Vacant Hallways

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

The soles of her feet planted loosely against the window frame, staring into the dour mantle of nightfall, there was nothing out there save for the ego of the whippoorwill echoing in the otherwise silent night. The moisture of her own self-loathing haunted behind her eyes and she pushed the heels of her hand into the sockets to burn away what threatened to fall.

No tears. No remorse. No want or ache or need.

Maureen was strength. The wicked hours of the day would never wile away her will. Maureen was power. No word beyond her own would control her heart or mind. Maureen was failing. Every passing minute was a minute lost inside her.

She wasn’t sure where those minutes were squandered or how her soul chose to consume them, but she did know the minutes built the hours that terrorized her days. She dropped her hands, leaning her head against the frame. When the night was over, the day would begin. Of course, their headland had collided; the nights were as wicked as the day so whether the hour was light or dark, the murmur of history was no less savage. Maureen simply preferred the night over the light. The silence after sundown made more sense than the silence after sunrise.

Without light, she could rationalize the lack of voices in her life. She could explain away how the phone never rang or how her inbox held no mail. In the day, she told herself the world was busy with the deadlines of life… though she couldn’t quite clarify why minutes could be found for others while none were found for her. The day left holes in her weakened excuse, but the night filled in the holes.

She wasn’t lying to herself. After all, if she asked herself for the whole of the truth she’d be unable to give it. She offered up what answers she could figure and left the rest to soak in the brine.

All the more so, when the ache shot through her like physical electricity, even when her chest closed on itself trying to release its own pressure, she made no sound.

The bedside light clicked to life.

“Maureen? What are you doing?”

She turned towards the bed. Her smile rivaled the painted ear-to-ear of any clown. Her eyes sparkled above the haunting. “Taking in the beauty of the night. I felt so restless.”

“Are you okay?”

“Of course. Always.”

“You’re sure?”

She laughed, slinking from the windowsill to the bed with a kiss that was genuine in its intent. “Goof. How could I not be okay? Look what I have in my bed.”

The smile she received slaughtered her sanity just a little more. “A cat?”

“Yes. A cat. You’re not too bad to have here, either.”

“Hey, hey.”

“Go back to sleep. Rest.”

“Come back to bed, okay?”

“You got it.”

Beneath the blankets, against ethereal skin, Maureen clung to the fabric of her quilt… hoping to keep the seconds tied in time. As long as she could, she would keep the life of that moment alive.

When the sounds of breathing beside her faded she opened her eyes. The whippoorwill echoed on and she shifted on the windowsill. Looking back at the bed, it was as available and unused as it had ever been.

She glanced briefly at her desk. The laptop sat open, her work unfinished. On one side of the desk, the laptop. On the other side, stacks of half used notebooks. In the center, a broken pile of wooden blocks and sticks. All of it neglected and unfinished. All of it wasted.

Jumping from the windowsill, she shot across the room. Scared and enraged by her own mind, she lifted the laptop above her head. She held it there, glaring at the floor; straining between throwing it and breathing herself back to judgment. She sat it gently back to its place. In return for the life of the laptop, she took the life of the notebooks and the unfinished house. The notebooks scattered through the air. Some dropped like stones, others fluttered across the room. The pieces of the house bumped against the far wall, marking the paint and landing with an incredibly unsatisfying thud on the floor.

“What are you doing?”

Maureen turned to the door. “Losing my mind.”

“Why?”

“The world is too silent.”

“Make some noise.”

“I just did.”

“You’re okay.”

“How would you know?”

“Best friends just know.”

“Then where are you?”

There was no answer. She hadn’t expected one.

When she was a kid, she would dream about standing in the hallways of school. Her body had been lead, paralyzed to movement but alive with sensation. She’d scream for help, the scream nothing more than a soundless opening of her mouth, but no answer would come. The hallway mocked her fear by filling it with other children. They’d stand near and around, jeering. Laughing with the cruelty only a dream can amplify. The teachers would pass by and offer their own slurring tokens. Unable to scream or speak, incapable of moving or running, she would sometimes will her body into motion. Weighted with whatever invisible encumbrance bearing down on her, she’d slip away centimeters at a time.

She wasn’t sitting in the hallways of schools. Nor was she incapable of speech, but she knew that silence in her world all the same. It was a different weight, but it immobilized her just the same.

The dreams she bore then were walking, talking apparitions out to remind her again how fallow her hallways were. Maybe not even fallow, as that may have suggested the hope for use. Maybe just abandoned.

Her own desolation rocketed through her body again. Her hand twitched and her face struggled with vacuity. If she sobbed, no one would see. If she roared aloud, her embarrassment would remain a secret. She could give in and give up. The house would seal her in; keep her fastened from the eyes of any other. Just a little whimper wouldn’t be heard by one ear but her own. Still, she made not a sound as she returned to the window. Her mind ticked on as the winds blew through the vacant hallways of her life.

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