After four hours of forced sleep I stare at myself in the mirror. Eyes bulging froggily, hair hanging like straw from my scalp. Red dots around the eyes, burst capillaries from too many headstands. Punctuation marks dead-center, the freckles I always wanted. Why do you do so many headstands, he asks, and when I tell him that he spends too much of his life vertically he laughs. “But upside down is vertical too,” the smartass. Yes, but it is inverted, my infantile friend. Like a ketchup bottle. Ketchup? Oh, that he understands well.
Nascent To Do lists germinate under my pen between bites of apple. I sit at this desk every morning and count the minutes. I make an inventory of time. How long until I go to breakfast. How long until my morning penance. You are two minutes late, my friend, and yes it makes a difference. I have exactly 78 seconds to make a sandwich and storm toward the library gobbling it up. How long is this going to take, Professor? The clock on the wall defies me with smug delay while my watch insists for accurate time, obnoxiously. How long, how long.
My hair is tangled in my watch and I materialize into the Room With Fancy Chairs holding a cup of tea, arm suspended awkwardly in the air, ridiculous even for morning scenes. Are you OK, he offers, earnestly concerned, and I smile bashfully and curse in my native tongue and take my seat between two neophytes who make me miserable.
It is the second time he calls me high-flown and for the first time I mind. I do mind, yes. I refuse to litter my speech with the word “like.” I will not be one who tells stories that sound “So I was like...” “And he was like...” “But I was like....” “And then he was like...” I just don’t want to. So I am high-flown.
At dinner I make a sandwich again, as if in a hurry. It’s because I don’t have time to spare that I leave, yeah, that’s why. I survey the premises and there is no soul that I would sidle to, no face that invites me, not really. I sit briefly to compose my layered meal and across from me there is yet another person who finds me hilarious and she has a friend with her, so I acquiesce and perform for them both as they expect, and I leave them laughing with tears. As I walk away my face is blank and there is nothing funny, nothing really. But this has nothing to do with the fact that I leave. I run because I am in a hurry. That’s why.
Back in the chambers, another To Do list to slay and carry-forward, into never-ending future tense. I develop new phobias, of the future for instance. A few weeks ago at trivia we learned that the most common phobia in America is arachnophobia. What exactly is the phobia of, is it an aversion to many-many legs? Is that because Americans don’t like to walk? What a bizarre zone I’ve landed.
The light flickers in the bathroom and it is me again, yes it is me, only with sunken cheeks this time too. Whenever did I develop such angular features. The same red dots, polka dot tegument and laserbeam eyes. Time for another headstand. As I stand inverted I make plans to delve into Walden and deny reality all claims upon my consciousness, which means not to open the door unless force majeure. But I am wrong. Presumptuous, too. I read in silence and there is no knocking, no solicitude. Tonight no one needs a thing from me.
So on this hard floor where flesh finds finally respite from pain I discover the pleasure of horizontality again. I nestle into this serendipitous ataraxia and feign, with all my heart in the theatrical performance, that I am not as lonesome as I feel.