Do You See What I See?

I miss him. I do.

I’m used to being alone, of course. I’m a writer, after all. My favorite companions have always been my books and my thoughts. But my thoughts lately have begun to turn against me. They are not the enemy—well, most of the time they aren’t. But they’ve become more like an increasingly hostile acquaintance instead of the friend they’ve been my whole life.

When I’m alone, it’s worse. At least when Jeff is here, he can sense when my thoughts are getting out of control and he can usually talk me back to the present. He’s a master at what I’ve always called idle chitchat. I’ve never been a fan of idle chitchat. But for some reason, when my thoughts start running away with me, Jeff’s stupid banter about which baseball team traded what player, the sale he saw at the hardware store, and how he’d like to try bananas foster someday… well, it helps.

It’s not that I can’t talk to him. He’s available at the other end of the phone and we call and text each other a lot when he’s gone on work trips. But it’s not the same.

I’m supposed to be working on the follow-up to my first successful-ish cozy mystery novel while Jeff’s away for ten days. But for some reason, I just can’t focus.

“I think I’ll go to the homeless shelter again today,” I tell Jeff when he calls this morning.

“Again?” he asks. Jeff thinks I spend too much time at the shelter. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s worried for my safety or because he thinks I should be working. He’s got to be tired of paying all the bills. I haven’t made much money since graduating from college with my useless English degree, and the modest proceeds I made from my book all went toward debt. He never says anything, but I can see it on his face when the utility bills come, sense his frustration when he sees his friends buying houses in the suburbs while we still live in this shitty apartment.

“I’m lonely,” I say, knowing this will immediately shut down any objection. “I just want to be around people.”

He pauses for a few seconds. As if deciding how to handle his needy wife this time. “I wish you were here, babe,” he finally says. He’s going for sweet husband. It’s always my favorite of his choices. “London would be so much cooler with you by my side.”

“I wish I was too. But I know you’re having a great time and impressing all the who’s who of whatever it is you do.” I stop. I know I sound bitchy and I don’t mean to. If it weren’t for the “whatever it is Jeff does,” we’d be living on the street.

He doesn’t say anything. This has become code for, “I don’t like how you just acted but I know that saying something won’t help matters.”

I clear my throat. “Well, have a great day, okay? Show them how great you are!” My cheer sounds false even to my own ears, but Jeff seems grateful for the effort and tells me how much he loves me before hanging up.

I stare at the phone for a few seconds after it goes dark. I should work on my book. I know I should, but my laptop, sitting across the room on my makeshift desk, holds no appeal for me whatsoever. The thought of booting it up fills me with anxiety. You don’t need anything that causes you anxiety right now, I think. This seems like a friendly thought, but it’s kept me from my writing for weeks. Would a friend do that?

I pull a sweater on over my t-shirt and make sure my jeans, worn since yesterday, have no visible stains. Not that anyone at the homeless shelter would care, but I still have a few scraps of dignity.

The shelter is six blocks away, which tells you something about the neighborhood where we live. Though it’s only 10 AM, I still feel unsure about walking there. Not because of the neighborhood, but because of the man.

“You’re imagining it,” Jeff had said when I first told him I thought I was being followed. I had just come back from the open-air market a half hour walk away and had felt something wrong. I’d looked back and saw a man, mixed in with the rest of the crowd yet somehow standing out. He wasn’t looking at me, had done nothing suspicious. But he didn’t feel right to me.

The second time I saw him, Jeff seemed a little more willing to accept it was not all in my head. Or he could have been trying to pacify me. He did that a lot these days.

That’s all it’s been, two times in the past month and a half. Coincidence, right? Maybe not even the same guy. But it was, I think. It was him and you should be afraid.

As if in defiance of these thoughts, I decide to make the six-block walk instead of calling an Uber. My rationale, of course, is that we can’t afford it, but what does a few bucks really mean in the grand scheme of things? If you can’t afford a few bucks for an Uber, you’re really in trouble. I push this thought aside and start walking.

In ten minutes, I’m inside the shelter and being greeted by the grateful staff, much of it volunteer, and two elderly homeless twins who always insist on calling me “Genevieve.” I spend the morning cleaning up, serving some snacks, and doing general errand-running until one of the actual shelter employees asks me to go through a stack of receipts and match them up with spending categories. It takes me about two seconds to realize I can’t read a damn thing on them.

My eyes are getting so bad, I text Jeff. When LASIK starts fading, it doesn’t mess around. I can’t see shit.

His text is nearly immediate, which makes me wonder how busy he actually is. Did you forget your reading glasses again?

Yes. Why do I always take them out of my purse?

His reply doesn’t come and really, why should it? There’s no reason why I always take them out of my purse and never have them when I need them. That’s just me. No wonder Jeff is always exasperated.

I think about asking around to see if anyone has some, since all I use are the cheapies from the drug store, no prescription. Then it dawns on me. There’s a whole box of glasses in the lobby. We take donations and hope that some of those we help will be able to use them. You’d be amazed at how many homeless people are close to legally blind.

Just as I thought, there is a box overflowing with every type of glasses you can imagine. I send Jeff a quick text about my find and select a cool pair of pink cat-eyes, put them on, and snap a selfie.

Sex-ay! Comes the reply with a heart emoji. No matter how frustrated he gets with me, it’s time like these that I know he’s still trying.

I look down at a receipt in my hand to make sure the numbers are clear, but I don’t see the receipt. Instead, I see a backyard with a little girl swinging. Though I can’t hear anything, I can see the joy on her face and I know she’s laughing.

I gasp and whip the glasses off, my heart pounding. What the hell was that? I quickly text Jeff against my better judgment.

After a brief back and forth, he texts, Grace you’re scaring me.

Maybe I just need some water and rest, I text back, but I only do it to pacify him. For some reason, I just know: I was seeing what the owner of the glasses had seen when she’d worn them. It makes no sense, it’s ridiculous, but I know.

Instead of getting a glass of water, I reach out for another pair of glasses. I have to see if I’m right. Jeff wouldn’t understand.

I select a pair that look like old professor’s glasses with the circular frames. I put them on and instantly see a classroom, students dressed like they’re in the 1960s. They all have a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird on their desks and one student—a boy with a ducktail haircut and a white t-shirt—is speaking, though I can’t hear the words.

I’m so excited I can barely stand it. Something cool is happening to me! With all the shit that’s been happening to me lately—mostly in my own head—this is a welcome change even if it’s really weird.

I see one of my friends who also volunteers at the shelter walking by with an armful of blankets. “Jessie!” I call to her. “Come here, I want you to see something!” I hand her the glasses. “Tell me what you see.”

Jessie gives me a quizzical look, but obediently slips them on. “Ummm, everything is blurry?” She takes them off and hands them to me. “I’ve always had 20/20 vision. I think it makes up for the fact that I’m tone-deaf and have zero sense of smell.” She gathers up her blankets again and heads toward the commons room.

I sit there for a moment. She couldn’t see it. What does that mean? I text Jeff. I put on another pair and saw a different scene. Made Jessie try them on and she saw nothing.

Honey maybe ur just imagining things.

And there it is. Since I’m a writer, Jeff’s always suggesting that I “invent” things to make life more interesting. It’s the same reasoning he used when I told him about the guy following me. Sometimes I think he really believes I’m on the wobbling edge of crazy and that he leaves town so often just to see if I’ll tip over and really lose it.

Another text comes in from him. I know you’re just lonely and stressed. Go home and get some rest?

Think I’ll stay here for a while more. Don’t want to be alone. The implication is pretty apparent and he doesn’t bother to respond.

Even though Jessie couldn’t see anything with the glasses, I’m sure I’m not imagining things. I know what I saw. I reach out and pluck another pair from the pile, this time a trendy pair of aviators. I immediately see snow-covered hills out of a car window. Whoever is wearing the glasses is pulling up to a house in the country covered with Christmas lights.

Before he stops the car, I feel a hand on my shoulder and I whip off the glasses, as if I’ve been caught doing something horribly wrong.

“Lunchtime?” It’s Jessie. “We could use some help on the line?”

I slip the glasses back into the pile and nod. They aren’t going anywhere and I’m sure my brain could use a break. I think about texting Jeff, but then slip my phone back into my purse.

As we start serving lunch, I notice a group of staff gathered around a Television in the corner. “Another murder,” Jessie tells me. “That’s four in a month.”

“Woman in her thirties?” I ask. “Throat cut?”

Jessie nods. “Yep, same as before. Thank goodness it’s across town. But promise me you won’t be walking alone? I saw you come in this morning by yourself.”

I nod and realize how silly it was to forgo the Uber.

As I help serve lunch, my mind drifts from the murders back to the glasses. The further I get from the incident, the more I think it was just my imagination. Maybe Jeff is right. Maybe I invent things so my life doesn’t seem so dull.

After the lunch service is cleared, I try to occupy myself around the shelter. I help out with one of the support groups, hang out in the office for a few hours and assist with some grant-writing. I just don’t want to go home, not yet. Before I know it, the sun has gone down and dinner has already been served. I know what I have to do before I go home.

I have to go back. To the glasses. I have to know.

I’m reaching out for a pair right when my phone buzzes. It’s Jeff.

Did u get home ok? I saw there was another murder.

Still here, I reply.

?? It’s almost 9 o’clock!

I know.

Are u trying on more glasses??

I look at the screen of my phone for a few seconds. Do I lie? If I tell him the truth, he’s going to get frustrated. But if I start lying now, I know I’m on a slippery slope. This is my husband. I finally type “yes.”


I put the phone in my purse and grab a pair of Buddy Holly-style glasses with thick black frames. I slip them on and I’m immediately transported outside. I’m walking on a sidewalk and I notice my shoes, which are beat up and large, clearly men’s. It’s dark out, but I can see by the streetlights.

The phone buzzes in my purse again, but I ignore it.

I see a woman in front of me, walking alone. I start walking faster, catching up with her.

My phone buzzes again.

With a jolt, I feel myself hitting the woman in the back of the head. I look down at my hands and see I’m holding a small piece of lead pipe. My heart starts to race as I drag the woman into an alley. I slip the pipe into my jacket pocket and pull out a knife…

Breathing hard, I rip the glasses off my face and throw them onto the ground. What the hell was that? Did I just see through the eyes of the murderer?

I grab my phone and shoot off ten quick texts to Jeff, trying to explain what I just saw. I know that half of them are garbled, but he’ll get the point.

Grace… please get a cab and go home.

You don’t believe me, I reply.

I think you need a good night’s rest.

I shove the phone back into my bag. I have to see what happens next. I know I’m seeing through the eyes of the killer. Somehow, some way, I’m seeing what he’s seen. I can help catch him.

I slip the glasses back on. It’s another dark night, a different woman walking in front of me. Why is she walking so slowly? Doesn’t she realize what’s happening?

My phone starts to ring and I shove the bag away from me.

I concentrate on the woman. There are people walking beside me on the sidewalk, I can’t get her alone. I walk faster. Her hair, her jacket, they look eerily familiar. I look around and see I’m in a shopping area where I go all the time to pick up flowers and fresh-baked bread for romantic dinners with Jeff.

I speed up; I’m getting closer to her. Her head turns.

Oh my God.

It’s me. The woman is me.

He’s been following me. I look down at the shoes, at the pants, the sleeve of the jacket. It suddenly strikes me that the man I’d seen behind me those two times was wearing glasses, though they were different than these.

My breath is coming in ragged gasps as the scene in front of me changes. Suddenly, I’m seeing the same view I had this morning as I walked from my apartment to the shelter.

He knows. He knows where I live, that I volunteer here. He knows.

The man stops at the windows in front of the shelter. He looks in, sees me talking with a few of the other volunteers in the lobby.

I snatch the glasses off my face and feel like I’m going to throw up. After I steady myself, I look around and realize I’m alone. It’s late, most of the volunteers have gone home by now. I. Am. Alone.

As if in a dream, I see the front door to the shelter opening. He walks in, his face frozen in a huge, horrible smile. Instead of the Buddy Holly glasses, which I still hold in my hands, he’s wearing a blue-tinted frameless pair.

The pair that will capture him walking slowly toward me. The pair that will record him taking the knife out of his jacket pocket. The pair that will witness my death.