Pradžia / Radikaliai
 

Sleepless

Simonas Markevičius
2020 m. Vasario 03 d., 14:17
Skaityta: 89 k.
Aut. Oscar Nilsson. https://unsplash.com/@oscrse
Aut. Oscar Nilsson. https://unsplash.com/@oscrse

4:00 AM. What does a man do to end up wide awake at 4:00 AM, staring at the damn ceiling, alone in a double bed? How many wrong turns does he have to take? How much of a loser does he have to be? Worst of all, I don't have a cat, so I don't even qualify as a proper loner type, right? Should I get one? Would probably kill himself, the poor thing. After all, what would I even do with that fur ball? Tell him stories? So, there was this cute blonde girl in my class, and I had a crush on her, but the other guy—I can still see it clear as day—used to kiss her on the cheek, and she would smile, and blush, and all that cute shit. Bastard! And what did I do? Nothing! Didn't even tell her I liked her, let alone that I used to cry myself to sleep every god damn night. Mr. Shy, Mr. Mysterious... Yeah, right! Where was I? Oh yes, the cat. What do they like anyway? Hey, kitty, wanna blast some '80s pop and cry your eyes out? I thought so. No cat deserves life as miserable as that.

I wonder, what's behind those layers of moonlit paint, plaster, and concrete above me. A bed, two people—a man, and a woman, of course—probably sleeping. No, definitely sleeping—who am I kidding! A man is most likely overweight, because of stress maybe, because the boss is giving him crap. He likes to drink with his friends at the bar to “cool off,” as he tells his wife. He's hairy, with black curly hair on his chest, has his fat arm wrapped around her. And the wife? Hmm... Wife. Surely, they must be married, how else? Half of the marriages end up in divorce, but no, they think they are special, they think they are “the happy couple.” Would they jump with a parachute if there was a 50% chance of getting impaled by a telephone pole at free-fall speed? Well, I would, but what do I have to lose? Oh yes, good health—my mom's favorite. Where would I be without good health? Chronic insomniac, as pale as the sky is blue, popping pills like there was no tomorrow, but the legs are still working—all the easier to jump off the roof.

4:12 AM. Are you kidding me? Have I discovered time travelling, or just a method to slow down time? And why am I fantasizing about that imaginary man's wife? Is she sleeping naked? No! Not that again! For all I know, there migh be some mad old lady with fifteen cats there. Maybe she would lend me one of her “babies”? You know she calls them that, and she probably reeks of cat food, and has arthritis. Yes, that's better. Misery and pain outweighs the lust-filled solitude any frickin' time. And while we're on the subject of lust, I wonder, what is she up to now. How long has it been? Three months? Four? Jesus, how time flies! Except... Except when you are trying to sleep and to stop thinking about your ex. But that smile... Yes, a rosy cheek and a mischievous smirk in profile, and those eyes... Oh, how charmingly they used to glow, and how sweetly she would look away when I told her how pretty she was...

Should I go there? Just to... What would I say? “Hello, I missed you”? “Come in, mi amor!” she would reply. Silly, silly man is what I am. But... Suppose she has missed me. Suppose she... What's the excuse? Let's see... No, she gave that back already. Hmm... “Yeah, I came in the middle of the night to return you this scratched-up bootleg copy of Playing the Angel.” Mhmm. “I was in the area and...”—ahh, the classic! Since the roads are most likely empty, I'd be there in half an hour. Think, think, Mr. Smarty Pants! Oh yeah, and I'm low on gas, as always. Ha! I know! How didn't I think of this earlier! But really, should I go there?

Let's see: I vigorously throw the blanket off of me before I even get a chance to change my mind. I sit down on the edge of my bed. The floor is cold. I am cold. You can never find the slippers when you need them the most. And that creaking! Has it always been like that, or am I just hyper-sensitive now? Where's that light switch? No, wait! That will burn my retinas. Better open the fridge—the only useful thing I learned in college. Those damn keys must be in the same black hole as the— Oh, here they are! Slippers. I was about to say “slippers,” I think. Right: socks, jeans, sweatshirt, sneakers, aand...a jacket—gotta take the jacket. Darn shoelaces... Finally, the door is locked, and there is no way back!

I press the large, glowing button, and I wait. I wait. Whoosh. Whoosh. Click, click, click—come on already! 11, 10, 9... I wonder, how many people in the world are doing the same thing I am. Whoosh. The final door, at last. I inhale and hold. Tingling. Tingling in my lungs. I exhale, and I can see it. I remember doing this as a kid, pretending I was smoking. I'd better zip up before I catch a cold. The echo of my footsteps is bouncing off the walls of nearby appartment buildings. Not a single light in any window, not a single flicker of a TV screen. I am alone.

Bleep! The door creeks open. The chilly seat is robbing me of my body heat, and fast. The windows are already fogging up, so I start the engine, mash the defrost button, and start rubbing my palms together, blowing on them intermittently. I flick the headlights on, lift off the clutch, and I am on the move. I still can't believe I'm doing this. Me, passing streetlights, and a purr of a chipped B16B. Don't let me down, girl. Not tonight.

But is she even home? Or better yet, does she even live there these days? So many memories attached to that place, so many things that make my heart melt, my belly flutter, my head spin. But that was then. Way, way back then. So why, why did I need more? Were moments spent with her not blissfull enough? Were those stars, those sparkles in her eyes not bright enough? Or was it greed? Was that it? Was I like that Wall Street guy with millions in the bank, a yacht in the marina, and a trophy wife in his bed? Was I, like that guy, unable to say “enough”? So clearly I remember now: my head on her lap, my eyes pointing at her face, but my vision kind of blurry, and those pools inside my ears— “Tears of joy?” she asked. I lied... But did I? Did I really?

Jeez, it's been months since I last drove like this. I should do this more often. Screw “do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication” warning, screw my shrink, my parents, and screw my friendly neighbor! Who am I hurting anyway? The streets are empty, and as far as I'm concerned— Oof, that was close! What was it thinking barging into traffic like that! Just like me that poor stray: alone, up late, and with a death wish no less!

Five more minutes. Do I want them long, or short? I don't even know anymore. What would it change if I had time to reconsider? I've gone way too far to quit now. I hope I don't run out of gas...

Here. That same high-rise. Finally! Better not forget to lock the car. After all, this is a rough neighborhood. Ahh, fuck! I hope I didn't forget to close the darn fridge! ...4, 5, 6... Why is my heart pounding like that? I really hope I look better than I feel right now. Am I visibly shaking? I hope not. Have I forgotten how to talk to girls? I might have, but it wouldn't matter coz she's no ordinary girl. She will look at me, through me, and she will see what's up. Ahh, Sofia, my Sofia...

This is it. Ding! I press once and wait for what seems to me like an eternity; just like falling asleep: you wait, you wait, and then you wait some mo— Footsteps! Fuck! And what if she already has another boyfriend? Ahh, I didn't even think of that! Did I expect my poor Sofia to stay loyal to me forever? Pathetic! Pathetic and silly. Indeed.

The key turns. Why does everything seem so loud all of a sudden? That creeking of the door is tearing my eardrums to shreds!

So quiet. So calm and quiet now. Just heart pounding, blood vessels throbbing, and her. At last! A little tired, a little pale, hair messy, eyebrows unkempt, no makeup, no lipstick, adorable pyjamas—oh, Sofia!

“Come in.” Her voice a bit hoarse. But it's good. I mean, it's good that she let me in. It means she's alone. “Close the door,” she adds, going down the hallway.

I shut it, and I turn the lock two times, an operation I have performed hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I follow her to the end of the hallway, keeping distance. I can hear her bare soles sticking to cheap linoleum. Now I feel the soft, plushy carpet of her room through my thin socks. The messy bed is lit by a small lamp on her nightstand. I notice a half-empty cup of coffee right beside it, as well as a couple of cigarette butts resting on the edge of the plate. One of the curtains is undrawn, exposing a view to a soon-to-be-busy street and a tiny, shrivelled plant.

“Take a seat. Coffee?” she offers in still raspy, although now a touch clearer voice.

I shake my head and clumsily lower my buttocks onto her stiff mattress.

“You know, I was just thinking of you yesterday,” she says, settling down on the opposite edge of the bed, “thinking how you were doing and all.”

She gazes into the distance and then back at me. She now looks straight into my eyes for the first time, and it is my turn to talk.

“I feel honored,” I reply, smiling. I am glad she broke the ice. I would have messed it up, for sure.

“Oh, don't be,” she giggles. “I'm sure you think about me too, right? Right!?” she continues, now laughing aloud, but then concentrates, lowers her eyebrows, and asks, “What brings you here so late?”

“I...”

“Still can't sleep?”

“Yeah, kinda...” I mumble, but gather my wits and try to segue into the talk, for which I've driven all this way, “but it's not why I'm here.”

She is looking at me quietly and listening. She clearly knows I have to get something off my chest.

“I...” I begin, looking down at the cigarette burns in the carpet, “I was lying in bed, wide awake at 4:00 AM, thinking whether I should get a cat or—”

“A cat!? You!?” she gasps, bursting into laughter, but suddenly realizes the seriousness of the situation.

“Yeah, to get a cat or to blow my brains out. But then I remembered that I don't know a single thing about cats, so... Anyway, I was thinking about jumping off the roof, but then I realized that if I did so, then my neighbor, my parents, and eventually, you would find out about it and think that I didn't love you.”

I aim my eyes at hers and notice a twitch in her cheek.

“You would think that you couldn't make me happy and blame yourself for that, and you'd be shocked, and all that shit,” I continue ever so slightly louder. “And you see, I don't want you to think that, because it's not true.”

Her eyes have started glistening. Her hands, her face, even her puffy lips are completely relaxed, unpretentious, and truthful.

“Yes, you couldn't make me happy, but not for any fault of your own. I, I wanted to be happy, to finally bask in love like all those melodramatic characters on TV, and that ‘I’ was the crux of the problem. How could you have made me happy, after all, when all I saw was myself. Oh, how passionately I drank from your lips those kisses, how eagerly I longed for all those naked moments...”

She smiles.

“I had your love, your passion, your respect, but only when I had it all, did I realize it wasn't it. It wasn't what I needed at all. In fact, the only thing I needed was the only thing I didn't have. I hated, despised myself even. I loathed my own skin, and I yearned to rid myself of it at any cost, and all the love in the world, if directed at me, wouldn't have made me happy. Only by loving others do we learn to love ourselves, and I was too damn selfish to even see you as anything more than a supporting actress in my Oscar-nominated motion picture, let alone love you in the deepest sense of this word. In the end, it was losing you, you, my lovely Sofia, the very best thing to ever happen to me, that taught me some humility. It cleansed me of my egoism, my stupid pride, and I really fuckin' cried, you know. It was the first time, at twenty-two, I cried not out of self-pity. It's as if I could see, to really see for the first time ever. And I saw before my eyes a girl, a young, beautiful girl, her entire life ahead of her, and she was ripping—yes ripping!—with her bloodied hands the pieces of flesh off her own naked body and giving them to a horrific monster, one by bloody one, until she had nothing, absolutely nothing left to give. Her quivering skeleton, devoid of any flesh, with barely any organs left, kneeling amidst the pool of own blood, couldn't satiate the monster any longer, so he abandoned her just like that, exactly when she needed him most. I've learned a lot since then.”

A tear runs down her cheek.

“Are you happy now?” she asks.

“No, of course I'm not! I don't deserve to tread the ground, on which you walk, my dear. Absolutely nothing I do will bring the best years of your life back,” I explain passionately.

“That's not what I meant.”

What? What is she talking about?

“I was talking about your grandiose monologue. Isn't it why you came here? Doesn't it feel better having said all that?”

My heart sinks. I want to hide. I know, damn right I do, what's coming. She's right, completely right. How could I be so clueless?

“You showed up at my door in the middle of the night, and I welcomed you because—surprise, surprise—I still have feelings for you. You think it was easy for me when you left? You think I don't feel like being strangled when I hear a song you used to like, or when I catch your name in the crowd? I see that you are growing, and I'm happy for you. I really am. But before coming here, when you were reciting in your head this monologue of yours, did you think for once what I would feel? You still have a long way to go, darling.”

Here I am, a grown man who drove here in his fancy car, his pride and joy—Mr. Cool, everybody!—here to charm his one and only with his fluent speech, his gentle mannerisms, a grown man put to shame like a little boy, so small in his pants now, so expozed, so ashamed...

“I don't know about you, but I need some coffee. I can't show up at work like this,” she announces, rising up and passing me on her way to the kitchen.

Utensils are clanking against each other.

I stand up and lumber towards the kitchen, but I stop in the hallway, right by the door, and I look at her opening and closing drawers, performing her usual morning routine.

“We've had a lot of fun, haven't we?” she asks, taking a brief glance at me. A subtle smile appears in her face as she continues buzzing around the kitchen. “Remember that time we nearly burned down my grandma's house, trying to bake cookies? Raisin or blueberry? I always forget.”

Warm nostalgia washes over me. It really was fun, but I'm still too ashamed to find it funny now. We were so young back then.

“I'm gonna leave you now,” I mumble.

“OK. Come over some time. Some more convenient time,” she adds, laughing.

She comes to see me off. No anger, no pain in her gentle face. She looks at me the way a mother looks at her child.

“You should meet Johann some time. I think you're gonna like him. He's also into cars,” she says.

“Who? Oh...”

“That's right! I hadn't told you! Ahh... Take care of yourself, OK? You look skinny.”

“Goodbye, Sofia.”

As the door is closing, I hear the kettle boiling.

I still have a long way to go. I still have a long way to go... Then, and only then I'm gonna see her, my beautiful, my lovely Sofia...

I wonder, what the time is. 4:30 AM. Damn. I should turn the pillow over. Maybe that'll help.

Komentarai
  • Tomas Karkalas
    2020 m. Vasario 17 d., 18:02
    as the text scrolled on the monitor screen, the letters flickered in my eyes until everything suddenly stopped. I read, "Only by loving others do we learn to love ourselves," - for that truth alone, it was worth reading "Sleepless! Thank you , Simonas Markevicius, for that sacred truth ❤️