He bent farther and farther over the keyboard, his eyelids growing heavier and heavier as the hour grew later. The question of a life/work/study balance was moot in this case; his thirst for knowledge was near parasitic with the physical toll it took on him.
Through the echoing absurdities of internet rabbit-holes he searched, the long night growing longer and longer with every hot breath he took. The pounding rhythm of his heart beat in his ears like a drum until he felt that the inescapable sound would drive him mad.
A cool hand crept across his shoulder and down his chest; he jumped nearly from his chair.
“Come to bed, darling. Google will still be here tomorrow,” she said, softly closing his laptop and taking his hand to draw him up from his seat.
He nodded, the splinter of sense that she’d driven into him digging deeper until he felt more like himself again, and realized that it was well past time to join her in their bed.
She leaned down to kiss him, and the softness of her lips was enough to make up his mind.
My eyes burn; I haven’t been sleeping lately. But the sound of the rain on the roof soothes me.
The alarm still goes off at the regular time, but I barely notice it anymore. It’s just another background noise that would be annoying if I were alert enough to focus on it. But I’m not, so it buzzes on, unhindered. It turns itself off after an hour. That’s why I bought it.
I haven’t been to work in weeks.
I sit on the couch watching the blank screen of my television. I stopped paying the cable bill last year because nothing on was more interesting then anything they offered. The lifelessness of the screen sucks me in.
But sometimes I watch the white noise.
The only reason I open my front door anymore is my dog. I get her food delivered, and I bring it in at night when no one else is out to see me. I can feel them watching now, like a sunburn on my exposed skin. So I avoid people. It’s fine, really. I don’t need anyone.
Maybe the thunderstorm is in my head after all. I look out the window and the street is dry, and the dandelions still bear their fluff.
I could have sworn I heard the raindrops and thunder.
There’s no shortage of depravity in the world. I’ve killed in a cabin; I’ve killed in a castle. Ive killed in everything in between. I’ve never left a fingerprint, or so much as a broken blade of grass to mark my presence.
I leave my body behind to inhabit the mind of a killer. Every. Single. Night.
Believe me, I would stop if I could. My life is agony.
I remember when I was six or seven, my parents watched the local news every night after dinner. The first night of my problem, the big story was of a missing little girl just my age.
A few years ago I dug around until I found the story. At least, I believe it to be the same story; who can truly differentiate fact from fiction at that tender age?
I seem to remember that evening so clearly: missing, presumed dead in the voice of the newscaster, my parents holding hands on the couch. I woke screaming four times that night. Each time, one or both of my parents rushed to comfort me, smoothing my hair down and whispering platitudes, always a variation on the same theme. She was okay. There was no murder. The murdered girl was alive and well.
They didn’t understand, and I couldn’t explain then that it wasn’t that she was gone, it wasn’t that she was murdered, it wasn’t that I feared the same fate.
It was that, somehow, I had killed her.
I know. It’s delusional. It’s fantastical. It’s absolutely batshit crazy. But it’s the truth.
I wasn’t sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night bent on murder. I wasn’t strategically placing stuffed animals under the comforter on my twin bed to trick my parents into believing I was sleeping soundly. I wasn’t physically going anywhere.
At first it only happened once in a blue moon, and my parents chalked it up to plain old night terrors. Scary, but not unheard of. By the time I reached puberty, it was happening weekly, but I had learned to keep quieter, and they didn’t know it was so bad. I dropped out of college when it became a nightly occurrence, and I killed a classmate.
I talked to a doctor, I talked to a specialist. I talked to a therapist, a counselor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a neurologist, a yogi, an acupuncturist. Each assigned me his special pill or potion or ritual, and nothing changed. You have to want to get better, they all told me, repeating it over and over until I would have been trapped in an echo chamber of those seven little words, had I not already been trapped in this chamber of misery.
Worst of all, there’s nothing I can do about the murders. I have no control; I merely witness. So seldom do killers look at their own identification while in the midst of a murder, I can’t even identify them to tip off police.
And so I wait. I wait for the night when the victim I see is myself. And I pray that I die with me, instead of traveling forever from serial killer to hitman to child abuser, with no voice to scream.
Perhaps I should participate in some writing challenges to get back into the swing of things: here are 1,000 words.
I do an exercise every night, just before I get cozied up in bed. I make a list of how my day went, according to the story I find in my head. I retrace all the steps my mind kept track of, during all my waking hours–then I compare the journey to the evidence I find on my camera.
Not once have the two matched up.
I wouldn’t be able to guess where I go or what I really do if I didn’t have my itchy shutter finger.
That doesn’t make sense at all, does it? It is hard for me to explain properly the first time around.
No; it’s only hard when I make it hard. I sleepwalk through life.
My brain doesn’t work right. I see just fine; I hear, smell, taste and touch just fine and dandy. But somewhere along the way, everything gets lost in translation. If I met you today, I won’t know you tomorrow. To me, you’d be someone else, and nothing about you would be the same.
I don’t understand how I know this. I just do. Or maybe I don’t. That’s the funny thing. Maybe I do sleep all day, and someone else comes in and takes my camera and shoots all this marvelous world outside my apartment, only to return my camera to the same spot beside my bed each evening, just in time for me to wake and go through this routine.
I don’t know.
Today I write down my list, and it includes a trip to a park, with a bench, a bag of stale bread, and pigeons flocking about my feet. There’s a bowl of soup I had for lunch, or dinner, or breakfast, even. There’s shopping in a massive department store, and an endless parade of evening gowns for an event I don’t remember planning to attend. There’s a lake, and rowing out to the center to lie down and gaze at the clouds slowly passing me by.
As I boot up my laptop and plug my camera in I have to wonder if today is the day it all syncs up.
It’s not today.
There are seventeen shots of an elevator’s panel of buttons, missing thirteen, with a different floor selected in each. My apartment building doesn’t have an elevator, with or without a thirteenth button.
There are feet, possibly my own, probably my own, unless I handed off my camera, but I don’t own any red sneakers. I check by my door just in case I picked some up today, but no.
There is chain link, miles of it, it seems, keeping in a wild herd of herb gardens. Somehow that does make sense to me. If I owned an herb garden, I wouldn’t want it to escape. I would want it to always stay where I left it, and fencing it in seems pretty sensible. I don’t think many others have my problem, though. Everyone else usually puts up fences to keep others out.
Now a brick. Not a wall or a pile, simply the one brick, over and over, nearly thirty shots. I don’t know what’s so special about this one brick that I needed so desperately to capture its soul, but there we are. Captured. I hope it’s not a superstitious brick, that one day it will still have a chance to get into brick heaven. I hope bricks go by different rules than we do.
A bagel. No soup. It must have been filling enough. I’m not hungry.
All of those, but this one is the only one that truly speaks to me. The girl on the carousel.
I know she isn’t lonely. I know she’s content. I can feel it, looking at her now, looking at her for the first time. She’s waiting for someone.
It wasn’t me; there’s no recognition on her face. There isn’t even acknowledgement. Was I really there at all? Did I breathe the same air she did, as she patiently kicked her feet in her Hello Kitty blue jeans?
I stop, and look at my fingernails. A tiny bright chip of paint stares back at me from my middle finger. A Tigger orange chip of paint.
I had to have been there. Did I spin with her or did I only push as she laughed and threw her head back to watch the sky spin above her?
I think to myself how I have to save this proof that I exist. I’ll get a piece of tape, collect this specimen that shows I touched the carousel, and secure it away somewhere safe.
By the time I find the tape, the chip of paint is nowhere to be found. It’s as lost as I am. There’s no proof that it ever existed.
There’s no proof that I am anyone.
I don’t need to save today’s photos. There’s nothing here to tell my story. There never is. Red shoes, herbs in an elevator carousel. That isn’t me.
I’m no one. I’m nothing. I’m a fresh blank slate each day, waiting to be scribbled on.
I don’t know when the scribbles will resolve into words. That’s okay. No one else knows either. Maybe I’m not that different after all. Or maybe I’m the only one who’s the same.