I have a love/hate relationship with books. I love being immersed in a good story—losing track of time, that sense of coming out of a fog as you try to bring yourself out of the book and into reality. But it’s almost 2 in the morning, I just finished The Thirteenth Tale, and I really need to get some sleep. Yet, here I am, sitting on a rollaway bed in the dark in the living room of my mom’s apartment, trying to type out my thoughts so that I can silence them in my head.
Before I finally gave in and opened the laptop, I was lying on my back, staring up at the ceiling. There are no ceiling tiles to count. I can see things in the room clearly because there is a nightlight plugged into the wall behind me. I’ve left it on in case my mom, or me for that matter, has to get up and go to the bathroom. Besides, I’ve spent many a night sleeping with a light on—people who scare easily but insist on watching scary movies at night often do. So, with the absence of ceiling tiles, I stare at shadows. There is a large rectangular one just above and barely to the left of me. I can’t figure out what it is, so I move my arm, which is resting under my head, thinking that if the shadow moves, then I’ll have my answer. It doesn’t move. Then I realize, it’s the chair leg next to the nightlight. Ah! Now I can see the slight curve on the bottom as the leg starts to taper in.
Now, I stare at the ceiling fan, or rather at the shadows of the blades. If I squint and stare long enough, they almost seem to rotate. I thought about leaving the fan part on because I like the room to be a little cool when I sleep because I love to huddle under covers to stay warm. But this ceiling fan has a high-pitch buzz like a fly circling before it dive bombs right by your ear or nose, trying to make you swat at hit and hit yourself. Flies are diabolical that way.
Being in the living room of Mom’s apartment, I can smell the faint odor of tomato sauce from the chili that Jay made (a very good chili, by the way). Tomatoes in chili cooking smell wonderful, but acidic, tinny sauce sitting in a can in the trash doesn’t. I get up and tie the bag closed as quietly as I can and move the trashcan around the corner. I think about replacing the bag, but I’m afraid that big THWAK I make as I whip in open will wake up the whole apartment complex.
The motor on the refrigerator just went on. Good. I’ll close my eyes and try very quickly to go to sleep. I’m one of those people who isn’t very good with silence. The other nights I’ve been here, I’ve listened to my iPod when I couldn’t sleep, even though a friend scolded me that I could strangle myself. Self-preservation seems to help me, but this night I’m saved by a dead battery. It’s not cold enough for the heater to come on or hot enough for the air, which is my other “white noise” that I wait for. So, I try to get to sleep while the refrigerator is humming and blocking out the silence.
But no joy. It cycles off as I think of a book where an old woman tells a young woman a story about twins and ghosts. About scandal, death, love, loss, and redemption. A story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In my mind I see quick edits of a young woman working and living just above a bookstore, completely enveloped by it; of an old woman in a wheelchair, draped with jewel-toned shawls and protectively hiding a damaged hand; the ruins of a stately home; the snow drifts on a Yorkshire moor through a window where a cat sits impatiently twitching his tail, waiting for it to melt so he can resume his nightly wanderings. I can’t let the book go. It creeps back into my thoughts, even as I try to steer them in another direction.
So, I end up sitting on a rollaway, typing on a computer in the dark, waiting for the motor to cycle on the refrigerator again.