Since I am out of town for a few days, I'm interrupting our normally scheduled chapter of Contemporaries with something a little different. This is a small introduction to a piece I had been working on last year about a woman who has a condition which causes here to hyper-focus on her senses, but seem a bit off in the real world.
I am awake at 6:01 AM. I feel the weak morning sun gently warming my left arm. My right ear is pressed against a firm, silky pillow. I listen to my heartbeat echo slowly, one-an-two-an-three. At 6:03 AM my eyes slowly open. I blink three times, feeling the softness of my lashes brush my skin and the stiffness of sleep in my movements.
I smile as I glimpse the familiar mint green wall. I have repainted it several times, but always the same lightest green to wake up to in the morning. The semi-sheer curtains allow the warmth of the summer sun to wake me softly, like a baby’s cheek brushing against my skin.
I twist my legs carefully to the left, keeping my upper body still, feeling my spine shift vertebrae by vertebrae. I twist my legs back to the right, gently moving my upper body to the left, feeling the shift crinkle my skin and the bones gently shifting in my body. I straighten and point my toes, shrugging my shoulders upward, and stretching the last vestiges of black, silent night into the darkness.
I sleep a dreamless sleep. I do not use alarms or wake-up calls. I have tuned my body relentlessly. I know when I am going to wake up before I go to sleep. I sleep deeply, at least in the comfort of my own home. I don’t awaken to the sounds of dogs barking or babies crying or someone softly calling my name. When I sleep, I am aware of nothing. When I am awake I am aware of everything.
When would-be comforters tell me the dead are only asleep, this is no comfort to me. For me, sleep is merely emptiness. Eternal slumber, the silence itself, would be either the deepest hell or the sweetest heaven for me. I haven’t yet decided which.
Now I step carefully out of bed, my bare feet melting into the soft carpet beside my bed. It took me three years to find the perfect bedroom carpet. I wiggle my toes and carefully stretch my ankles and calves. I finally turn away from the sun, padding softly towards the bathroom.
The cool tile energizes me, and I turn on the water so it will warm up. As I wait, I look at myself in the mirror. Shiny, healthy brown hair, shoulder-length. Pale, almost translucent skin, a few freckles from summer sun across my nose, and a tiny mole next to my right ear.
I never feel like I recognize myself in a mirror. I stop on the streets sometimes to wonder at the reflection in a glass window.
Nine years old, I lie down in the grass, feeling the individual blades of grass against my skin. Resisting the urge to itch, I gradually focus myself, feeling only the coolness of the grass and the slight dampness of the morning’s dew.
“Annabelle!” I can hear my mother screeching from the other side of the house.
The slightly obese woman rumbles around the corner, and I find my muscles tensing. I force myself to relax one body part at a time until.…
“Annabelle.” At least she no longer needs to screech now that she’s standing right above me. “Your little friend Jessica has been wandering around my house for hours.”
Actually it has been exactly 12 minutes, not that I expect this creature to understand.
“She said that you don’t want to play with her anymore. Now I know that we’ve talked about this, and we are all in agreement that you must have friends your own age.”
By 'we', she means herself and the current school-assigned counselor. I have never agreed to such nonsense. Besides, the phrase ‘your own age’ makes it seem like I have other friends who are not my own age.
I shake the memory away; I have a full day. I don’t need to deal with my childhood this morning. I can still see that woman’s face mirrored in my own. My body and face are slender, but I see her in the shadows and outlines of my face. And worst of all, I see her in my eyes. Like she’s waiting there for something to break inside of me, and she’ll come pouring out when I least expect it.