I’m a nervous person I guess, cautious but I like to think sensible. It was sensible to be worried that I always had headaches in the morning. I was always tired despite early nights and plenty of sleep.
The physical symptoms weren’t too worrying really, not compared to the hallucinations I started having. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of my hand and see some nicotine stained digits with dirty fingernails. I always take great care with my appearance. I had outer body moments where I seemed to be watching some alternate reality version of myself living out his odd life. In the other reality I had the same flat, the same furniture and the same haircut but looked about five years older and had cocaine dust on my nose or puke on my sleeve.
I wondered for a while if I was dreaming of someone who was having a more interesting life because I thought mine was boring. Really though I was happy. I made enough each month to pay my rent and put three quarters of my paycheque in the bank. If I ever wanted to go crazy the money was just there waiting for me. The worst thing about my life was my flatmate, I never saw him because he lived his life like the version of me in the dreams. I was never sure how he paid the rent, I didn’t get the chance to ask him because we were never in at the same time. I assumed that he was being supported by his family and the dole.
His room was a bombsite, if the bomb had gone off in a drug lab or a pub. I’d clean it up now and then because I found the smell so repulsive. He didn’t pick anything up, didn’t have a bin and didn’t seem to care. In contrast to his room mine was positively immaculate and by design minimal. I had a bed, a light a lamp my chest of drawers with my work clothes and some casual stuff that I’d always meant to get around to replacing.
I wasn’t much for going out. I preferred to watch television or just sleep when I could. Since I was always tired I thought sleep would help but if anything when I went to sleep I woke up more tired. The hallucinations became more and more frequent as time passed. I decided that the fumes of drink and drugs were probably to blame for my problems. The hallucinations could have been caused by acid or other some such nonsense.
When I couldn’t find him before leaving for work one morning I left the drunken junkie a note on the fridge telling him I needed to see the lease agreement. It was by my bed the next morning or at least one version was. On his version of the lease I wasn’t a signatory which was ridiculous because I remembered vividly signing it just before I got my job at the hotel. It had the stain where I’d spilt an energy drink on it but not my signature, only the drunk’s.
The lease agreement was just a blip on the radar compared to what came next. I started waking up in my flatmates bed. Soaked in drink sweat like I’d been out for a night on the tiles. A few days later whilst I was doing the shopping in the supermarket round the corner a girl walked up to me, slapped me, called me something foul and then walked away as if I’d know why I deserved it. Another morning I woke up with a phone number written on my arm in permanent ink. I was sure I’d fallen asleep in front of the television watching a show about antiques. Clearly my lovely flatmate had used my as a notebook whilst using the phone in the living room and then maybe done something nice by carrying me to bed.
One day I thought I’d heard him in his room, laughing. I was going to ask him to do the dishes for once but when I opened his door there was no one there. I’d been sure I heard him talking to a girl. At least he probably talked to girls. I worked with a few but despite them being pretty I never felt any urges. I had no sex drive at all. I was completely celibate and I felt nothing which seemed inaccurate. I was certain that despite the possibility of madness I was not asexual.
Finally I decided it was time to go on a spending spree, to do something unexpected. When I checked my account however there was almost nothing there. When I looked at the card it wasn’t mine but I knew the pin code and account number. My name is Wilson, that wasn’t the name on the card. It was his card, had I been spending money on it by accident. He had to have leant it to me some time ago. It seemed like the sort of thing he’d forget. Maybe he’d asked me to buy him something whilst inebriated and forgotten to ask for the card back. That seemed logical. It also explained the lack of money, I had savings and he spent everything on killing himself.
I couldn’t find my card anywhere, I searched my room, the living room and the kitchen.
The last place I wanted to look was his room, my tidying before had always been superficial, scraping off the surface mould, binning things that were close to the door. When I started digging though that was when it got weird. There was a Polaroid of the girl who’d slapped me, she was kissing me. It wasn’t me though. I was wearing his clothes, the stupid t-shirt and a daft hat with bells on it. I tried blinking, the photo remained the same. When I looked at her I imagined kissing her. It was so vivid. I imagined her so clearly and for some reason I imagined a tattoo on her shoulder. It felt so real, like a memory.
He was from the same town as me, it was why we’d decided to get the flat together. I’d been regretting that for a while, I really hadn’t known him before, just known of him. Then I found an old Valentine’s day card under a pile of damp clothes. It was like he’d rewritten or stolen it. I remembered the card fondly. It had been my first and only from a girl at school, she’d been my first kiss. It was bent and crumpled and soggy itself but I could still read her writing. She’d been seeing him too. She’d written him the same message, word for word. The only difference was his name instead of Wilson.
I threw the card aside in a rage and began tearing through his things. He’d stolen a watch my parents had given me for my birthday years before. I’d forgotten all about the watch but that wasn’t the point. I put my watch on and unbuttoned my shirt as I worked up a sweat throwing his clothes into the hallway. The pervert had a photograph of my sister. One of my parents too.
I looked at the watch on my wrist and saw a cut that shouldn’t be there. My fingernails looked dirty again and I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I was dressed head to toe in his clothes, I had a club stamp on my hand.
“What are you doing in my room?” His voice startled me. I jumped, slid on a magazine and fell headfirst into the wall.
I woke up dizzy, sore and the world seemed darker. It was spinning as I tried to stand.
“Are you alright?” He asked, standing over me, a silhouette against the light. I could only see his knees. “You had some sort of seizure when you collapsed. Should I call an ambulance?” I looked at my hands, they were back to normal. My shirt was back, unbuttoned, torn along my side. The watch was gone. I looked for the Valentine’s card and the photos, they weren’t anywhere to be seen.
“No don’t call an ambulance. I’ll be ok.”
“Can you stand?”
“Take it easy then.” Everything faded to black and I awoke in my bed with a half finished plate of pasta next to me. On my chest of drawers was a card with a teddy bear in bed on the front. Get well soon Wilson was written inside. Considering what I’d thought of him it was rather sweet.
I called my work, told them what had happened apart from trashing my flatmates room and said I had to take a few days off. I could recover and in the mean time without sick pay I would just eat into my savings a little. That was on the twelfth of the month before a few days of rest. On the sixteenth when the rent was due I received a text message from the landlord asking where his money was. There was no reason for the money to not have been paid into his account. I didn’t have an overdraft but I should have had a few thousand to spare. I told the landlord there had clearly been a mistake and that I would deal with it.
The clerks at the bank were no help to me, they said I had no money at all and when I started arguing with them they called security to throw me out. I realised I’d been using my flatmate’s card again and tried to re-enter the bank but a butch man in a suit just stood in my way and shook his head.
When I got home from the bank the card was gone from the top of the chest of drawers. In its place was the watch I’d been given for my birthday and the Valentine’s day card. When I read it again it seemed I had my own card back. I saw Wilson written in her handwriting until I blinked and saw his name again.
I started digging through his things again, I found one of his bank statements. It made out as if he’d been paying all of the rent, not just his half. That was complete crap. Further down I saw a payment from my work. It was the same amount as I got each month. I was the only one in the whole hotel who got that much, I was the only one who worked that many hours. My name wasn’t on the statement but I saw some of my transactions there amongst his. There were the new shirts I’d bought from the posh place in town to replace the old ones I’d worn out. All of the little things I’d bought though were surrounded by big cash withdrawals and payments for bars and clubs I’d never been to.
My wage was the only input to the account. He was spending my money, defrauding me and somehow I had never noticed. He’d been leaching all of my money the whole time, using my account and spending the money I thought was going to savings.
Then I found a photo of my family, my sister, my mother, my father and me. Except it wasn’t just me. We were both there. The one person, he was the stupid clothes and the outrageous shoes. I was the clean, tidy hair the neatly trimmed nails and the shinny teeth amongst his grimace. The boy in the photo was halfway to both of us as people. Not quite him yet, too far from me.
“So you’ve seen me through the mirror worker bee. The game’s over then. You were my free ticket.”
“That’s crazy.” I shouted.
“We’re crazy Wilson. You and I. You’re a split personality I created to make my life easier because I was running on fumes.”
“You didn’t make me, you’re not capable of making a meal never mind a split personality.”
“It all gets a little easer for mad things like this to happen when you’re tripping out on pills and drunk, reading all of the final warnings from the electricity company, the landlord, the council. When you have nowhere else to turn you do what you have to. I asked for someone to take control of my life, to sort out my mistakes, someone sensible who could work a job without getting bored. I called Wilson and there you were, ready to live a sensible life.”
“If anyone’s the split personality it’s you.” I spat in rage.
“Do you remember your invisible friend when you were little. Mum and dad were so happy when he went away.”
“No, Harvey was the dog, my invisible friend was called Wilson.” It was all true. I remembered the dog, a big Labrador.
“I’m not invisible.”
“No, invisible friends don’t get hotel jobs. Really you’re like Wilson two point o.”
“So you’re mad?” I imagined the world dissolving around me.
“The drugs probably don’t help.”
“Probably not.” I looked at my hands, they were stained but the nails were well cut. I was wearing the horrible shoes but a good shirt. “What now?” I asked.
“How about a deal. I work half the time, party less and show you how to enjoy yourself.”
“What makes you think I don’t know how to enjoy myself.”
“I keep waking up watching the shopping channels.”
“Fair point, deal.” We imagined shaking hands. We imagined sorting out life out and there it was, waiting for us. Both of us. Maybe I was just an imaginary friend once, when he wondered why school was so scary, now I think he knows I’m as real as him. Maybe more so.