Two squirrels were mating on the first day of classes. Three people stopped to watch them; I was one of the privileged few and was five minutes late to class but I made someone laugh by adding the squirrels’ voices in.
I’m behind in the study of existence.
And someone asked me why I study philosophy the other day?
And then wished I was an engineer or a doctor or even a patient – because at least hospitals are soothing.
It’s peaceful to know that you are responsible for lying in a chair, feeling pain, and sleeping. It’s a place of reflection
I felt alive listening to death:
The calm “dings” of help bells all around me
The stench of dried piss and body odors
And the old lady screaming in frustration across the hall,
Now I’m a hypochondriac occasionally.
My body misses the hospital sometimes; my mind the silence of reflection that hums within syncopated heart monitors and melting ice chips in a dry mouth. Now sleep is the closest thing there is to that peace and pain.
People say near death experiences change you.
I’m not sure how near I was, but enough to feel something shift. Until I returned to the world outside the recovery room.
Then I was telling the story like I did to all my friends, like I do to new people and to little kids that point at the pink snake curled around my navel at the swimming pool.
Then I was missing the silence, caught up in the noise.
Once I heard pure silence in complete darkness. Peering into a void my eyes never adjusted to, there was only nothing to see, even when my class of twenty sang Kumbaya in that cave, when lips didn’t move, and the haunting sound came from blackness, from souls in the blackness. I remember hearing the rough edges of each voice, recognizing the amelodic tones of my friends, feeling my voice shuddering in my chest. Sound was the only sense I felt, my body numb from the cave and the cold and the song.
Then someone turned on a light and we walked on.
My friend has Sleep Paralysis.
Her mind would return, conscious, hear her dog scratching, smell toast burning, but her body was limp. She could not move, not even to open her eyes. I told her about night terrors, when my eyes were open and it was real:
How the walls of my room pushed slowly out, the ceiling rose as if magnetized to the moon, the skylight window shrunk further and further into the night sky, even the lamp on my bedside table slid motionlessly away from my outstretched hand.
How the faint swipe of foot against sheet expanded, grew, screamed, echoing in my ears. A frightening silence my parent’s soothing whispers only amplified.
How my door needed to be thirty-four even steps from the bathroom sink before I could go to sleep…1, 2, 3, 4, too short, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 too long. The steps kept being stepped, and sleep was never slept.
I remember my childhood nightmares, but these night terrors questioned my sanity.
I used to count the moments between words. On my fingers, each one touching my thumb, my lips mouthing numbers.
My parents were worried.
Now I count inhales and exhales, or stop reading books midsentence so my eyes can close on the hour.
But usually there’s no time for that.
My alarm dances me awake, my books beg reading, my phone whines texts and notifications, I am a mother to these cycles, my dreams long ago forgotten.
My parents are dancers. I once danced to. I’d have little jobs: running in circles, walking the arches of their backs, curling into a sleeping fetus. And one time the dance was to fight my father.
He shoved, I shoved him back harder, he pushed, I pushed him back harder, he flung me and I flung him back, and we stood on a stage and I was young and we were glaring at one another until I ran to him and threw my arms over his neck and he lifted my small form and he walked us off stage, slowly.
It was a performance that felt real. Even when I whispered to him that his armpits stunk and he laughed.
The last time I really laughed I cried tears with my father, Papoo. The subject forgotten, we wept the way you can’t LOL or hahaha, and it was in a car, and it wasn’t for very long, but it was a moment of connection.