staccato heartbeat

staccato heartbeat

I cringe around the bruised edge of my voice, the too-frantic chipper of it. Are you alright, she asks, and it isn’t much of a question. I slept three hours last night, I say. She listens until the words sooth into something less jagged.

I cannot stop shaking, I tell her.

*

Breathe, I remember, and there it is: the four-second inhale, the eight-second exhale. Rinsed and repeated. A steady thing.

*

Some nights, sleep is a foreign thing, a steady countdown of hours lost. The numbness melts into the earliest part of the morning, where everything is midnight-dark still, and I am all quiver and quiet. The hummingbird flutter of my heart is loud, wild and off-key.

The mornings after everything is sharp and everything in my body trembles. It feels like mist and spiderwebs; an unravelling of flimsy, high-strung staccato.

*

We should start a club, I tell him. Call it Chamomile & Insomniacs. He texts back I’m in, and then Bonding activities include staring at the ceiling for unnecessarily long periods of time.

*

I warm the milk on the stove: slow. Careful gestures, their own form of meditation – line up the cinnamon, the honey, the vanilla. Pull out the cocoa, grate the dark chocolate. Sometimes, there is whipped cream. It isn’t about that, though, not really. It is about the set number of steps, just on the right side of long enough. Something to focus on and let the noise fade.

It’s about having something warm to wrap my hands around and to press close to my chest, a reminder of gentleness.

*

On days I don’t sleep I remember other things: proper meals at regular hours, real food – a rainbow of chopped peppers and mushrooms, baby spinach and egg noodles. I hold on to the things I can control; drink more water, keep my windows open and my bed made. Light candles like some sort of prayer.

*

She lets me fold myself on her couch and pets me. Hands me a glass of wine, bats away my hand when I try to help, talks to me about work. Mentions friends whose names I do not know, places she’s eaten and that we should try. I listen to her, let myself grow warm, let the sleepiness settle, finally.

*

So maybe we don’t sleep much sometimes, I tell him. It’s okay, we’re still alright anyways. I can imagine him snort and smile. Of course we are, he says back. Also, I’m making us membership badges.

 

 

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