TINGE Magazine - http://www.tingemagazine.org

Issue 3

Sleep

 · Nonfiction

She sleeps topless, like a man, with pajama pants low on her hips. She settles into a curl of cloth and skin. She tucks her hands between her breasts to warm them.

Her sleep is:

Light, like a conversation.

Uneasy, like a stomach.

Restless, like a second hand.

Sometimes she falls asleep listening to arias. “Habanera.” Love is a rebellious bird. She raises one hand and conducts the air. Her fingers flit around. “Juliet’s Waltz.” Let me slumber, and inhale the rose. She traces the carnations on her duvet.

If she could sing — or speak French — she’d sing along, half-awake, flinging lyrics across the room. Instead, she listens as she drowses into sleep. L’amour. L’amour.

She sleeps with her legs tucked up to her stomach. Sometimes she stretches one out and bends the other, like a flamingo. She is as languid as a sleeping Venus. What landscape colors her unconscious, here between art and sky?

When she stirs in the night, she forgets that she’s alone. She thinks that someone else is in the house and feels safe for a sweet moment. Then she remembers: it’s just her.

Sometimes she wakes and thinks she’s a dogwood blossom. Cross-shaped, pale, ends puckered in rust. Crown of thorns in the middle. They have pierced My hands and feet. They have numbered all My bones.

If she looks out the window, she can see a dogwood tree in her front yard. If the arias are still playing, she turns them off. Raises her arms, downed with hair, to Heaven. Thinks: I would like to die.

As an infant, on her first night home from the hospital, she slept for eight hours. Her mother worried. She phoned her own mother, who laughed and said to relax. We should all be so lucky. A newborn that sleeps through the night. It was a yellow, foggy September. Hot.

She likes to leave the light on. Just one, to her left. A squat bedside lamp on a corner table. To her right: a desk that belonged to her father’s mother. She sleeps between the lamplight and the dark wood. The bright seeps under her eyelids. She inches a foot out from under the comforter. Points her toes. Perhaps she dreams of being a prima ballerina. A clean stripe of silk.

As a child, she longed to be as flexible as a buttered noodle. She watched the gymnasts in the Olympics and flung up her arms to mimic their landing poses. She wanted her body to be something like water — the way it bends out of a hose, the way priests waterfall it onto the heads of babies. While sleeping, she twisted into perfect 10s.

I would like to die. The thought seeps into the walls of her consciousness. Maybe she slips into a dream of a shipwreck. She sinks, shawled in seaweed. Red and brown and red. Of her bones are coral made.

Once she heard her name through the waning flame of preconsciousness. The voice was ice-clear and deep. She woke with her hands reaching out and away. She woke, and no one was there.

Her favorite time of day is before the dawn. Before the ragged claws of sunlight touch her windows. The ghosts of sound settle their heads next to hers on the pillow.

She is a tree. Sleep is her tiger. The house is empty.

What makes her hesitate to wake up, hesitate to revel in a waltz-steady heartbeat? She loves waltzes, the one-two-three of them, the way the notes rush over each other. The buttery, slim melodies. Surely her heart intrigues her — a wet metronome, keeping time and keeping time and keeping time again.

I would like to die. Her mother died in this room, with the sun slanting over her as it set. That was hours and days and years ago. In the nights after her mother’s death, she slept the fullest sleep she had ever known. She didn’t dream of anyone or anything.

She rolls down the hill of sleep. Grass, sky. Grass, sky. Dirt on her back. Dirt in her mouth. Her body slanting like a lie. Nowhere but down.


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