a moment, in great detail

I couldn’t sleep last night. I lay in bed and stared through the darkness toward the wall, listening to Sirius snuffle and wheeze as he dreamed. In the kitchen, the dishwasher shushed rhythmically, and the walls creaked and groaned as the radiant heating kicked on. It sounds like ghosts walking through the house, voices loud but unintelligible.

My hip dug into the hard mattress and throbbed in pain; if I flipped to the other side the same thing would happen. I tried to talk myself to sleep with a story, but I got too involved in developing my protagonist — a young female soldier named Randy, who lives in a dystopian futuristic society where one must either serve a term in the Defense or the Breeding Houses to become a citizen. The story was taking shape in my head; Randy’s unexpected skill with weapons, her ability to repair weapons and even reverse-engineer the enemy weapons. Why she chose to join the Defense instead of serving a term in the Breeding Houses. How she was captured on a simple recon mission while trying to diffuse a whisper-bomb.

So I crawled out of bed and wandered to the living room, where John had fallen asleep on the couch several hours before. I’d left the Christmas lights on, and they glowed soft and warm in the darkness, comforting and radiating memories of Christmases past. They seem to chase away the shadows with their color, making a darkness that usually feels sinister into a welcoming friend. I thought maybe a drink would help, so I went out to the garage, tip-toeing so my bare feet wouldn’t touch too much of the chilly concrete floor. I grabbed a hard cider out of the fridge and went back inside. I didn’t want to turn on the t.v. or open my laptop, because the noise and light might wake John. Instead, I grabbed a cigarette and went outside.

I started smoking again the night John’s jaw was broken. I’d stopped in August, bought a pack that I never finished near the end of September, and stopped after smoking only a few cigarettes from the pack. The night John’s jaw was broken, I started again and I haven’t been able to properly stop. I think I might be spinning into a manic state. I always smoke more when I’m manic, and I think about death constantly. I found myself wondering how to purchase a gun without anyone finding out the other day, and then I wondered what was wrong with me. Another indicator is the insomnia that dogs me. I haven’t sleep a full 8 hours a night — or even 6 — in well over a week. I’m always tired, but wired. The world seems so bright and loud, and the dark softness of the night is the most bearable time of day.

Outside, frost has already formed on the ground. The fallen leaves are laced with white, the grass tipped in silver dust. A slight breeze whispers through the trees, rattling dead branches and rustling evergreen needles. From out of the shadows, a raccoon hesitates toward me, his eyes bright and clever in the dark mask of his face. Another joins him, and they peer at me curiously for a moment. I back away slowly, aware of how vicious raccoons can be, and one of them turns and runs to join a third raccoon, lurking back in the shadows unnoticed. The other stares at me a moment longer, then he too runs off to join his comrades. I can hear their peculiar whining bark as they lope across the neighbor’s lawn, and I wonder if they’re chittering to each other about the wildlife they spotted.

It’s cold out tonight, and I can’t sleep.

Last year’s moment.

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