As soon as I hear the weight of his body touch the first step, I silently but quickly scamper back to my bed, crawl under the covers, and pretend to be asleep. My heart pounding in my chest like a jackhammer, I pray he doesn’t hear me or open my door. I hear his foot reach the third step from the top, the one that annoyingly creaks when anyone touches it, and my body tenses even more. It is difficult to breathe noiselessly, but by now I am used to trying my best to be unheard.
The split second it takes him to reach the top of the stairs and make his way to the bathroom seems like an eternity. I hear the bathroom door shut and feel a sigh of relief; I can breathe again, at least for a short time. I lay watching the second-hand of my electric clock rotate its face. I listen to the clink of the toilet seat hit the cover, the waterfall of beer-urine hitting the toilet water, and the old pipes sucking it all up when the toilet flushes.
Then I hear the elephant. The elephant, as I call it, is the loud air in the old pipes when the sink or shower water runs to the second floor. The elephant stops, and I tense again, knowing he will be coming back out and wondering if he will go back downstairs. Or will he do what he often does and stand in front of my door listening for me to make a wrong move?
The bathroom door opens so quickly it startles me, and I almost gasp for air loud enough to be heard. I watch for his feet near my door, listening intently to determine where he is going. I don’t think he knows I can feel his negative presence on the other side of my door – nor does he realize that I can see the reflection of his feet on the wooden floor. Although they are mostly unexpected, I am aware of his games, and I am not about to let him beat me. I have to be sure that in order to survive his mind games, I need to be two steps ahead of him.