I was always a sleeper. That's what my mom says, that she never had trouble putting me down as a toddler, or even as a kid - I'd just hop into bed and curl up like a little snail. So it's no surprise that I can look back on my years as an adult and see the same small projects sitting long unfinished, the same neat relationships taking such faltering, odd steps. The day everything changed, I was the same. I woke up late, fell out of my covers in a fit of private pique. I got to the street and saw the sky streaked with smoke. I returned home and climbed back into bed.
At some point, Evan climbed in beside me. I don't remember when. He presses next to me when I allow him, when his skin's not too rubbery, when his breathing's not too raspy. There was a spell - maybe a few hours, maybe a number of days - when I kicked him out, sent him to the futon in the front room. I stretched my legs in a luxuriously wide perimeter, the spokes of a wheel. My fingers hooked the sides of the bed. But at some point I realized he was right there beside me, again, absently stroking the top of my head. It was okay. I noted his presence, and went back to sleep.
If you want to know how I see my life, I'll tell you this: I see the different shades of sky visible from the small window above my bed, from milky white to an inky blue pierced by the neighbor's backyard security light. I'll also tell you that I see my life in dreams, floating roads that I never get tired walking down, clusters of people who don't seek or strain or worry. Sometimes, rarely, I see balls of flame the shape of thistles, and ragged beggars crying. After these dreams I wake up. I steady my rapidly beating heart; I am alert to the ticking sounds of the house around me. I wait, very still, until my muscles soften. I sleep.
I had a job once. It was because of the job that I had to get up on that day. It seemed like such an insult to have to leave my bed, to have to put myself into the ridiculously capricious weather. For a while I was working. Then I quit. Then I was thinking that I should be working at least a little bit, and then I was just sleeping.
Evan's a good man. I wish I could tell you where I found him. Or where he found me. It's sort of an impossibility, him finding me, or the other way around. And yet it happened. It's amazing what a species manages in order to continue. But don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that we ever do more than sleep, I guess we're just there, centimeters apart, sometimes close as twins in a split zygote, ready to do it if the fancy ever takes us.
Sunshine is great sleeping weather. It goes without saying that rain is conducive to the richest of naps. Thunderstorms electrify my skin as my slumber continues, the hint of peril quickening my dreams in a sexual sort of fury. We don't answer the phone at all. My mother is the only one who calls, anyway, besides the landlord.
"Sweetie?" comes my mother's voice through the answering machine speaker. "Sweetie, wake up. I know you're there. I haven't talked to you for weeks. Pick up the phone."
I haven't paid the rent. That's why the landlord calls. Just as often, the landlord pounds on the door. The first time he let himself in with his key, he stumbled into my bedroom, saw Evan and I in bed, and stumbled back out, embarrassed. Some time later, he comes back, and this time he's prepared. "Hey! This is my property, and you are responsible for payment of the rent if you'd like to continue staying here. Hey! Hey! Do you hear me? I'll get the marshal down here, don't think I won't!"
And I guess it's a product of my sleep-sodden days that it seems like the very next minute, the very next time my eyes flick open, that a group of men are hauling the clothes from my closet, and there's the sound of cloth swooshing into piles in front of the house, and the sound of wood clattering against the pavement. I fall back asleep, and I wake up in the arms of one of the men. He looks at me with an expression that is not unkind, so I smile back at him as he tucks me into a pile of my own clothes.
Now I'm on a cot. The walls are utterly bare. In the corner, just behind me, is a small high window. Through it I can see a rectangle of the city's star-stripped sky. I make note, and with a sigh of recognition, shut my eyes.
About the author:
Shauna McKenna is a morning person.