panoptes

i think i’m going to die soon

she almost drops her fork

why the fuck would you even say that

she looks back down at her plate and pokes around at what used to be salmon oyako

the restaurant is quiet and i’m worried that someone over heard us

i don’t know

i say

i just have a bad feeling

we’re at a new restaurant downtown and we’re sitting at a high top table. the enormous wooden doors open and the sound of the busy street outside fills the room for a second then slowly shuts. the couple that walk in are dressed as if they just came from a wedding or something. i play out their night in my head and i probably fantasize it to be better than it was for them. but for just a few seconds i submerge myself into their imaginary world. the hostess walks them to a table near us.

she says

what kind of feeling?

i snap back to reality and feel guilty for not being attentive to her, the ramen in front of me is still steaming.

i say

i don’t know.

i just have this temporary feeling. like i can’t think of my life past a certain point.

the waitress comes by refills our water and sake and we awkwardly nod and smile.

whats the point?

i don’t know.

my ramen never actually cools down so i never eat it.

i leave a big tip, more than i probably should have and we leave.

it’s warm outside, the world is a dark blue color and i feel slightly off because i missed the sunset. as we walk through the crowds of people i try to remember if i even saw the sun today. if i didn’t see it was it even there? we got in a fight one time because she didn’t wake me up before she went to work. i woke up and my arm lay flat in the bed where she usually is. if i didn’t see her was she even there?

the walk home takes longer than i would want it to my feet hurt in my shoes and i’m counting the stop signs. theres 7 from the time we leave downtown until we get to the house. the sky is black, it seems like even the stars and the moon are gone. eventually i make my way back inside and she’s in the shower singing and i make my way to the bed. she yells something to me from the shower but i can’t hear what she’s saying. i can’t explain the wave of exhaustion the came over me but i fell asleep so fast it was almost scary. as if my body fell asleep before my mind and i lay there paralyzed.

i dream of nothing in particular.

theres a little prison window in my room that the moon can shine right in through. it seems that the sun never shines through it. the moon is staring right at me, it feels like someone is watching and it’s so bright i roll over, and i force my body to stand. in the back of my mind i keep reminding myself this is a dream but i can’t wake up from it. i watch almost third person as my body moves from the living room and into the kitchen. i stare at the moon through the glass double doors that lead into the side yard. then my body moves into the closet, it climbs the wooden shelves and into the attic. the moon guides me to the far corner and that’s where i sit. my senses are black and i can’t see or hear anything so it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. but i claw around and find a thick kitchen knife. i can’t see it but i know exactly how big it is i funnel my energy into it and it becomes an extension of myself.

and it

slides

in

to

my

chest

i think of the cpr class i took when i was 14 for the boy scouts. our instructor told us that if you don’t hear cartilage breaking you aren’t pushing hard enough. i always thought it would sound like when you crack your knuckles.

i can feel the moon vibrate the house.

and the sounds of my ribs clattering to the floor scares me. i’m worried the sound will wake her up. but i can’t tear myself away from the sky.

it was days later when i remember the weird dream i had. we were in a grocery store in the well lit produce section. i can’t remember what triggered my memory but she was weighing out a pound of tomatoes. for just a second i wanted to tell her about it but it felt like i had more to figure out. it’s always better to know exactly what you want to say before you start talking. i don’t want to appear stupid or not well spoken. so i never tell her and i never say anything. it’s only when i’m carrying in groceries do i think to check the attic. but the attic is a part of the house we never explored, in fact she always found it kind of creepy. she never had an attic in any of the other houses she lived in and i told her she probably did she just never found a way to get into it but she denied it.

learning how to take my time was one of the hardest lesson i’ve had to learn. i carry in one bag in each hand at a time and i take my steps cautiously. i examine the floors as i walk and i listen closely to the noise my shoes make on the stained concrete. she walks in and out quickly carrying multiple bags and as i’m walking back out to get more bags she’s walking in empty handed.

she says

oh that’s all of them.

she says it in a tone that would normally make me question her but i squeeze out an uncomfortable

“oh cool”

and walk back to the kitchen.

we both start putting away groceries when i say

yknow what you did all the work of carrying this stuff in let me put it away. you go relax okay?

she says

are you sure?

of course! come on go sit down

i say almost too pushy

but she does and i slowly start putting away the frozen and refrigerated foods my body tells me to go faster but i force myself to be careful and meticulous with every movement.

then almost on queue she gets up from the couch and comes into the kitchen.

she can’t sit still for long.

she says

do you mind if i meet up with david for coffee? i won’t be gone long.

who’s david?

i say

oh no go ahead i’m feeling tired anyway i’ll probably take a nap after this.

she asks if i’m feeling okay and i say yes without thinking and she tells me she’ll see me soon and that she loves me and i tell her to drive safe.

the door closes, then her car door then, the engine starts. i count to 10 and my body can move freely again and i rush into the closet and up into the attic. the attic is relatively dark but slowly my eyes adjust to the darkness and i call out his name. he comes out from a corner, a small boy probably 9 or so. it’s shocking to see but i don’t feel as if i have to act shocked. i feel like i don’t have to act anyway i feel comfortable. and he’s an exact copy of me. he looks exactly the way i looked when i was 9.

he says

hi

his voice matches his body.

i say

how long have you been here?

he sits down on a long plank of wood that makes the ceiling of the house. he rubs his forearms and says

i don’t know probably for a few days. it’s hard to tell without a clock or anything.

he squeezes his eyes shut and rubs his arms

fuck growing pains hurt.

i am actually shocked to hear him cuss i feel like a parent and i almost tell him not to say that

i say

how can you speak? am i not the first person you’ve met?

he says almost annoyed

yeah you are but i know everything you know. i know that i’m in the attic of your house and i know that you created me. i know everything you know.

he sighs as he stands

actually i probably remember more than you do because i don’t have years of alcohol and drug abuse to ruin my memory.

i don’t say anything

my mind feels numb

i say

do you want me to bring you clothes or something. i think her nephew has clothes here for when we baby sit him.

don’t bother, i grow so fast i would grow out of them by the morning

he says

anyway lets get this done, i’m not looking forward to this.

i say

alright let’s… get it over with.

i look at the ugly scar on my forearm as if it’s a template for the work that i have to do. i kneel and he places his arm across my knee. i take my shirt off so he can bite on it. his arm feels small and fragile in my hands and i remember when my arms were this small.

i say

ready?

he nods his little boy head but his eyes are hard and cold.

i wonder if he can feel how sweaty my palms are

okay

3

2

1

the muffle snapping sound echoes through the attic but it’s almost drowned out by the hellish scream that comes through the shirt. his face is red and beaming.

his arm looks fake now with the little white bone sticking out of the skin. only a trickle of blood drips down from the wound.

he pulls the shirt out of his mouth

oh my fffucking god

okay okay

he looks around frantic

okay fuck

i don’t know how to feel

he’s sweaty and out of breath

it pains him to even look at his arm

he says

okay you need to go

before she gets home

he’s taking long deep breathes

just… go

it seems like he’s shutting down

and i move towards the hole in the floor

and i lower myself through it

i watch as he stands and paces holding his arm

and my world becomes brighter

and his

darker

as i close the little piece of dry wall

that separates

us

we’re walking to a coffee shop downtown and it’s early in the morning. the sun has just started to rise and the world is still sleeping. we haven’t slept all night because we’ve been up fighting and by the time we both dropped it we were left feeling weird and not tired. we walk past a holocaust museum that i didn’t even know existed. and i walk with my hands in my pockets with my head pointed towards the sky. i wish i wasn’t walking and i wish i was at home in my bed right now. she says something and she seems to be in a better mood and that immediately annoys me and i snap back with something rude.

she sighs

that was ugly.

and i let it be silent for a while. a lone car drives down the street and i wonder what his life is like. where is he going? what is he feeling right now?

until we walk past a pizza place and i walk over to the door and pretend to hold it open as i say in a bad italian accent

please come in and have a slice of my pizza only 2 dollars! have a drink, take a seat, but not too long though bad for business!

she’s laughing i know acting always cheers her up and it’s easier when she’s happy

and as i walk i let that statement sink into my brain and down my spinal cord and through my nerve endings. i think if acting cheers her up she should always be happy when she’s around me.

the coffee shop is 3 stories tall and we typically find a spot on the top floor when we come here. the windows are angled down so you can see the street below. it’s interesting to see what is usually a busy street so dead. i watch the traffic lights slowly change from green to yellow to red in unison. i watch the street lights as they turn off and i wonder how they determine when to have them turn off. how light is light enough? she sets two cups of coffee down on the table and my cup has coffee on the outside. i look at it and look at her and she says

sorry! it’s hard to climb stairs with coffee and they filled it so full. i think the barista is new. i’ve never seen her here before.

part of me wants to make this big enough of a deal to let it ruin my entire day but i swallow it down. my coffee is hotter than i thought liquid could possibly be and i watch the steam. she sips hers and smacks her lips.

she says

the coffee here is so good!

she looks around

yknow a lot of people don’t know about this place it’s kind of a

she sips

a hidden gem.

she shoots me a look as if to say look how cool we are for going to a lesser known coffee shop.

she giggles and looks down i can tell she’s trying to be cute.

in my head i stand up and clap for her and give a big speech about how hip and trendy she is.

she says

hey maybe we could do some shopping? i know all the stores down here open soon. you game?

i hate that.

lately i’ve been experimenting with being selfish and i say

no i want to go home.

she says

if we go home now we’ll just want to fall asleep and you said earlier that you can’t sleep now because it would fuck up your sleeping schedule. that’s why we came to get coffee.

i take my still steaming coffee and sip it which burns my mouth and my throat and i say

well i’ll see you at home.

and i walk out of the coffee shop.

i hope she watches out the window as i run through the empty streets.

i don’t lock the door behind me i don’t even know if i closed it i just go directly for the closet and i climb back into the darkness.

i’m doing pull ups on the beams of the house. completely naked and unashamed. almost cocky.

i say without looking at me

what were you guys fighting about.

i keep doing pull ups and i try to listen to see if i’m even breathing.

i say

don’t you already know?

yes i do and i can tell you than you are wrong and you should be more careful with the things you say.

i drop down from the beam heavily.

i’m standing so close to myself and i know we’re the same height but i feel so short.

i say

we have to do it tonight. today even.

i’m looking in a mirror i look away.

if that works for you.

what am i saying

i say more definitively

we are doing it today.

i say

right now?

yes. she’s probably out shopping or something i don’t know.

didn’t she say she was going to go shopping?

yes

so she’s probably shopping

i feel stupid.

my body pivots as i confidently walks over to the opening in the floor. i can only see my outline. i lowers himself down through the hole.

i look ay myself move into the light.

i was ready for this.

i lay down and fall asleep right where i was standing. it’s dusty and dirty but i’m so tired i feel drugged.

i have dreams about myself talking to her. i’m happy and she’s happy and we joke around just like we used to and nothing feels stressful or petty.

at one point i feel as if i am awake but it’s just as dark in the attic as it is in my eyelids.

i hear her right below me say

ready baby?

i say

yes just getting dressed. where did you want to eat?

my voice sounds so bright and happy.

she suggests some upscale resturaunt downtown and i roll my eyes.

i say

yeah that sounds good! david told me about it last time we all saw each other. he said the grilled branzino was really good. but i don’t know i can’t trust his judgement on food. i say it with a laugh.

high heels click on the floor

i say

wow. you look amazing.

she laughs

the door creaks open

i say

sorry baby i forgot my wallet i’ll be right out

the door shuts.

i have no idea what time it is but i’m assuming the sun has already set. i hear the dry wall cover lift and slide out of place and i open my eyes to the dim light coming from the newly opened hole.

i say

hey

hi

my voice hasn’t woken up yet.

i have a job interview tomorrow. oh by the way i quit my job.

good it was shit anyway.

yeah it was.

i sit up and my joints hurt from sleeping on the floor.

i say

are you nervous?

no.

like your not even nervous to meet new people?

no i’m definitely not nervous to meet new people. why should i be? we all share the same human experience. we all were nervous to lose our virginities we were all nervous for our first kiss. we’ve all felt fear and sadness. we are all more connected than we know.

i say

wow… how are we so different.

i say

i don’t know.

the piece of dry wall scrapes and falls back into place.

the door creaks open

he yells

my pocket ate my wallet can y-

my voice gets cut off by the door.

my car starts up and rolls off the gravel drive way.

and i am left alone

but even in my loneliness

sleep finds me again.

when i wake up i’m wide awake and i need to get up and move i feel like i have so much pent up energy i have to move. i can’t tell if they’re home yet but part of me doesn’t really care so i get up and move down from the attic. i tour around my house and look at all the pictures and at all the art work and at the furniture.

the faintest light is just creeping over the mountains and i watch it from the kitchen window. theres one small plant on the window sill and it all looks pretty.

the floors in the house feel warm, it’s almost as if the house is the exact same temperature as my body. and even though it’s dim in the house it feels bright.

it feels like gold.

my hand hovers over the knob to my door.

the door is closed so i open it and for a second my brain can’t process what’s happening. and my senses come one at a time, first my sight and i see her on her hands and knees, her long hair hangs to one side. her mouth is open and out of it comes long warm sounds. you can almost feel her breath. and i look good. i haven’t aged at all and i’ve been working out and i have a better hair cut and i trimmed my beard and i’m looking at her with more love in my eyes than i have ever seen and she moans my name and tells me how big i am and she puts her hand on the wall and pushes back against me. and i look up at myself and i winks and i turn and close the door behind me quietly and i understand why couples like recording themselves have sex. but they weren’t putting on a show for a camera, that was probably the most genuine thing i’ve ever seen. and i feel nothing about it and the freedom of not having to react the way someone would expect me to react is so refreshing. i look around the house and the house isn’t mine and all the furniture isn’t mine and even my clothes don’t seem like they belong to me so i leave it all behind and i leave through the front door and the gravel outside hurts my feet but even the gravel doesn’t belong to me and i want to find something that does. i want to find something that belongs to me.

i want to find somewhere i belong.

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2 thoughts on “panoptes

  1. Please keep writing. You surprised me by how connected I became to the protagonist. While I was having trouble sorting out who was speaking to whom, and at times what was happening versus the perception of what should be happening, I was drawn in by the unreliable aspect of the narrator. As the reader, I felt drawn in, desperate and unsure of what fit and what didn’t… and I liked knowing that this was the same for the protagonist. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

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