Watching Night

I lie awake at night. I close first one eye and then the other, testing my vision. I can see the sticker stars on my ceiling with my right eye, crystal clear. My left eye is blind and I panic.

I heard somewhere if you lie still and do nothing for fifteen minutes then you will fall asleep. It is a fact, apparently. Your body simply gets the message that it’s time to shut down. I try it. As the hand ticks past those fifteen minutes, I sigh. I close first one eye and then the other. Still half blind.

The mattress is cold, flat, vast. I am spread out like a starfish, like butter over bread. I am enveloping the mattress in an empty embrace, but tucking my hands and feet away from the edges. Nothing else is allowed in. I swallow. The noise is wet and ugly in my throat. I don’t want to hear it so I count. I count how long the light shadows of the stars on the ceiling pierce through my blindness by closing one eye, and then the other. One, two, three, gone.

There is a scraping on the wall – the neighbour trying to to find a plug socket. It sounds like rats. I imagine rats crawling up under the bed sheets, their scratching claws catching on my skin, slowing them down. I don’t move. I stare at the poison carriers. First with one eye. And then the other.

I turn to fantasy, try to invent my own world to catapult myself into Dreamland. I am in a doctors office, with a kind face smiling down at me. The chair I am sitting on flips backwards and I am lying flat, strapped down and vulnerable as a scalpel slices into my eye lids. I scream. No more dreaming. I feel for blood on my cheeks, blink away the moisture leaking from those orbs that hold the universe. I blink first with one eye and then the other. With one of them, I see.

I see a figure, hunched over in an effort to be absolutely silent. Hush. He’s holding a finger to his lips. He looks at me in the dark and sees my lonely embrace, the rat scratches on my skin, the trickle of blood running past my ear and into my hair. He curls up next to me, tucking his knees into mine and pressing his face into the back of my neck. I can feel the thud of his heart and the tickle of his breath.

I tell him I am half blind. I tell him that I can see with one eye, but not the other. I ask if that’s what it’s like for everyone in the dark. Hush.

With the tips of his fingers, he slides my lids closed and strokes my cheeks. He tells me this is how it is in the dark.

Everyone is blind.

Everyone is lost.

Everyone makes it to dawn.

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