Breadcrumb #267


There is darkness everywhere I look, except for the faint glow of a cracked Care Bear nightlight.
               (You can’t sleep with a light on, it’ll keep you awake. Now face the wall, be quiet.)
The static of the nightmares sizzles in my temples –
                                    a physical, emotional quaking that trembles along bone
                                                                        and nerve, along skin, raising goosebumps and hair
                                                                        like exclamation marks of flesh.
I pull myself from my bed, sheets plastered to my limbs with sweat and tears.
            Run, run, run from the dark – it’s hiding in the shadows –
            that gigantic caricature of Daddy’s rage.
                        (There’s nothing there, don’t be such a pansy.)

I rush so fast that I stub my toes on the frame of Mommy and Daddy’s bed. Raw, metallic ache
in my bones.
            I dive into bed with my parents and pull the comforter off them,
                                    exposing their limbs to the cold air, my eager slapping palms.
My father rounds on me with a lion’s roar. Am I still dreaming?
                        (You’re too old for this, god damn it!)

He is carrying me to my room, his big hands clenching my small limbs.
            His teeth are gnashing, the vein is his rosy forehead pulsing.
                        Nightmare terror seizes me. What did I do, Daddy?
                                                                                                Why are you so mad at me?
His anger frightens me more than I was.            I begin to cry harder, gasping for air. Wanting to

                                              Ropes of snot run from my nose like polished peridot and Daddy is
                        shaking me, screaming, spit frothing on his lips, hitting my face. (You need to grow up stop being such a sissy it’s only a dream only a nightmare when will you learn!)

My sobs blur with his screams and Grandma is yelling down the stairs what’s going on down there and Mommy is shouting,
                                    pulling Daddy’s shoulders – leave him alone just stop calm down I’ll put                                     him to bed just stop!
Suddenly, I am flying through the air - no longer in Daddy’s rough hands, and all I can see
                                    is the wide, silent scream of panic from Mommy.           

            I collide with my bedroom wall and pain ruptures through my back, makes me numb for             a split second.
            The drywall bows, shifts, crumbles under me and I sink into it, like a hunter’s mounted                 kill. My father’s.
He excavates me from the caved-in wall
                        (See what you made me do why can’t you just learn to be normal!)
                                     and tosses me, shaking and weeping, onto my 101 Dalmatians bedspread.
Mommy holds me, rocking me until I fall asleep. I feel safe from Daddy when she is hugging me.
         (Stop coddling him! You’re going to turn him into a queer. He needs to learn to be a man!)
            My father hides the me-sized hole in the wall with a Lion King poster.
We never talk about what happened that night.

I fall back to sleep. I wake up a few hours later to something on my face. Mommy is gone.
            I am wet. Soaked. As I move, the blankets squish beneath me. Saturated.
                        I hope I have not wet the bed again. My father was furious last time.
                                                                        (Don’t wake Daddy.)
            I look up. He is standing over me with an empty bucket of water, the rim dripping a few drops
                                   down onto my comforter. Plop.                       Plop.                              Plop. 
He is smiling – a rare sight. Mommy stands behind him, head in her hands.
                        (Now you know what it feels like to get woken up.)

                    I never go to him when I have nightmares again. The nightmares scare me less than Daddy.

• • •

Breadcrumb #27


The delivery men propped me against the wall. You left me there for hours, and I looked out your very small window and pretended to be artwork. You paced the room and sized me up. Finally, you took me off the wall and climbed on top of me. You were nervous and stretched your limbs with well-practiced hesitancy. You’re afraid of settling I’ve learned; you like the idea of it but there’s something that keeps you from fully giving in to gravity. You change positions frequently, every seven and a half minutes in fact, even in your deepest sleeps, so that your silhouette never has time for significant indentations. That night, you lay on top of me and we examined the cracks and rivers in the ceiling. While I hardly fit in that room and you covered me with a shiny red sleeping bag, those were my favorite days with you. It was just the two of us, staying up late, bracing for the infinite, daunting future.

     You never gave me a frame, so there was always a strange, sinking dance between you and your guests.  Kissing while descending is difficult, I’ve realized. It requires a silent synchronicity, a certain level of trust; otherwise it just looks wrong, like two people drowning.

     The first guest was too tall for me. His feet dangled over my edge, and in his sleep he struggled to tuck them into the sheets. Your bodies didn’t always align, but you put in the effort. He smelled sometimes and made you angry, but he changed the lightbulbs and stayed around for a while. And the cadence of your voices together felt low and comfortable, like the tune to the theme song of a television show that you used to love.

     You painted your walls sea green and it spilled all over me. You worked well into the night and fell asleep on the couch, leaving me alone with my stains to settle. The second and third guests alternated into the summer. When they tried to hold you, you complained about the heat. When your ex-boyfriend visited, you fucked aggressively and woke up periodically. The sheets came off my edges, the red sleeping bag kicked to the corner. When he left, you entered me like I was a warm bath, put the sheets over your head, and lay so still that I started to worry. Eventually, though, I began to hear the unmistakable vibrations of weeping. You cried always with your face smothered by pillows, your body like a crescent moon.

You cried always with your face smothered by pillows, your body like a crescent moon.

     You welcomed the fourth and fifth guests with ambivalent embraces. I stopped counting the amount of times you went to the bathroom throughout the night. You kept things inside of me — a hairbrush, a book, Altoids, a museum brochure — that were better suited for your shelves. It was because you were lazy partially, but I could tell that you liked it — having all your possessions within reach, floating amongst you on your island.

     The sixth and seventh guests didn’t even spend the night. I woke up once at 4 a.m. to see a mouse watching us. I will never understand why humans fear these animals so much, but I’ve also learned that nearly all your emotions are disproportional. You hung artwork, posters, newspaper clippings that arrived and vanished with their relevance and your boredom. The mouse lived with us for weeks and you slept through all of its appearances. You had a boyfriend. You bought a comforter, wrapped me into it with meticulous affection, and stuffed the red sleeping bag deep into the closet. When the mouse was finally gone, I felt guilty, like I had a secret from you. You had a breakup and hid inside of me. You drooled and flinched from nightmares. You found another boyfriend and together you painted the walls back to white, and the smell and general chaos of the room kept all of us up late. 

     We moved: more natural light, a larger room, an optimistic outlook. You had another breakup and repositioned me to face the door. We fell asleep to the cadence of your weeping and woke up early from fitful, incomplete sleeps. You never got around to buying curtains and, on good days, the light touched every object you owned with firm persistence.

     One morning, you woke up and something felt different. Your limbs felt heavier, your breathing rhythmic and void of restlessness, and I could tell you were realizing just how alone you really were. And as the sunlight crawled across the floorboards and sloped along every surface, I felt a sense of sheepish excitement; it was just the two of us again, examining a crack in the wall, bracing for the day.

 • •