1. I am not asleep. And that is nothing new. I study shadows, the ceiling overgrown with shapes. In the dark, they almost look like bodies.
2. I’ve tried the standbys, whale-song, flutes of the rainforest. White noise.
3. Warm milk, weak tea, vodka and cold medicine and all those things that work for other people. They catalogue their sorrows, count sheep and stars and broken hearts. Sometimes, they just close their eyes.
4. But my heart is a creeping thing, not in my chest, and under the sheets it twitches in a raw, sticky convulsion, disquieted. It is all corners and edges.
5. Put a grain of sand inside an oyster, it becomes precious, wrapped hard and smooth like stone. It transforms.
6. My own uneasiness oozes and festers. It beats inside my throat, a kiss I can’t spit out.
7. I count reasons.
8. He left five months ago for Spain, and since then, my nights have gotten strange. I shiver in my bed. a faceless angel curled against my back. It whispers in my ear until I feel my skin get tight and my lungs squeeze with panic. I am full-up with desperation.
9. Sometimes, in Economics or History of Modern Drama, I dig into the palm of my hand with a pin, try to get the worry out. It wells up, thick as ever. I think of him in crowded hostels, noisy bars, and dig harder. In the daylight, I am foolish enough to believe it will work.
10. Night is when the angel comes, elbows digging into my back. It lies beside me in a flurry of feathers, says love and kisses. Says today is the day he forgot you.
11. Time is a monstrous thing. It goes on and on. I think down through the layers, excavate the hours like strata.
12. The worries of the day decay like dinosaurs, immense and broken, turning tarry by the second. One false move, one slip, and down you go to breathless depth and blackness.
13. I sense that he is always moving, somewhere on an eastbound train, flirting wordlessly with a girl from Amsterdam, kissing a waitress in Prague outside a grim cathedral.
14. He calls from unknown places, less often than he said he would. I hear his voice and want to scream. It makes something ache in the small of my back.
15. On the phone, he says, “The girls are different here—more self-reliant. They’re not so insecure.” He told me it was only for the summer. He told me, “I’ll be back in two months.”
16. Two became three and then five and then forever. The bed is deep as dreamless sleep and it is a hard thing to keep a secret. Even now, with the angel at my back, I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in demons, angels of our basest desires.
17. The first kiss was impulsive, became a compulsion, weak but justified. Nights of bodies, lips and hands. Revenge but not betrayal. They mean nothing to me. And anyway, I’m sure he did it first.
18. His voice on the phone is fond, but tired. I miss you. He talks more and more about coming home. I want so badly to believe him but the angel only laughs. It says He thinks you’re stupid. It says, That tremor you hear—you think he’s homesick for you, but that’s just his conscience.
19. I don’t know if I believe in anything so prosaic as a conscience.
20. I know the nights are long—a wilderness. I know that I will never sleep again.
The prompt today is “Princess and the Pea (The Real Princess),” by Edmund Dulac