We had something special. I mean, that’s what they all say in the beginning. You spend so much time building up a city, sit on a bench and realize, “well, ****, the lights are blinding.” And that’s what happens. People spend so much time creating what they think they want. and when they’re stuck with it, they close their eyes the entire time in disappointment. Here we are, sitting on a park bench wishing we lived somewhere in the country where we could actually see the sky, touch it, taste it.
We wanted more, but we stayed quiet. Mostly we wanted different, but instead, we started apologizing. You apologized for everything under the sun. The way you clicked your gum when you were bored, how you talked to yourself when you were stressed, the way you walked further ahead than me. You were hurrying ahead of me and I never understood where you were trying to go, but I knew it was away from here. I wanted to say something, anything, to break up the monotony of the silence that enveloped us. But I stayed quiet. I didn’t want to argue, just scream.
“I want to go home.” You finally said one evening. “I hate these **** lights and I can’t sleep knowing the city is awake.” I wanted remind you that you had insomnia, that if we lived in the country and the world fell asleep as we laid our heads on our pillows, you’d still never be able to sleep. You’d probably say the silence was too loud. I could never win with you.
We created something so electric, so terrifying and you were closing your eyes through it all. “If I can’t see her, she can’t see me.” Right? Not. I saw you, I witnessed your every move. But, I stayed quiet. I let you pack your things into boxes without question. I let you fall asleep on the couch for weeks. “I just can’t sleep. You breathe too loud.” You’d say. I felt a scream inside of me. Insomnia. You had insomnia. And of course I was breathing loudly, I was dreaming of drowning. And you were the ocean. That’s how it started feeling from then on.
I wondered where home was for you? With your parents? Where they could tell you about all the wonderful things you could’ve done? I knew that wasn’t it, but I also knew home wasn’t here either. In this city with a thousand stories. In this city that never sleeps. In this city where things are always happening. I began wondering what I didn’t know about you, but I began wondering, mostly, what I didn’t want to know. How when you can’t sleep, you sigh and toss and turn. Toss. Turn. Sigh. Turn. Toss. Sigh. Sigh again.
I sat on a park bench. Alone this time. Staring at the billboards, I closed my eyes and gulped. I tried to forget the awful color of the boxes that surrounded our my home. I tried not to think about how you forgot to say goodbye. I wondered what you saw when you closed your eyes? Because I saw lights. And I smiled. Because you hated the lights here, I began to love them. I began to love crowds in small rooms just out of spite. I started opening my eyes, asking questions, speaking out when I agreed with something, speaking up especially when I didn’t.
Insomnia wasn’t contagious but I think you gave me every symptom. My doctor told me to lay back on the coffee and maybe take NyQuill if it got worse. How was I supposed to pinpoint when I would miss you, though? I couldn’t. I reached for the phone before I could find the NyQuill, dialed your number. Like riding a bike, it’s something you don’t forget. I winced as it rang, I shuddered when you answered. I had so much to say, I had rehearsed this.
“Hello?” I felt my bones realign into the way they were when we fell in love. Perfect form to fit beside you in bed without disturbing you. Perfect form to hold your hand without getting too close. A perfect structure to love you without saying much of anything. I gulped. I wasn’t at a loss for words, words were at a loss for me. I reminded myself this. I wasn’t at a loss for you, you were at a loss for me.
“Hello? Who is this?” “I don’t think either of us have an idea.” When someone is quiet with you, you begin to memorize their voice. You didn’t have to love me to know what my voice sounded like. You had to love me in order to listen to me. There’s a difference. You sighed, “Oh, you” There was a sigh on the end of the line and I thought about the way you’d do this when you couldn’t sleep. Toss. Turn. Sigh.
I hated it like you hated the bright lights and the city.
“If you don't need anything, then stop bothering me.” I shivered at the harshness of your voice. And sighed myself. I started from the beginning, in screams that echoed throughout my home. I went on and on and on and on and on about everything I had ever suppressed until I heard the dullness of a dial tone mimicking me. I pressed end.
That’s when everything went quiet.
You hated noisy, crowded rooms, the city, the bright lights. Now me. You had it all wrong though.
Because here I am in the middle of the city that never sleeps staring at the nights and listening to the voices around me. I wanted to hear everyones story, but all I could hear was your voice telling me to stop bothering you. Your harsh tone, the way it cut through the silence of your small home in the country. I bet you can’t sleep there either. I bet you blame it on the crickets being too loud or the moon being too bright. I was drowning and you were sighing over and over again as if to say, “Great, another mess to clean up.”
Just so you know, you have insomnia. Just so you know, I can swim. Just so you know, there’s a difference between listening and hearing. We choose what we hear. Just so you know, there’s a difference between looking and seeing. You can choose what you see. You can’t keep your eyes shut for months and expect them to be accustomed to the bright lights when you decide to open them.