Yesterday was a good day. I remembered to breathe, had my shit together. Meeting new people, I was almost charming. Today is different.
I’m not breathing properly again; white zigzags light up the green penumbra of my room; book titles fall apart and scatter from the floor to the ceiling; the characters from the drawings on the walls appear missing. I close my eyes, and here they are in bright fields with toothy edges, biting into the dark-burgundy shade. I am curling into a ball under my eyelids. Is there a word better than that? The alternative is palpebra. Seriously? Lost in a wondrous plethora of sophisticated choices, I keep my eyes closed. There is no point trying to see through the glistening obstacles. I remind myself: breathe, Nicole.
I am listening to the distant voices reaching out to me through the thick glass. A bird has been knocking at my window since the early morning. She is unstoppable and restless. A late spring squeezes its way between rains and lawnmowers.
A migraine builds spiky, convoluted nests in my brain. It will be laying eggs behind my eyeballs. I will be crushing them and throwing them away. There will be crumbling castles with a genius slave and an insatiable princess on each floor. Little people will slide the banisters down the self-looping stairs. There will be no wind to play around with, just bleached bones and cow skulls. I will be sick for a while. I know.
The monotonous chatter from behind the wall stops; the energetic steps resounding in the empty hallway stop; the door to my room opens. He sees me curled in the corner.
“Hi, what’s up with you?”
“Did you drink enough water?” The voice booms in my head.
“Have you eaten something bad?”
“Stop drilling me. I’m trying to sleep.” I talk with my eyes closed.
He goes back to his room and starts a new phone conversation, this time with a mechanic.
“Close my door, please.” I speak softly, and the footsteps again and the thump of the door.
I breathe. Every time I remember to breathe, the headache fades away. So, all I have to do is breathe. I feel like a plant. The massive blades of my leaves are covered with small breathing holes. Their number depends on the levels of CO2—the more gas available, the fewer holes. This simple inverse relation amuses me; it helps the plant to lose less water. I think that inverse relations are common. I think about a hyperbolic universe that might be there, somewhere, not following our physical laws, and I feel better.
I fall asleep and, not breathing again, I see all kinds of nightmares. We are making love, and he asks me about my burial paperwork. I am still alive. I argue. Don’t take it into your little head, he says.
“Hey, Nicole. Are you all right? You were sleeping for over five hours. It’s almost time for bed. Do you want to eat something?” He smells of liquor. He probably was unwinding on the porch with our neighbor and a glass of scotch.
“No, I don’t want anything.” I try to stand up, lose my balance, and fall back on the couch.
“Nicole!” He jumps forward and grabs me by my shoulders.
Ouch. The stabs of pain go through my spine into my head.
“You look so pale. Let’s go see a doctor, it’s not too late.”
“You’re like my grandma, sending people to CAT scans when they’re just a little dizzy.” I wobble to the bathroom.
“Ksjdfhhhhhhhhhe,” he says.
“What are you saying? I can’t hear you from here.”
“Seriously, couldn’t you just wait a second?” I’m heading to my bed, but find my left side too heavy and land on the bathroom’s threshold.
“Dfhgkddldorjg.” He looks worried.
I don’t care. He grabs me and carries me to the car. He is nervous, and he keeps mumbling something under his breath. For some reason, I don’t understand him, and it irritates me.
“You are usually much less talkative. I am trying to sleep.”
“Dkjfhg!” he yells.
“Whatever it means,” I say; trying to move my left foot is taking all my attention.
He looks back at me all the time. He misses a red light. The car hits us. I don’t feel any pain. The paramedics cut his shirt. We are in the hospital. He is taken in on the stretcher; I try to hobble along but collapse on the bench at the entrance to the ER. He is a code red; he is taken care of, I think, and finally fall asleep.