I can only get comfortable four hours past midnight. Only then, do my glasses get heavy on my nose, do the words I write have meaning, does the smell of my orange room relax enough to be cozy. Only then- is everything still, is everything alive. It is four past midnight and I am alive.
This is my hour. There is no time, no effort, just existence. There is my laptop in front of me, the cracked door adjacent to me, and the dim orange glow of my four walls. There are both of my chins, the two that subsist when I bend my head just right; that remind me of my size, of my imperfection, my abnormality, of my life. If I bend my head just a little bit further from here- let go just a little bit more- I find my tired, weighted eyes looking down my V-neck and seeing my settled cleavage valley. The view is average, normal, perfectly so. These are the steepest augmentations and deepest depressions of my existence.
There is my body. There is the moonlight. There is a word on a page, a page on a screen and a screen on my laptop. There are three blankets that rise halfway up my back- pink flowers, blue circles and green plaid. There are the clothes that dirty my floor. There is my stomach-that dictates my love of this position because it feels flat when I lay still for writing this late. There are the springs from my mattress too, and they push against the fabric that covers them and pushes against skin which pushes against the muscle which pushes against the bone of me. I picture them, tight, thin and copper, I envy them.
I bend into the springs to hear them talk to me. I press my flesh into them- and they creak. And then the door creaks too, because my sister doesn’t knock. She comes in. Walks over the clothes, makes no comment, (clutter doesn’t matter). I ask her if she is then tell her I am just writing. She shakes her head because she can’t talk when it’s my hour- because voices connect to time which disconnects the oblivious peace of my space to just exist. She can come in, she can experience, but she can’t break the silence. Here, only the creaks of furniture can speak to me.
I close the screen on my computer. I don’t look at the words I’ve written or remember what they’re about, it doesn’t matter. I’ve done enough, it’s late enough. Someone has noticed- has come in and made it okay for me to give in to being tired. Her presence means I too deserve the euphoria that ensues from the peaceful thoughtlessness of falling asleep. I have gotten through all the agony of being alone, and now I have only to make a couple of sacrifices for the security of being next to someone. I pull the sleeves down on my v-neck, pull up the collar and turn on my side. I remove the pink flowers from my cocoon of blankets to give her, my blue circles are now to share, and I wrap green plaid tighter. I am no longer alone.
My own forearms are sticky on the fabric of my sleeves- and it feels like magic to warm the cotton; to make it one with me. I move over- sweaty and mentally pushed, in my down pulled-down sleeves, and I let her lay next to me on her side. We both know that soon we will need be up and ready for breakfast. Soon mother will come in and greet us and the cat will jump off the bed. Then my mascara will fall and the sun will rise.
But right here, right now, it’s warm- and I’m not alone anymore, and I’m tired, and I can close my eyes. When my eyes are closed no one has to see me and my smears of makeup- and it’s okay. I wrote some and lived some while it was still night, and it was my time, but now it’s our time and I’m still not obligated to the awake.
I have said goodnight to everyone and I don’t have to worry about greetings for a while. I don’t have to be alone either, and it feels like I could lay here and lifetimes could go by. I could listen to her breathing next to me, smell her shampoo- my shampoo- and I can test my existence here. See how long my sister, my mother, the pre-set alarm on my phone, his “goodmornings”, the sun and the moon, and I myself will let me be here on my side-where my stomach isn’t flat, where I’m not made-up and where I am ugly. I can be awake to the bliss of sleepiness but so asleep to the imperfections of my existence. I wonder how long I can sit here wrapped tight in green plaid and covered in blue circles. I wonder how long I can only have to be- alive.
Just alive, not doing- and allowed to just be. She takes away the guilt I feel when it comes time to say goodnight to the words, the light, the responsibilities, the insecurities I cling to in every hour intended for living. I don’t need eat, drink, move, or to think, because I’m so tranquil. life feels optimistic, warm, tucked in and cuddled - and excusable.
Then I hear her press her nose into the creases formed by the valley between two adjacent pillows. Pillows that could cushion and support so much, sufficient for so many people, but not usually taken advantage of. Usually it’s just me- me and my empty stomach, dry mouth, and sweaty-wet salty, skin under those three blankets. And I lull and cradle all the pillows that long to hold heads, feel hair, of bodies other than my own. My sleepy lips smile for the pillows and I give them space to be appreciated by someone new. I nuzzle to just where it is perfect, below her face, pushed over to the wall. I can still hear her breathing, but I have the wall to myself. The orange boundary straightens and chills my back. When I am in my space; pushed closed to her space, the wall reminds me how chilling it can be when security and independence meet.
I am me next to her, given the ways we are the same. But we differ in that her body appears so thin on its side. her body isn’t thin though, she eats enough to double that figure, and she’s so sleepy all the time, cause she’s run on McDonalds. I can smell the plaque on her nighttime teeth- and I’m jealous. I too ate when it was yesterday. She makes living, thriving, okay like that-natural and healthy. It is okay that soon I can have breakfast with her there, okay that soon the coffee will be made and I’ll get out of bed and be moving and being- but I will feel less alive, less awake, less put together, conscious. I’ll have all my tangibles when the sun comes up, but I know it’ll all feel so much less real. But not yet- because right now, I’m taking every second and stretching it till it feels like a moment, feels like a minute, hour, day, week, year- and I’m warm for that long. Alive on an empty stomach and empty mind, knowing what empty is- only because I am adjacent to full.
Full life lies next to me. She smells like me, sweats, eats, sleeps, loves, feels, like me. Does she have double chins that peak in bad positions? Does she check her cleavage for normality like me? Does it matter anywhere other than right here, under the orange glow? Does she wake up and visit me because she thinks I am comfortable? Or am I only comfortable because she is there? Am I not normal enough to get warm alone? Must someone share my pillows for me to feel safe? Do I need her? Are we the same? How much similarity does our blood insist? I lie next to her and I know that these three blankets are warmest when I share them. And I know that she is in pink flowers, and I am in green plaid, and I know we seem different, but we share blue circles. And we know those messes as well as we know our bodies and our blood.
I need not be ashamed of the colors, of the lack of symmetry, of the clothes on the floor. This is honesty, and there is no place in that orange glow for normality and perfection. It doesn’t matter what I wrote last night- or if my laptop has fallen on the floor, or if the smell of every part of warm female body fills the room. I am content and tired, and the warm breathing of life; a breathing stronger than the breathing of existence matters- but that’s all.
In my room before the day breaks, i consider what I know the events of morning will smother, so I may properly appreciate their sinking existence. Soon Mother will come in; and the cat will jump off the bed and love her more than he loves me. The light will pour in and the years I have made of sleep-euphoric seconds will evaporate. Mother will chuckle with smiling lips and say “What are you silly girls doing?” and we will get up; go to breakfast. And I’ll want to cry and it won’t make sense to my mother, my sister, or my cat.
I accept that no one will feel my silence and starvation, and no one will know this magic because they all slept away their nights. I’m tired too, I need all the blankets, security, and warmth I can take- because I am so drained and sore. The bitter frostbite of independence is thwarted by sharing the blue circles, but still, i anticipate a chill.
While I brace myself for morning, I can feel the sun coming up. I wish that it could come quietly and quickly into my room like my sister does. I wish the sun could respect my half-awake, my pushed sense of security. But I know: it’s the sunrise, that lets my little euphoria-my simple existence, exist. I lay in bed with my chilly back against the wall and my sweaty hair against my pillow- and envision the morning coming behind my closed eyelids. I don’t dare open my eyes to see, and lose this blissful sleepiness. I don’t dare sleep. I don’t dare rise to live knowing I wasted perfectly warm comfort not knowing how comfortable imperfection can be when shared.
Everyone is barely asleep here in this instant- and I’ve grown too tired to smell the coffee beans rise and hear mother clear her throat as she drags up the stairs. I still have a couple of minutes where it is dark. I get to be comfortable and I don’t have to worry or stir for just a little bit longer. And I’m not alone, so I can’t die. I can’t let my life, that turned to existence, turned to a comfortable lack of vigor, starve me.
I am in the weakness before the strength. My favorite part. The only part where no one is allowed to ask anything of me. Where it is okay to be right where I am, only a little bit sustained and feeling content. Only here, in this weakness can I embrace being alive without needing to live, and thus feel what it is to exist. Where It is okay to know I’m not dead, if only because I have someone next to me to remind me to breathe.
For my last couple of minutes in existence before sunrise, I just breathe. I don’t count my chins or see my stomach and I know no one else does- no one is judging me. And I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable and we’re warm. I hope that everyone knows this feeling. I hope to everyone this contentment is normal.
Then I hear them, footsteps on the stairs. I sink my head below the green plaid to extend my euphoria as long as possible. I anticipate everything in that stillness as my last minute becomes but a second, a moment. I can hear the coffee beans scream good morning as they are ground, I see my mother check her teeth in the bathroom mirror. I feel my cat lift his head as he too anticipates it all. Last, I feel the hunger that punches my gut and means I am ready to live. I sigh and I hold my breath-
I wait for the door to creak. I wait for my mother to clear her throat. I wait for my cat to abandon me. I wait. I exhale and stretch flat against the springs of my mattress- and they creak a coppery, “goodbye” to me, waking my sister. They are the first and last voice of my favorite time.
And the laptop on the floor lets too much light in when the door opens, and I’m forced to see faces. They smile and giggle and rise and shine under the orange glow. I can’t bear to tell them what they’ve taken for granted- what they’ve cut short. Instead I hurdle forward- force my chin to straighten, my stomach to quiet and my lips to smile. I feed the starvation in me that I so love and hate. It’s breakfast time at home, and for life, I am hungry.