Frightened By The Crowd

The room is blue and chilly with light filtering in from the window.  Under the blankets it might be a little too hot, so one leg pokes out from beneath the covers.  Maybe sleeping on my stomach would be a better idea.  Carefully and quietly, I shift.  First, roll onto your side and pull you leg in.  My partner stirs only a little.  Now slide onto your belly and push and haul you legs into a more comfortable prone position.  Is that better?

It kind of is, I suppose.  I don’t want to open my eyes in case I scare off whatever brings sleep, the Sandman or a stork or some made-up thing.  I can feel the day’s events soaked into my arms and legs, pooling in the hollow of my chest.  The day is damp weight now that the sun has gone down and it has dragged me to bed.  But maybe not to sleep.  Funny how you can be exhausted yet nowhere near sleepy.

Damn it.  You’re thinking.  You’ll never get to sleep now.

The room is still blue and chilly.  Since I’ve lain down, it’s become noisy.  My mind has been flicking through its channels.  I can see pretty well in the dark.  It takes about twenty minutes for the chemical that allows night vision to build up in the human eye; it bleaches out in daytime levels of light.  Somehow, I’ve filled it up with everything I can think of.  On a pile of laundry sit papers to be written or edited or passed in.  A few people I need to call in the morning are over by the chest of drawers, chatting to themselves as quiet as they can.  The garbage that needs to be put out is at the foot of the bed.  My student loan is pasted to the ceiling.  Next to a framed picture are tacked the schematics outlining the best way to armour a tiger.

My partner ignores all this.  She sleeps.  Her breaths short, almost noiseless.  Without waking, she’ll scratch her nose. Her hand moves fast.  She rolls over, jostling me ever so slightly.  I can’t believe that she has the gall to lay there and just sleep.  Doesn’t she know that I’ve been here with my eyes open for the past hour?  Doesn’t she knowhowjealousofherIam?!  LookathersleepingIcan’tbelieveitIamsoangrywhycan’tIsleep?Pleaseletmesleep.

I’m sorry.  That’s not fair.  She has to work in the morning.  I should get up now.  There’s no point being here.  I creep out of bed and down the hall, one hand on the wall to find the door jam.  In the kitchen, the window filters the light so that it slashes the floor.  The light switch is connected to my eyes; when I flick it on, they close.  Squinting, I sit down.

The couch is rough on my back.  The couch is a throw back to a throw back.  It’s carrot orange with stripes of bread beige, chocolate brown, and mustard yellow.  It smells old but not off putting.  I haul a blanket over me and turn on the TV.  It fills the room with images, none of which capture my attention.  I have no idea why we pay for cable.  I resist opening my computer, it’ll draw me in and keep me awake longer.  Why not go to the kitchen and get a glass of water?

Still not sleepy?  Tired, to be sure, but not sleepy.  Arms and legs still weigh hundreds of pounds each.  You’re almost sure you can hear your body ache and groan.  You sound like the hull of an old wooden ship.  It’s a nice night, go for a stroll.  That always clears your mind.  Don’t take your ipod.  That’s for shutting things out.  You want to let the night in to wear you out.  You’ve been with yourself too much tonight, and he won’t let you go back to sleep.  Listen to me.

The cold makes eyes glassy and smooth.  Snow is falling from the black, flakes like minuscule negatives of the sky sweeping over the streets.  Tiny shavings of ivory fluttering down, impossibly thin and light.  One touches my wrist and disappears and can hardly be said to have been there at all.  It’s something to distract me from the crowd gathering in my bed room.  Doctor’s appointments are talking to a floor in need of sweeping.  The most members of the Travelling Wilburry’s are trying to figure out who they forgot.  Grocery lists are snuggling with a banjo which needs a set up.  My mother says I never call.

The street is cluttered too.  Someone has shovelled snow from the drive onto the road, hoping that the waning afternoon sun would melt it all.  Sol did most of the work, but it knocked off to bed a while ago.  A macadone of coffee cups, broken glass, pop cans, pizza boxes, and Piper’s flyers are being obscured by the frozen night.  I turn over a pile of debris with my boot: more coffee cups, a smashed beer bottle, a syringe.  I’m surprised and try to think of plausible reasons that it would be there.  I roll the syringe into a drain with my toe.  It lands in water.  I know it’s not environmentally ideal, but down there is better than up here on the black top.  Kids play on this street.  I don’t think they mind though, but they shouldn’t have to run among needles and detritus.

I turn around to slouch toward my home and drag myself in the door.  I slide into bed.  The weight has reached my back and it compels me into the warmth of sleep.  The last thing I remember is my partner saying that I feel cold.  She’s right, the softer parts of me have retained the night’s chill.  Her mouth opens once to speak whole sentences.  Night steals the ends of her words.

“You’re cold.”

“I was outside.”

“Oh.”

“I love you.”

“Yup.”

Morning is close.

My mornings are peaceful.  My bedmate has already left to go to work.  Like me, she’s an expert at slipping away unnoticed.  My room seems sparse in the early sun.  Clutter has evaporated like snowflakes on bare skin.  However, the weight in me has not been lifted.  I trudge into the washroom crooked as a question mark and look myself over in the mirror.  Somewhere between last night and this morning, someone blackened my eyes for me.  Need to thank them once I find them.  I look wretched so I wash my face in the coldest water.  That reduces the shadow under my eyes and freshens me.  I brush my teeth.  Coffee is the next necessity for me to function passably with the rest of the human population.

I have tried to quit coffee several times.  Each time I am punished with full-head pains.  It’s like all my grey matter is wondering where the black liquid is and it rattles the whites of my eyes to get it.  It’s rude and unruly and I’ve given up on ever being free from coffee.  Though I’m sure I’ll try again.  The idea is to never abandon it altogether but to get to a level where it is as good as the first time.  Chase the first time.  Language of a junkie, to be sure.

I cheer on my coffee pot, a technique I learnt from a friend some time ago.  The smell is outstanding so early.  It’s one of the few odours that seems to have a texture for me.  There are ups and downs and crags for delicious flavour to hide.  I taste it before it is ever brewed. I stopped using paper filters sometime ago.  Now I have a golden mesh insert.  It doesn’t absorb oils and makes the coffee richer. Also, I use a pinch of salt to knock out the bitterness.

While I’m waiting, I consider the logistics of dealing with the crowd that was in my bedroom last night.  I’ll use paper and a pen and scribble what I need to do.  Most times I lose the paper and overlook the things I’ve written.

Once the coffee is ready, I recklessly pour it in the mug, sans milk or sugar and sip it until it is cool enough to chug. On tops of the black liquid is a thin iridescent film.  Maybe the sky is blue, but most likely it will be grey.  Regardless, it’s lighter than last night.

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