Untitled, pt. 1 here
I love the air here. So clean, so wide open, an infinite amount of molecules at my disposal ready for inhaling. I breathe in. Pure. Relaxation.
My grandparents greet us at the door. As I hug each of them, I take in their scent, slightly sweet, definitely earthy with a touch of fabric softener. The expensive kind. This, in combination with the warm sun pouring in through their living room window, takes me back to my younger years, laying on my belly, coloring picture after picture with no concerns beside who broke the purple crayon and pondering what “cornflower blue” really means. I was safe here, as long as that sun was around. In the light, I could be as normal as any other kid.
After dinner, per tradition, we watch no less than 4 game shows, back to back, and when golf repeats come on that’s my cue to nudge him and turn in for the night. It has been this way for years, for beyond 50 visits, only now my parents have been replaced by my significant other as a travelling buddy. I kiss each of my grandparents goodnight, thank them again for accomodating us, and retire to the guestroom.
Lying in bed, I am surprisingly still calm. Not surprisingly, he is already asleep. I am okay with this; it’s not until the living room TV has finally flicked off, my grandparent’s murmurs have ceased and even the dog is no longer pattering up and down the hall that my anxiety sets in. The stinging of utter silence is always what stuns me into this on-edge, high-alert state. My eyes search for any possible source of distracting noise, and I see the hint of an oscillating fan buried beyond decades of old dresses. I drag my weary body out of bed and uncover it. Unsure if it even still works, I lug it over to the only socket in the room and plug it in. Instantly dust is blasted into my nose and throat, but burning and stinging and tearing up I don’t care; I am just elated to have sound. TV or radio have historically been the best drugs for me, as they signify life and reassure my sanity; but tonight, in the middle of the countryside, media is not an option. Leaving the nightstand light on, I roll over and, while dreamily formulating excuses to my grandmother’s questions over breakfast as to why I left the light on all night, I drift into the relaxed sleep I have been looking forward to.
Click. Click. Click. Faster now click click click clickclickclick, I open my eyes in confusion. The fan blades are not moving but the motor stay running; instantly I am reminded of myself, of my sleep pattern (or lack there of). The body lies motionless but the brain never stops. I quickly weigh the pros and cons between this obnoxious sound and pure silence, and decide silence prevails, atleast for the moment. Annoyed, I rip the plug from the outlet. Now, now I’m up. I check my cell phone; 12:45 A.M. Are. You. Serious.
I flip onto my back and stare at the ceiling. The house has not even a creak to offer me, my grandfather not even a snore. The apocolypse could have occurred between 10 PM and 12:45 AM and I would be none the wiser. The first pang enters my heart and my breath stumbles to catch up. I roll onto my left side, happy the light is still on. I glance over the bookshelf against the wall, filled with romance novels. I read every title, mouthing the words, hoping to stumble upon some gem of feminist lit I’d been searching for. No luck, only tale after tale of sex-crazed damsels in distress.
Almost without thinking twice, I kick my leg backward and into his ankle. At best he will wake, at worst he will stir; anything to bring more life into the room. He gives me a middle-ground grunt and resumes his normal breathing pattern. I try to count my breaths, then his, then sheep. It’s so quiet dead quiet. How does he sleep through this quiet? I kick him again, a mixture of fear, loneliness, jealousy, annoyance. He grunts. I drag his arm up and over my body so he is unwillingly pseudo-cuddling with me. I don’t feel any safer, I feel more like an armrest. I push his arm away.
The clock says 1:35. I am running out of options and couldn’t be more awake. I sit straight up and am suddenly aware that I’ve been sweating. I reach behind and beneath me, the bed is damp. I sigh, glance over at him, and violently shake him awake.
“Wake up, wake up, I can’t sleep.” Nothing. “Did you hear me? Wake up! I’m scared. I need you.” I am frantic now, my voice higher pitched than I’ve ever heard it before. I happen to glance up into the mirror across from the bed, and I barely recognize myself. I am flushed, my hair is matted to my forehead and my eyes – they are terrified. I am captivated by my own gaze for a brief second, in awe at how bizarre I look. My focus is broken when I hear a crash in the living room. If I were not actively staring at myself in a mirror at that very second I would’ve sworn I jumped 3 feet.
I try to shake him again, this time hard. Violently. “Wake UP. Do you hear that?! Please.” Crying now, I am petrified. I am nauseas. I feel like my anxiety has turned to literal thorns and is piercing through my every organ, through my skin, my eyeballs, my head. Everything hurts and I’ve never been more uncomfortable in my life. I can’t take it anymore, absolutely cannot stand this and I jump out of bed. I run to the door and listen carefully. Silence. This whole fucking house, silence.
I slowly open the door and take a deep breath. The bathroom is immediately adjacent to the bedroom, just a matter of one two three steps. I make the trip in one giant step, slamming the door behind me and throwing my back against it. Breathing heavily (this must be what they mean by “hyperventilating”) I am staring at my feet, hard. Hard enough that I feel it in the tops of my feet, in my ankles. I pray I didn’t wake my grandparents, pray that I did. I am thinking of how gnarly my toes look and how warm weather is coming and I should really clean them up, maybe paint them.. working my way up now, I definitely need to shave tomorrow, and where is that bruise from? Gripping the bathroom door behind me as if it had hands to hold, I scratch my fingernails for the sake of creating some sort of noise. I inhale, exhale slowly, stop scraping. But the scraping doesn’t stop. I hear a shuffling. Instantly my head snaps up, and in the mirror above the sink I see that crazed person again. But something else – what is that? A shadow to my left. Instantly my fingers go to the light switch, and I remember how annoyed I always was at how awkward the switch was. Not where you’d expect it in a normal bathroom. I fumble, my panic turning to terror turning to a feeling of impending death.
Forget the light. I fling the door open and in one more giant leap launch myself into the bedroom. I run to the bed, jumping on top of him, shaking shaking shaking him. “UP UP UP” I can’t even form a thought or a phrase. “GET UP NOW UP” Nothing. Is he dead? I am so confused. I hear the scraping shuffling again and mid-shake, I turn around. The shadow has followed me into the room, slinking behind the open door as if it to hide.
This is the last thing I remember until I wake up, in the bed, face down and in a pool of drool. My face is pressed against his back and for a moment, I want to be embarassed of the spit. Just as I lift my head to wipe myself off, something pulls at my legs. It hurts. Pulling and scratching, the arms work their way up to my waist and begin tugging from there. I grab the sheets in my fists and twist them, screaming, digging my fingernails into his back to wake him. Nothing. I grab his hair, not even fearful of snapping his neck and I hold on for dear life. I try to turn around and face the attacker but they are too strong. I kick and kick but it’s as if there is no body, just the arms tugging pulling twisting. The next thing I know, the arms have won the tug of war and my face smashes into the hardwood floor. I taste blood and, finally, I sleep.