The backs of my eyelids felt as though they were coated in fine grit sandpaper when I woke; the result of another evening where I had fallen asleep crying. The memories behind my watery bedtime came flooding back, violently dissecting the respite of oblivion that came to me in the form of a dreamless sleep. Tears burned at the rims of my eyes, nourishing the familiar sensation of depression that bloomed in my chest; persistent branches that wrapped around me like a serpent, sorrow that continually grew and withered like leaves, and painful thorns that left holes in my emotional armor.
I rolled onto my side and peered hazily out the window to find my touchstone; the familiar street lamp that happily buzzed and polluted the inky night with it’s false amber glow, no matter what was happening in the world.
As if in response to the comfort it provided me, it’s bright bulb dimmed down to an orange ember, leaving me with a black and endless atmosphere that absorbed me like a liquid. I dreamily gazed out into the expanse, focusing on the flickering gems dotting the skies. Looking up at the stars always provided me with hope; but tonight, it seemed any wishes I sent to the heavens would never be fulfilled.
Feeling dejected, I blindly felt around for the more insubstantial comfort of my cell phone, but upon finding it and thumbing the power button, the screen flashed a battery with an empty, red bar. I sighed and turned my head to the direction of the hallway to glare at how the bathroom always seemed to be situated further away from my bed in the middle of the night.
My vision drifted over the room and landed on an unfamiliar shape in the corner, causing my breathing to seize in my throat, while my mind tried to register what the foreign shadow was, as though I were waiting for some macabre polaroid to develop. I watched on in horror as the amorphous silhouette assumed the unmistakable shape of a man. Emotions began to burn my throat like a matchbox set alight and a thin watery veneer coated my sight while my mind ricocheted between potential outcomes and tried to rationalize such a violation.
Assuming I could lay still enough, a simple thief might be convinced to slip off into the night without any interaction, believing I was left unaware of any identifying features. A layer of perspiration turned my palms into the pincushions for a thousand tiny icicles as I considered the equally possible prospect that this intruder had broken into my home with an intent to hurt me. Finally, some form of witless optimism made itself a guest in my consciousness to offer that maybe I was still asleep and this was a hyperreal nightmare conjured up by the ghosts of my past, until the man took a step towards me.
Even though my body lay curled into a steady stone, I feared he had to hear the thundering drum of my heartbeat that was deafening in my ears. Any rational actions that I might have usually taken became foreign and I closed my eyes tightly, abruptly pulling the blanket over my head like an idiotic child. I pushed my body deep into the mattress, hoping it would somehow swallow me into a safe and secret space.
My thoughts were screaming at me. I had just guaranteed that he knew I was awake; and if these were my final moments, I had now destined them to become ones of cowardice and submission. Refusing to take this while literally laying down, I committed myself to putting up a fight and I gathered whatever shreds of courage I could find as my weapon. Springing up from my bed, I hit the hardwood floor loudly with both feet, screaming and wildly wrestling with the sheet I had used as my shield moments before.
Every muscle inside me pulled tense as a tightrope while my fists jutted out in front of me, the physical punctuations of the rage and fear that were coursing through my body.