by Samantha Freedman
In the world between my struggle and sleep there is an orange comforter. It bunches up around your body and I cocoon myself in you, smushing and smushing into curls until all I can feel is the beating of your heart and the blinking of your eyes flickering blue. I remember this, as I lie face up between my cream-colored sheets, and the bare white walls around me cannot block out the crickets, the hum of conversation from the porch outside, the murmur of music in the adjacent room that lulled us both to sleep that night. I remember how these sounds swelled into the navy sky and seeped through our ceiling, as we found peace, floating in a sea of orange.
Sometimes, when I struggle to find peace beneath the gray shadows that streak across my ceiling, I turn my head and press my ear hard against the mattress. I close my eyes and imagine I am sinking, plunging deeper and deeper into the linen until I no longer feel the soft cushion under me, but rather the rough, green ropes of a hammock that sag with the weight of my body. I lie face down with my cheeks squished against the netting, the braided ropes cutting my vision into triangles, eyes sweeping over mounds of moss and hordes of anthills that swivel left and right below me. I remember how your muddy red sneakers would swing into sight, how the worries I spit at them staggered off my tongue in shambles and sailed swiftly up into the air, rising higher and higher until they vanished behind the clouds. How, as we walked along in the sand, I spewed words that had sat anxiously in my stomach for years. Out and out they came, weaving a steady trail alongside our two pairs of footprints, the yellow sun burning them into the shoreline.
I remember this, as I stare out my window, watching ashen trees extend their barren branches and entrap my anxieties—swirl, clump, these thoughts mesh together into silver smog, encircling me, eclipsing the world in black. Now my world is hazy, grainy, a nineteen fifties television special, and it reminds me of the last time.
We were craning our necks up to watch the soccer game, your little brother running circles around us in his red fire truck pajamas. I swear I felt that everything in my life must have happened just so I could exist in this moment, sitting there on your living room floor, but moments are not generous, and this one sent me swirling in a bus through a tunnel of blackness and dropped me on my bed so hard that as I lay on my back facing the ceiling that night, I couldn’t feel a thing. It was dark, and the only noise came from creaks in the wood of the floor up above. I spread out my arms and grasped at the air around me, but all I found were cold sheets and a comforter that was not orange, but white. Desperately I searched, turning over pillows and tearing up blankets until I could do nothing more than lay dejected, monochrome waves washing over me.
Tonight, as the waves roll over my chest and I struggle to breathe through the black and the white, I think of you. Squished and tangled like twins in the womb, I remember how our hearts beat in unison to the rhythm of the swinging hammock. I picture us, beyond the white walls and gray shadows, rocking on the surface of the orange sea. This calms me, reminds me—that I know how to exist in color.