I met Katie on Monday, July 5, 2010. The circumstances weren’t unusual other than the pretense alone; a pretty girl standing on my front porch step, looking a contradictory confident and afraid at the same time, asking if we could talk. It took me a month to write this introduction. Another month to share it.
“Some of my friends mentioned you as someone to go to. I’ve been having several… unusual experiences.”
I first wondered who had mentioned me, and I asked as many acquaintances as I could in the weeks to follow. All shook their heads with a funny expression save my girlfriend at the time, Kelly, who told me she’d heard me mention Katie’s name in context of a blog periodically through May and June, to which I have no recollection.
Katie was timid. Humble and quiet, yes, but with something else below the surface, a kind of nervousness that didn’t express itself in her actions, but in the way she stayed alert, as if waiting. The way a polite man will listen in conversation while something more important waits. I asked if she would like to come inside but she declined, choosing instead to remain outside in the sun, sitting down on the grass, despite the bright white sun at the top of its arc, and the rays of heat that slipped even into the shadows.
“What kind of unusual experiences are we talking about?”
“The unexplainable kind.” She smiled. “I’ve been trying to define them. It’s as if my world has been coming apart at the seams.” The smile fell off.
“I’m not sure that’s exactly something I can help you with.”
“That’s fine. I’m not exactly asking for your help.”
I paused, confused. “Then what is it I can do for you?”
“I want to give you the password and username to a blog I’ve been writing since I moved here two months ago.”
“Because you’d appreciate it.”
I wondered then what I was supposed to appreciate about it. Was she looking for someone to read her work, that a friend of mine had put me in touch with another writer they were impressed with? That perhaps I could supply feedback? Or was it more along the lines of the supernatural? Was the world tearing apart, as she put it, in terms of the spiritual? Did she suspect that something was lingering in her apartment? Turned out it was both, though in ways I didn’t expect.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay long to talk.”
I nodded, still unsure of what to say.
Her eyes wandered about the world in a way I’ve never seen before. As a person who’s always had trouble maintaining good eye contact myself, I recognized that hers was only in part shyness, flickering around the yard and parking lot as if watching a parade of the unseen. It wasn’t until I’d read her entries that I wondered how much truth there might have been to my thought.
I finished reading the blog in two sittings over the next two evenings. I couldn’t be sure what to make of it on its own. Katie shares revelations and meaning, weaving her history into the work almost too subtly to notice, finding cracks in our world generally unseen. She laces her experiences with a kind of rich intensity often leaving me unsure where metaphor ended and the supernatural began, which while practically lacking any evidence or structure, was functionally magical.
Anthony Steinbock considers the difference between the divine and the scientific in terms of horizontality and verticality, where the divine cannot be described in human terms the way the tangible can, itself an abstraction, an emotion, unquantifiable. And in so blending a world seen, unseen, and only experienced, Katie has done something here that looks far deeper, as she says in her own introduction, calling herself a medium, suggesting that “Maybe there’s something greater, insightful, meaningful beyond me, through what I say, some realization reached through abstraction, where you the reader and I the watcher come together through my words as fellow friends, fellow human beings.”
Inherently related, reality is a recurrent theme in the blog, extended even into her echoes. The day after she visited, I called the complex office, asking if they had a Katie P listed as a tenant. They didn’t. I asked about a Kyle and Mark sharing an apartment. They had a Kyle and Mary, but no Kyle and Mark.
“How about a tenant who moved in on the twenty-eighth of April?”
She said she was uncomfortable giving me the information. Unless I could produce some way of knowing her or something professional…
I thanked her for her time and hung up the phone.
I wondered what to make of all of this, having come at me so fast, so fragile in my hands. Was she real? Did she only change her name or did she change the facts too? Was there a hint of truth to any of her story?
I can’t know. There’s no evidence. She even says in the first line of her introduction,
“I’m not real.”
Is she not? Is she no more than a product of a story? I don’t know. I’m not sure I can know, or if it should even matter.
I followed her final five entries over the next ten days through the internet, feeling a strange disconnect, as if a part of myself were writing the entries, having come so immediately into my life and then so suddenly retreating into the darkness again. She was like a friend made then lost, like passing strangers on an airplane or bus.
The end of her blog roots itself in a kind of lingering ambiguity, the kind that prompts a paranoia, that welcomes the possibility that on a day some months down the road I may pass her on the street and she might nod and smile or continue on her way unaware, or that equally as likely she’s watching me now, peering through a crack between two worlds the way a child peers through a crack between a door jamb and a doorframe.
For the two weeks following the last of her blog entries I kept a careful eye on the local newspapers and kept a steady inquiry with friends in local law enforcement should they discover the body of a twenty-something from the east coast, but nothing matched. I gave her a month but after another uncomfortable querying phone call to the apartment office, they claimed to be in contact with all notable unpaid residents.
It was not as if Katie had simply upped and disappeared. She has covered her tracks behind her so thoroughly that I can’t help but wonder whether she ever existed in the first place.
“Katie?” I said to her while sitting on my front porch. “Can I help you with anything? Are you alright?”
She refocused her gaze on me again and in an instant seemed to ground me to the concrete. But then she smiled.
“I’m okay, Karl.”
I smiled back and watched her turn to walk away, seeming to blend in elegant fashion against the small prickly bushes and grass, lighting up in the sun like a beacon against the asphalt and cars in the parking lot.
I never saw her again.
You can find her blog here: www.myfrontwindow.wordpress.com
Copyright 2010 Karl Pfeiffer