what’s wrong? | a short story

She was thinking that maybe her bed wasn’t the right place for her to be right now and yet she was exhausted and just wanted to fall asleep. Something wouldn’t let her. She tried to synchronise her breathing with that of her partner. But he was not her. She considered him a part of her, but her body was her own. Her body was missing something. Her body refused to sleep. A feeling didn’t leave the covers. A feeling was attached to her, to her restlessness, to this very bed, she felt as if she had to do something, be somewhere else, but she didn’t know why, this was one of her favourite places after all, their bed. Her body seemed to know something and it didn’t feel good, it seemed beyond her control and yet it tried to convey something to her, but it lacked language and she lacked imagination.

She stared at the ceiling, aware of every piece of bone in her spine weighing down the mattress that had taken on her shape. Lights from neighbours in opposite buildings appeared misshapen in their bedroom, disappeared and reappeared in different corners, around the furniture, moving along like disoriented flies in the middle of the night. She opened the window so that the outside world could come back in and entertain her and comfort her, telling her that she wasn’t the only one who was wide awake, that the world was still going on with her in her bed. She put her hand on her partner’s arm without holding on too tight.

He sounded far away, in a land unoccupied by her, and she wished to enter hers as well and breathe so deeply. She folded her hands on her stomach despite always feeling weird when she did that, but it was comfortable, she felt protected that way. She became very aware of her ribcage, the air entering it, the air exiting it, there was a lot going on inside her even if she wasn’t thinking about it or participating, things were always going on. She was alive, but something wasn’t right. The feeling wandered through her body finding a spot of communication that couldn’t be misinterpreted, that could be understood in the first place. She felt the pressure to cry, but she’d feel silly if she didn’t have a reason.

She tried to make her peace with this night, to be honest, nights in general. Everything could feel very different went the world went dark, she could turn into a very distorted part of herself that rarely sees the light. It’s as if she’d come out of herself, crawling out of her reclined stretched-out body. Her face where her mouth is. And there’s the little girl she had been, the girl that had developed, not without a reason, an avid distrust of beds, a fear of incapacitation, of numbness.

She felt like a child at night when she couldn’t sleep, a child with nothing to cling to. But that wasn’t it tonight. The more pressure she put on herself the more awake she’d be. The wind burst into the room entangled in the curtains. She was in pain, but it was a pain without a name, with unknown origins, not quite graspable, but she was aware of its existence, but wasn’t sure how it belonged to her, how it found its way into their flat, into her body. The pain was there to stay, it was cocooned, budding, foreign, and it had invaded her without her consent. Then she remembered what her grandmother always used to say, when you’re afraid, you are not alone in it, take fear by the hand and then there’s two of you.

She can’t remember when or how, but she fell asleep at some point with her grandmother’s voice in the back of her head. The air rustled through the bedroom. A new day was in the making and it was cold. From the foetal position back on her back. Eyes closed. Asleep. She was dreaming. In pain. It had come closer. Nearer. The sun was yet to stir, the buildings were still engulfed in the waltzing shadows of grey clouds, the alarms wouldn’t ring for a little while. A gust of wind shut the window abruptly and when she opened her eyes to lock the window completely, she couldn’t move and she couldn’t breathe. Her son was looking straight at her from the ceiling. Her mouth was open, gasping for air. Her eyes looked as if she was screaming, but it was silent in the room. He was hovering, floating above her. Staring at her. Into her. It was him, her grown son who had moved out a while ago. But it wasn’t him anymore. He looked confused, misplaced, as if he needed to understand where he was, what he was, and the first thing that he could think of and wish for was to return to his parents, his mother who had been unable to fall asleep as he had been dying in an accident. His face was in tears, half-human, half-detached, but everything, he, was immaterial. The mother’s mouth started quivering, the pain had surfaced, overtaking her entire body, it had a name, it was her son’s name, and what it meant that she could see him, magnetised above her, surreal, unformed but recognisable by heart, the window cracked back open, the sucking wind, inhaling him back into a sphere that she wasn’t a part of, wasn’t of her making, beyond her control and imagination, the son left the ceiling blank and the mother’s heart broke in her chest. And when the telephone rang, urgently, painfully, as the sun started to pierce through the clouds and the alarms started to shriek, the father woke up, thunderstruck, and he looked grateful to be woken up and before he looked at her, he said in a chuckling exhale, God, what a nightmare I’ve had, I’d honestly rather get up now than go back to bed; who could that be?

My own drawing © Laura Gentile 2022 | Instagram: croque_melpomene

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