over her ears. I went back to the couch and we stayed silent.

The man began to grow fat and annoying. He and Violet Beauregard would have made fast friends. His belly swelled over his belt, his hair was thin and his skin red and blotchy. The man began yelling, smashing our bowls and pot plants against the wall. He went through my girlfriend's texts, checked her credit card bill and went through her Facebook friends. The man found my magazines in the shoebox on top of the closet and went through my Chrome history. After this, my girlfriend and I decided that the man needed to go. We tried ignoring him, but the man became even more desperate for attention. We tried to throw him out, but he had handcuffed himself to the radiator. We threw all the Saltines out of the apartment. He got a little smaller but still didn't move.

My girlfriend told the man that Jodi and Mark, the happy couple in 23c, were having marital issues. The man flew out of our apartment and slammed the door. The man was smart and knew we had lied. He pounded on the door begging to be let back in, for what seemed like forever. We got quite good at tuning him out, but when we heard it, the cylinders of silence returned. Sometimes when we were dancing in our underwear to Ella Fitzgerald, we would completely forget about the knocking and everything seemed to be like it was before the man. When we were lying in bed together, in the silence, we could still hear the knocking. My girlfriend started playing loud hip-hop music to drone it out. I found that annoying, so she put headphones in. That was worse, because now I couldn't share in her music and I was silent and alone with the knocking. I heard the man through the door, ‘Please…You won’t even know I'm there… Please… .’ Two days later the knocking stopped and the man was back in his corner.

I yelled at my girlfriend about why she let him in, she said she didn't. He had climbed the fire escape and crawled in through the air conditioning. We were just so tired, so we let him stay. He began sleeping between us and showering with us. He didn't want to leave our side. He would hang off our ear lobes and limpet onto our legs. At the end of the week he had given us both a hunch.

My girlfriend moved out.

It’s just the man and me now. The man seems happier now that she’s gone. Usually he just sits at the edge of the sink and holds my teabag. He keeps to himself again and I don’t really notice he’s there at all, except when she came round to pick up her blender. He got angry. He yelled and spat newspaper in her hair.

But he’s fine now. He's lost some weight, I carry him in my breast pocket, still close to my heart but separated by layers of cotton and wool. We are doing well, we are. When I bumped into her on the subway, he barely even made a sound. Sometimes he even pitches in for milk.

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