by Marc Lowe
This was his mantra as he laid his head on the pillow, stared up at the ceiling. The bottle of sleeping pills his doctor prescribed for him sat on the small night table across from the bed, beckoned to him, but he didn't pay the bottle any attention, ignored its almost enticing invitation, tried to put the idea of taking the pills completely out of his head, that crazy head of his which was overflowing with so many other thoughts that it was hard, hard not to think of the pills or of sleep. In order to sleep he would first have to stop thinking about sleep. This was the conundrum left for him to work through, to untangle for himself, and if he could only do so, if he could only figure out how not to think about sleep—or about the pills, or about the ten-thousand other things that kept him up at night tonight as on every other night, things like the couple next door whom he had overheard discussing a threesome with the man wearing the red turban on his head, or the eviction notice he had received from his cranky old landlord in the mail last week—who he was convinced had something against him for being both a foreigner and a professed bisexual—or his latest Art experiment, a shit and urine smeared canvas with the words Fuck the World carved into it with a stick, or the fact that, along with the sleeping pills, he had also been diagnosed with a rare form of schizophrenia—albeit, a "mild" form, according to his doctor—and was told that it would be in his best interest to check himself into the hospital for about a week or so, so that they could run more tests to determine what the best combination of medication would be, or—and there was much more, always more—that disturbing telephone call he had received from his mother the other day, who sounded as if she had finally lost her dementia-riddled mind....If he could somehow stop the thoughts from flowing like this, endlessly, then he wouldn't need the pills or the medications, wouldn't need to see the doctor anymore, if he could just sleep then he would be well-rested enough during the daytime to hold a steady job for once, and then he'd be able to pay his bills and maybe the landlord wouldn't hate him quite as much as he did now, and he’d be successful (but what was success anyway?) and would have enough time to paint and to promote his paintings the way they needed to be promoted so that people would finally begin to take his work—his Art—seriously, and then he could escape this shitty town, maybe invite the next-door neighbors along, since they were pretty cool (not to mention ‘sexually liberated’) and since they could (perhaps) help him to promote his Art, as he was sure a couple like that would really dig what he was doing, and then maybe he'd have enough money to put his Mom—who had lost her grasp of reality after Dad died of a metastasized liver—into a nursing home...
But he didn't want the sleeping pills, didn't want the drugs. Drugs were bad. They made one's head all fuzzy, and the drugs used for depression (phew!), now they were the worst. He knew this because his friend had been on P— for years and had told him (in great detail) how much it had dulled his mind, how it had made him lose his interest in sex for six and a half years—SIX AND A HALF YEARS!—no, fuck that, he wasn't going to take the medication. He wasn't going to take the pills, but he was going to sleep, he was going to fall asleep tonight if it killed him. He'd count sheep if he had to, onetwothreefourfive, and then the counting begins, yes he's watching them right now, watching them as they go up and over the fence and into the neighbors’ small yard, watching them go in through their unlocked front door and up the stairs to the master bedroom where the couple are lying in bed, lying in wait for someone or something, and he soon notices that there is a third person in the bed as well and that that third person is him, that he is there in the bed with them and that his painting is hanging on the wall above the bed, erect and proud, and when he peers into the mirror opposite the bed he reads dlroW eht kcuF, and before long he is tied up and blindfolded and beaten (with tender but firm strokes that make him cry out in his sleep) as the couple fuck each other the way he knows experts are supposed to fuck (he has always fantasized about a threesome), rivulets of sweat covering their bodies, the sheets, crawling up the walls as if captured on a roll of film that is now being played back for him in reverse, and then reversing again, flowing ever-so-slowly down from the ceiling onto the gelatinous red ball of flesh on the bed (they are experts in the Tantric art of yab-yum), and soon, very soon, the sounds dlroW eht kcuF have drifted into his ears, and he understands their meaning—it is as clear to him as if he were listening to an alarm bell—and the voices that chant these incantatory words inside his head are beautiful, they in fact resemble angelic voices, and forever hereafter (he realizes with a start) he will never, ever want to wake up from the dream, never want to wake up again, and so on subsequent nights (and eventually during the daytime as well) he will take the sleeping pills religiously, he'll take the goddamned sleeping pills so he doesn't ever have to wake up again to answer the phone, or to read the eviction notices that will continue to come in the mail, or to face himself—the tortured young artist nobody understands—in the mirror anymore but, nonetheless (of course) he still has his pride, his amour proper, and therefore he will never touch those other drugs, never give in to the temptation (temptation?), for he knows they are indeed bad and that they will kill his creativity and make him lazy, make him lose his interest in sex, make him boring and useless and dull. No, he'd rather be dead than take those kinds of pills, he’d much rather be dead than do that...
This is his mantra as he lays his head on the pillow, stares up at the ceiling. The bottle of sleeping pills his doctor prescribed for him sits on the small night table across from the bed. It is empty now.
About the author:
Marc Lowe currently resides in Hiroshima, Japan, where he writes whatever The Muse demands of him and teaches English to make ends meet. Marc’s work to date has appeared (or will appear) in The Beat, Girls With Insurance, Mad Hatters' Review, Pindeldyboz (see also "Fish"**), MonkeyBicycle (print) and Thieves Jargon. Visit his website at http://www.malo23.com for more information.