I have no idea how long I’ve been laying here. I can’t remember what I was doing before I ended up here. I know that there are fifteen white tiles and sixteen black tiles between my face and the stove. I know that the tiles are no longer cool against my flesh, like they were when I first got here; my skin must have warmed them up a little. I know that there is an ant trap under the stove, just to the left of one of the front feet, and it must have been there for years because I don’t remember ever putting it there. There are six dog hairs, short and tan, within my range of site. If I could, I’d blow at them, scattering them out of my way. The dog has been over eight times to lick my face, but I haven’t moved, not even to wipe off the slobber. I can’t remember if it was light or dark before I ended up here, but I know it’s been awhile because I can smell dog piss. Sheba never goes in the house unless it’s an emergency. Normally, I’d feel bad for her. But today, I don’t care.
My right hip bone is starting to hurt from being pressed against the hard tile floor, but not bad enough to make me move. I haven’t even shifted. My face is tight from the dried tears, and my contacts are blurry. The pain in my gut hasn’t subsided, even though it usually does a little after I’m done crying. I keep telling myself that maybe this is all a bad dream. But, I know this isn’t a bad dream; this is real, and it’s too bad that it is.
A few weeks ago, I tried to explain the feeling to anyone who would listen. I told my doctor about the dizziness in my head that made me feel like I had woken up in the bad part of sleep cycle. I tried to tell my mother about the wateriness in my bones that made it almost impossible to lift my legs. I told my counselor how just sitting and staring off into space took up all of my energy, and I found myself unable to do anything else – even brush my teeth. But, no one had listened. They told me I was “tired and needed sleep.” They said I needed to “let my mind and body rest.” Sleeping pills were “perfectly normal, helpful even.”
So, I tried to do that; I really did. I came home from the pharmacy with the little white pills that were supposed to help me sleep, supposed to help the nightmares stop. I grabbed a gallon jug of water, the pill bottle, and a package of protein bars, and I headed to bed. I took the pills as directed – one an hour before bedtime, drink with plenty of water, do not operate heavy machinery, do not drive a car – and I laid under the covers staring at the darkness beyond the window. The nightmares didn’t stop. And, even though I slept for 15 hours seven days in a row, sitting up only to take another pill and eat a protein bar, the feeling did not go away.
I don’t remember why I got out of bed to go to the kitchen, finally. Maybe I needed more water? Maybe I ran out of food? It still wouldn’t come to me. When I got to the kitchen, the mail was covering the linoleum in front of the door. With my foot, I pushed it aside, and I saw it – the letter in what was clearly her handwriting. I stood still, a sickness rising up in my throat. I couldn’t even find that one last thread of hope I had been hanging on to for all these months. My gut told me what my hard refused to believe: she was gone for good.