I lift my head from my chest and rub my gummy eyes. The undersized television flickers some late-night talk show, the audio mute, and barely illuminates the room. I thumb the off switch of the remote and the screen goes dark, but not the space. An array of blue and green and red indicator lights shine on, casting ghastly shadows through the mass of gadgets and wires in my entertainment center. I close my eyes, but the colors continue to glow, to pulse, to burst in a shower of sparks against the backdrop of my eyelids. It is my own private fireworks show, exploding suns I dare not touch.
* * *
I’ve missed my medications, quite accidentally, three days in a row now. The first night I simply forgot. The second night I fell asleep on the couch and forgot in the morning. Tonight, I fell asleep on the couch again, waking up at this odd time, in this odd mind, with this odd rhyme winding its way through me.
* * *
I stumble up the stairs, through the dark. The hardwood floors are cold beneath my feet. In the master bedroom, I avoid the harsh glare of the room lights and make my way by memory to the master bathroom. A single Indiglow nightlight, soft and soothing, does nothing to banish the shadows from the corners of the room, but it is enough at the vanity to find the hated little plastic containers. I count out my pills blindly, two and two and one and one, matching the shape of each to its function: control my flights into madness, take charge of my mood, slow down the tremors, let me sleep. Their taste is bitter in my mouth.
Slipping free from clothes that stink of two days’ continuous wear, I turn on the shower and step in. Too-hot-water scalds my skin; I stand here, in the blackness, and cry.
* * *
Shower finished, I slide open the door and shiver in the contrasting cold. I grope for the clean towel I know hangs somewhere beyond, wrap it around my shaking body, and slide my still-wet self between the sheets of the empty bed to sleep. My last thoughts, as I drift away on the waves of chemically-forced slumber, are of sea walls and ocean swells. A woman, yearning to be free of this life, leaps from one to the other. She slowly slips beneath the water with me.