There’s a screaming inside my head. I know it’s me, but of course that doesn’t change anything. It’s funny, how people always talk of that dry, analytical part of you that just watches while your world caves in. Always the writers and the poets and the psychologists can say that to you in their smiling voices, honey rubbed along a wound, but they don’t know that even the ones who watch can scream. Oh, God, but they can scream so loud that nobody hears them.
Once upon a time, I woke up in bed, and saw a crack of morning coming through my curtains. Two hours later, it’s impossible to summon the fascination that a chink of light can throw you into, especially when those hours have seen you burn your reserves of goodwill for the day. After all, smiling takes so many less muscles, doesn’t it? It’s far easier on the face; not even painful compared to trying to look neutral when it’s facing you across the kitchen table as if the sunlight means something. Nobody really notices a rictus when you’re drinking coffee.
School isn’t bad as these things go, which they do. The corners of your eyes get a lot of work, naturally, and you can spend a pleasant period spying out a teacher’s sad smile: that mouth-up-eyes-down flicker that manages to lose itself on any other wayward charge. It’s not limited to the masters and matrons of wisdom, heaven knows; you know the look social services have perfected, the one that wants to help you, child, but stops just short of moving the body in any meaningful way. As long as she knows you care, you’re allowed to comfort yourself with thoughts that a girl doesn’t make her real friends ’till university anyway, and a cup of tea can solve all her problems. Bags, though, not tea leaves – too bitter for children and adults alike.
The vastly superior Garden wins a battle with the television to hold sway over time and inattention, though each one clamours in it’s own way. After all, one could watch gardening on TV, but there’s always the chance of your father coming in, and laughing at the fat smiling men leaning on spades and talking about how to sow seeds in your own back yard. He has a very loud laugh, my father, and very strong. It makes his stomach wobble up and down, as if he were breathing very fast, or hard. Or both.
Trees and bushes offer shade to fit the mood and a paradise for the scuttling beetles and centipedes, chased in and out of sight by every innocent child you can still summon to mind. Most of them look the same, though none of them look like me anymore. It’s surprising how sad that can feel. Hemlock and nightshade grow up against the far wall, lustrous green and purple providing too fine a trap for many a poor cat, intent on stroking their lithe, slender bodies though every patch of the poison they can find. It’ll make them sick eventually, of course, but for now they look healthy enough.
The sun slides away taking the sunset with it, and a million yellow streetlights spring up for those of us defenceless enough to miss her. They can’t quite make the dust motes dance the same way, but they shed enough light to cast faint shadows on the walls, until a real shadow comes to close the curtains, and leave them that way. I used to be afraid of the dark, like most children, but I had a father who would stay beside me for a while, until I discovered how misplaced my fear had been. I outgrew it, but he’s always been there when he needed me.
I’m not afraid of the dark, anymore, and I’m not afraid of the nightmares, it’s the waking up from them I don’t like. Screaming out in the dark used to bring them running, but I don’t do that anymore, not even when he’s already there. After all, why would you make life more complicated than it already is, when you can scream inside your head for hours and hours and be sure that you will never have to stop, that you will never have to breathe hard or fast or smell the hot humid air all around you, no-one will ever see, no-one will ever hear. No one will ever know. You can try and sit vigil by the streetlights until the sun saves you again, but not even they are witness to the things that bump against your life in the night. Cry for me, if you feel like, if you think your empathy can bring me some pity I don’t need, but don’t leave the light on. No one will ever know. Don’t leave the light on. No one will ever know.