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May 16, 2018 Fiction

Nights Like This

Teague von Bohlen

Nights Like This photo

It’s that night in the summer when your open windows mean nothing, when your bed is just stuffed heat, when the cicadas have started to drop like chitinous rain, staggering drunk on dying, singing what’s gone wrong? what’s gone wrong?; when there’s nothing but darkness, and the moon has fled like a fickle ally, and sleep refuses to submerge you in the sweetwater of dreams; that merciless time when getting out of bed is too much, and staying in bed is of no use, when there’s a tickle at the back of your throat and a pressure in your bladder and you’re just trying to lay still because that’s how sleep works, isn’t that how sleep works? you ask to no one you can see, and then you wonder if you’ve truly forgotten how to do it, how if you can forget how to sleep, might you also forget how to breathe, and that this is how it must feel to be buried alive: stifling, cramped, desperate, and unable to alter your circumstance; you think of the people in your past that have died, that are lost in those holes in the soil where you too-rarely visit, who would chastise you for your inattention had they a lingering voice, these people you only know through story and photograph and reputation but without whom you wouldn’t be here, now, in this bed, not sleeping; and then about those people who might be dead but that of whom you’ve lost track as time blinds you: your first best friend, your 6th grade music teacher who wore purple, the kid across the street who kept snakes, that love that casually broke your heart, that other love that seemed to do it on purpose, and that time that you were the asshole, because everyone is someone’s asshole, everyone is the villain of someone’s story, flat and mustache-twirling and as devoted to evil as the deep of the night that holds on to you and won’t let you go, won’t even let you rest, won’t let you stop thinking, won’t let you stop seeing things in the shadows of the room, summoning up the terror of possibilities one after the other: your heart, your weight, who you love, who you don’t, the last time you smoked, the first time you drank, the secret promises to do better, to commit no further sin, that you’ll go to church and call your grandmother and send money to every cause on the TV if only, if only, if only…; nights like this are not when ghosts come to you, touching your cheek and whispering inchoate; nights like this are when you reach out to us.

image: Laura Gill


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