04
Sep
19

Sleeping in

The harsh sound of ducks quacking interrupts the soothing voice of the British woman who has been talking to me for the last two hours. She’s currently telling me that she’d like me to touch the tip of my nose, then reach out and touch the tip of her finger repeatedly.

Both sounds come from the same place. My phone, lying on the bed. The ducks are just the alarm. I’d set it when I decided to take a nap, thinking it might improve my mood or give me the energy to do something besides watch television. An hour, I’d said. The hour was up, and then some.

I didn’t care. Without opening my eyes my thumb finds the right spot on the screen. The ducks stop; the British woman and her eye exam resume.

“Get up.”

The voice isn’t unexpected. It also doesn’t matter. I know if I look to the doorway, where it had come from, the owner of the voice wouldn’t be there, but I can picture him anyway: tall, pallid, thick mop of black hair, round glasses. A cigarette dangling from the corner of a scowling mouth, a tablet or laptop under one arm, and a camera in his other hand. Looking pissed because he had places to go, things to do, problems to solve.

“Don’t listen to him. Stay here. It’s better this way.”

That voice is more familiar. It’s comforting. Like the first, I know the owner isn’t actually there, but can picture him, too. Lying there with the covers pulled over his head, eyes closed, phone on his chest, listening to the British woman and ignoring the ticking of an internal clock as it wasted away. Seconds, minutes, hours, they didn’t matter to him, and he told me it shouldn’t matter to me, either.

I know them both very well. After all, they were me. The sleepy one was the one I listened to the most, though. No matter how much the angry, anxious one yelled – and he could yell plenty, something I envied about him – I could turn his volume down to nothing, listen to the tired one, and just stay here. I might feel bad about it later, and it might make the other one angrier later, but it doesn’t matter. I know if I stay here long enough, soon I can stay forever, and then it’ll all be darkness and soothing voices. No more shouting. No more fighting. No more pain.

“I said. Get. The. Fuck. Up.”

My eyes shoot open, and something is different. I can tell it’s been a while since they last had anything to say; my sense of time is broken, but not completely gone. But that’s not the problem. Time skips like that at the norm these days.

The problem is that he’s straddling me, his face inches from mine, teeth – the few he has left, anyway – bared at me, ash from his cigarette dropping onto my forehead. Somehow that detail, feeling the little flakes drift down from the glowing red eye of his cigarette and tickle their way across my forehead, my check, into the crease of my neck and give me the shivers like the thought of a bug crawling across me, is what convinces me this is real. Somehow, some way, he’s real, and he’s tired of putting up with my shit.

The camera and tablet aren’t with him; I imagine they’re still sitting by the doorway, carefully laid aside so they wouldn’t be damaged. He – we – always cared more for our things than ourselves. But everything else is the same; the Coyotes hoodie, the split left knee of his jeans, the jingling of his keys against the lighter and aspirator in his pocket, the dangling tail of the My Little Pony lanyard hanging loose and flopping as his lays hands on my shoulders and shakes me.

My head slams into the headboard, creating a white flash across my vision. When it clears, he’s still there, lips curled and eyes slitted in the same expression I’d seen in the mirror a hundred times before I took nails to flesh and clawed out a chunk of my own arm or my back.

“Go ‘way. Lemme ‘alone.” That was Sleepy. I don’t look. I’m afraid to look. It’s bad enough seeing one version of myself looking ready to kill me; I don’t want to confirm the physical reality of a third. Angry doesn’t have those problems. His head snaps to the left, he lets go of one of my shoulders, and a moment later I hear what sounds like a thundercrack and a mewl of pain. Blood begins to trickle from the side of my mouth, and Angry’s, and why not? What happens to one of us happens to all of us.

“You shut the fuck up. Christ. I’m trying to save us, here.”

Despite the rage and his actions, there’s a note of sincerity in his voice, curious but harsh care that somehow makes it worse. His attention comes back to me, locking eyes. His left hand rummages in his pocket for a moment and comes up full of pills. I know them well. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, steroids, cough suppressants. The things that keep me – us – alive and well. At least as well as we get, anyway.

His face doesn’t change from the bizarre mixture of care and hate as he hooks the index finger of his left hand into my mouth and forces it open. I try to talk, to yell at him to stop, but nothing comes out. He shoves the pills into my mouth, then clamps his hand over my lips and pinches my nose shut with the other hand. I don’t have a choice; I swallow.

“Good. Now get up. And don’t make me do it again.”

I blink, and he’s gone. For now. I glance down at the bed, and see three dents in it; one to either side of me, circular. Knees. To my side, a larger oblong one. The shape of a body.

That’s it. That’s enough. For today. The taste of the pills – the steroids, especially – is still on my tongue, stinging and rancid, and there wasn’t anything that would get rid of it except for chugging a soda and taking a hard drag on my vape box. The taste was shit, but it worked great as a motivator… once I had it in my mouth, anyway.

Time to get up. No more sleeping in.

KA Spiral no signature


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