By Kathleen Bradean
My feet are hot. I can't sleep when my feet are hot. I kick the covers back and wrap one leg around them, but that only reminds me that my hands are hot too. Sighing, I turn on my side and state at the wall. Minutes later, I try my other side. Now my view is the alarm clock.
Past the nightstand, shapes get fuzzy and melt into shadow. When I was young, I could give them the spark of life and soon monsters would begin a weird game with me where they could only creep closer if I looked away or blinked. If I looked directly at them, no matter how fearsome they were, they couldn't move.
The night rules were very clear about that.
There were other rules, like the monsters had to give me a few seconds after I switched off the light to sprint across my room before they could grab me, and once I was under the blanket, with my back pressed to the mattress as I gulped air into my heaving chest, I was safe.
But now my feet are outside the blanket and my eyesight is too fuzzy to see if the monsters cheat and move while I'm looking directly at them.
I roll on my back and drape my forearm across my forehead. Sleep is probably hours away.
Because my feet are hot, my mind won't shut up. I think about tomorrow at work and all the things I want to get done before my boss goes on vacation. I realize my daughter will start driving lessons in two weeks and now my nightmares about her getting hurt will change to include that. All those things I have to do and everything I want to do are equal burdens at this time of night. They make the air heavier and harder to breathe.
And then there's a blank moment, where it feels as if someone wiped my memory or possibly I was asleep for just a second, but all I know is that I went from hot feet and worries to blank to this better place where I'm thinking about the story I'm working on. As it is when these things happen, I can imagine how it smells there. I can feel the humidity. I'm staring into my dark bedroom but I can see the colors of the setting too like a holographic image overlaid on the darkness, like a movie, but I control it.
And now I'm in that scene that's been giving me fits. The scene rolls forward, then stops and loops back. This time it's subtly different, either his words or her reaction or both. And I let it roll forward until it feels wrong. Then I rewind and replay, over and over, making the actors practice the scene until someone says something so brilliant that it transcends everything and I hold my breath for the perfection of. I make them repeat the line. It is still true and perfect, but fragile as a soap bubble. And I know I should get up and write it down. But I'm comfortable, and besides, I'll remember.
Of course I'll remember.
And that's when the night folds her gentle arms around me, and the words disappear like night shadows with the dawn.