It was about 4:15 on Saturday morning when I heard the door latch click. Through the webs of half sleep, I saw a shadow twist from the door, then lumber silent through the gloom. Slowly I raised myself from the pillow and pressed myself against the headboard.
I tried to shake myself awake without moving. Moments before I’d been dreaming that the clothes rack standing in the corner had been a bird-beaked man looming over my sleeping form like a vulture waiting for my breath to cease. As my mind slipped back to reality, the vulture man faded. The lumpy shadow didn’t. And it kept moving toward me from the door.
Despite its reeling gait, I watched it move toward the foot of the bed, managing somehow to dodge the shoes strew about the floor. It moved past the foot of the bed, then paused at the clothes rack to bury its face in my drying underwear. By that point, I could tell it was some kind of woman. After breathing deep of my underwear, it moved to the curtain and began persistently pawing the flowing fabric.
I was out of options. I flicked on the light. A heavyset, red-faced, 30-something woman turned to gaze upon my half-naked form.
“Uhhhh,” I said.
“Uhhhh,” she said.
“This is my room. Who are you?”
She looked baffled.
“What are you looking for? Do you know where you are? Where are you supposed to be?” I asked.
“I need to use the bathroom,” she slurred.
I put on a shirt and told her I had one of those. I led her out of my room to the kitty-corner bathroom. She closed the door, and I looked around. My roommate’s door was gaping open but he was wrapped up tight in his bed, asleep. The front door was cracked ajar, too. I sat down on the couch and started to piece together what must be going on.
My apartment complex is full of foreigners. Europeans, Koreans, Americans, most of them college students studying abroad. Friday and Saturday nights, then, can be pretty raucous. I put it together:
Somewhere on the floors above me, the foreigners threw one of their weekend ragers. The woman currently in my bathroom probably lived in my building, or at least had a friend here that she was staying with. She’d wandered smashed down the half-lit stairwells or hit a wrong button on the elevator or taken a wrong turn into the corridors. She’d found my unmarked and unlocked door and stumbled in, thinking she was “home” only to end up in a stranger’s house and a stranger’s bedroom. All I had to do then, was figure out where she was supposed to be and get her home. Then I could get back to sleep for a few more hours before work.
She came out of the bathroom.
“Do you know where you’re supposed to be?” I asked.
“Yeahhhhh,” she said.
“We’re all cool, man. I’m cool. Are you cool? You’re cool.”
“Yeah, I’m cool. But where are you supposed to be? I don’t know you.”
“I don’t know youuu.”
“But this is my house! You are in my house! And I don’t know who you are!”
“I don’t know who you are,” she said.
“Where are you supposed to be? Do you know what apartment you should be at?”
We weren’t getting anywhere. It was s clear she doesn’t know where she was or hardly even who she was. I couldn’t even get a name out of her. I asked her repeatedly who she knows. If she knows anyone who lived at my apartment.
All she said is, “I don’t know you.”
Briefly I wondered how she managed to navigate my entire room in the pitch dark with the dexterity of a monitor lizard if not the speed. Then she laid down on my couch.
“I’ll just sleep here,” she said. “We’re all cool. I’m cool. You’re cool. Are you cool?”
“You can’t sleep here!” I was starting to grab my hair. “I don’t know you!”
For a moment, I considered letting her sleep on my couch. Then the scenarios started to run through my head:
- I wake up; a bunch of stuff is gone; my roommates find out I let a stranger sleep on our couch
- I wake up; a stranger wandered into my roommates room; something bad happens; my roommates find out I let a stranger sleep on our couch
- I wake up at 7:30 to go to work; she’s so drunk she refuses to leave; I can’t get her to leave without calling the cops; my roommates find out I let a stranger sleep on our couch and the only way to get her to leave is to cause us all a lot bigger problems; we miss work
- I wake up at 7:30 to go to work; I can’t wake her up; my roommates find out I let a stranger sleep on our couch; a stranger died on our couch
- And so on
“You can’t sleep here!” I shrieked again.
“You want me to leave,” she said, arms stretched out straight above her head, a look of contentment on her face.
“Yes. I want you to go home.”
She got and looked at her feet. No shoes. More evidence she’d wandered into the wrong apartment. (I had a friend who was arrested twice for doing this). We hunted around for a couple of minutes. They were nowhere to be found. I tried to give her my shower shoes and told her I’ll walk her to her apartment.
“Nahhhh,” she said, making wheel-turning motions with her hands. “I’ll just drive myself home.”
“You don’t have any shoes.”
She looked at her tattooed feet, then back at me, startled.
“Look, you can sleep on my couch for a couple of hours,” I finally relent. “Just sleep there, it’s no problem.”
“No. I’m going home.”
“Do you live in this building? This is apartment 404. Really, just sleep on the couch for a while.”
“Yeah, I’ll just walk home.
She walked out the door. I sat on the couch for a moment. A half hour had passed. Work was coming fast. But I felt like I was doing the wrong thing. I got up and put on some shoes. I couldn’t just let this too-drunk-to-see woman stumble around alone all night. I had to help her get somewhere.
By the time I got to the elevators, she was gone. One of lifts was in the basement. One of them was one floor up. One of them was in transit down. I ran up a floor and scurried around to the different crannies. Nothing.
I ran down to the ground floor. Nothing. Through a window I got a glimpse of a lumbering shadow. I ran outside. Nothing. Gone. Around the buildings. Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
I went back to my apartment thinking maybe she’d returned there. Nothing. I didn’t know what else to do, so I crawled back into bed. After another hour lying awake worrying, I drifted off.
I woke up feeling pretty good, if also pretty tired. I packed to leave for work, and when I opened my door my roommate was also walking out the door.
“Hey man, you didn’t have a heavy-set woman sleeping in your room last night, did you,” I said half-joking and ready to tell him of my ordeal.
He blanches. “Yeah, where is she?”
Turned out she’s a friend. The night before, the two of them had been playing pool at a bar down the street. She’d gotten too drunk, and he’d agreed she could just sleep in his room since her house was a few kilometers away. Last he remembered, she’d asked him where the bathroom was. It all clicked together.
When he’d woke up, she was gone, of course. He’d run all over the apartment complex looking for her. Nothing.
“And the thing is, all of her stuff is in my room. All of it. Her phone, her keys, her wallet, her shoes.”
He took a breath.
*Postscript:* She was eventually found barefoot but unharmed at a friend’s house about a kilometer and a half from our complex. All’s well that ends well, they say. She doesn’t remember much.