Prompt that I turned to in my writing book at 2am when I woke up from a bad dream and couldn’t get back to sleep:
What tortures you and awakens you at night?
Considering it’s 2:30am as I write this, because I had a horrible and irritating dream about filling out a check request form at work in the wrong way, and thus not being able to buy the youth grilled cheese sandwiches that the restaurant didn’t even have, and thus messing it all up, because I also didn’t have any of my own personal money to sacrifice to save my ass in this situation and satisfy the grilled cheese sandwich-hungry youth, because my landlord charged my account twice for rent this month so my bank account is -$650 (this is actually true). So I’m awake, and a bit tortured.
What’s harder than that, though, is why I can’t get back to sleep. It’s starting again. But unlike the anxious dreams, the thought of her eyes that keep me awake are a different kind of torture. The last eyes that did this to me were a deep shade of brown. Black, almost. These eyes are lighter, but with huge pupils that can at times also make them look black, almost. It’s not just her eyes that are keeping me awake, but it’s what I want to do with the mind and body connected to those eyes.
I hope this whole affair doesn’t ruin my writing.
Because I don’t want eyes to be all that I can write about. Can I be obsessed with—or tortured by—something and still write about other subjects?
It’s all in my head.
I imagine you lying in my bed at the beginning of something that might evolve into a you and me sort of thing, and you ask me to tell you a story, because you hate your body and it’s keeping you from falling asleep. I know what this feels like. So I mull over which story to tell you, because I want it to feel good on your skin. I want to skip the sad parts, but also not get too funny with it, because after all we are trying to get to sleep. Which is something we’ve both had a hard time with lately. Our minds keep us awake.
I want to tell you a story that’s kind and curious—full of wonder and calm. I also want it to be one of my stories, because after all, we are just starting to get to know one another, so if I’m going to tell you something, it needs to be good and it needs to be about me.
I choose the story about the forest I used to walk through alone when I was eight. The forest sat right next to my house in Colorado. As I’m lying there, holding the pillow I know is too small to be your body—and that doesn’t phase me at all because it could feel like a part of you, so I’ll go with that, and besides the color of the pillow case looks like the darker ring of brown that circles your pupils before jumping into the almost black—and I begin to rock you to sleep with words about space and nature and childhood independence. I tell you about the road that was more like a path, the rickety swing set with butt-piercing splinters, and big bumblebees. And in all of these details about rooms and yards and yucca plants and gardens and imagined tree houses, my mind suddenly recalls how the neighbors at the end of our long gravel driveway raised peacocks.
I’m more awake now than I meant to be when I started telling you—the you who doesn’t even know she’s here—about my forest. This peacock detail throws me off guard, because here I was telling you who’s really a pillow about my childhood, and now there’s this brilliantly colored exotic bird sitting in the middle of it, and it all feels so fantastical. As if it’s too much to be real, because now in my made-up conversations with you who’s not really here, I’m concerned with telling the facts. Suddenly I want to text my mom and ask her if our neighbors in Elizabeth did indeed raise peacocks. But it’s late, and what if my mother answers with, “What the hell are you talking about?” How could I fit that into my story for you? I wanted to tell you something that was comfortable and soothing, but now I have this bizarre story about exotic animals that just shouldn’t exist in small town Colorado.
But then again I did tell you the detail of finding the random bowling pin in the middle of my forest, so I guess the sensible lullaby was shot to hell long before I got to the peacock.
This story keeps us awake and giggling, and I kiss the soft pillow that is not the top of your head, and realize I’m torturing myself by imaging something I am only dreaming is there.
Because for a second the brown pillow and one way giggles actually feel more real and plausible than the peacock. But in my head, I know the peacock was most likely there, and I know for a fact that you are not here. This tortures me.