Noise. I woke up remembering a lot of noise. The ride from the airport was frantic. And so loud. Oh, so loud. I don’t even know if I managed to pick up all the luggage I put on the airplane. It didn’t matter anyway. Nothing mattered. And everything did.
This was the end of my life. Or was it? Must have been.
The ride on the train felt like an eternity. Everybody was running around in the car I was in, screaming, chatting, laughing, laughing at me together with the train.
Oh god, make this noise stop.
When I made it to the apartment that, somehow, was to be mine, it felt so tiny, so dark, claustrophobic. I considered sleeping out in the hallway instead. But no, it was dark in the hallway, too. It was narrow and cold and hard.
And so I went into the apartment. After all, I was in prison, had nothing, and death by suffocation sounded better than the absolute emptiness inside my chest.
I dumped the luggage, most of which had somehow disappeared (or maybe I never had it in the first place), by the door and locked it behind myself. I walked through the tiny kitchenette right by the entrance, not wider than the hall outside the door, and found a bed — my bed, apparently — and let my body fall down on it, boneless.
After the long journey to hell, sleep came quickly.
I had a dream that I was running again. I was running and I was free; the freest person in the world. Air filled my lungs and wind flapped my hair as my legs carried me across the grassy hill, past the tall trees. I might have been running away from something. Running for my life. I don’t know. Still, it was the most beautiful thing I had in my life.
I wish I could run again.
Morning came faster than it should have, tearing me out from the dream. I looked at the ceiling. I didn’t recognize it. Where was I? Where? My heart started to beat faster. This wasn’t the room I was supposed to wake up in. I tried to open my eyes. My brain strained against the effort. Your eyes are open already.
No, they’re not. I wasn’t where I went to sleep. Couldn’t be.
I was supposed to see a window and a tall redwood tree outside that window. There was supposed to be a blue sky and another tree, a pine framed by the window looking out west. The one I could see the setting sun out of. The ceiling above me was supposed to be of warm beige color.
Instead, I was looking into a dark grey room. It looked sterile, impersonal. It wasn’t my room. It was a prison.
I got up from my bed. Threw open the heavy curtains that stopped the daylight from coming in.
I was staring into someone else’s window.
Where was I? Where were my trees? Where was my sun? Where was my blue sky?
Where was my freedom?
How did I not notice the previous night that my bed was a mattress in a hammock? And that the door that looked like a part of the big closet that could swallow me whole actually led to a bathroom? And that, in the shower, there was another door?
In the shower.
My bare feet moved across the cold floor. Who puts a door in a shower? It was almost invisible. As if it wasn’t even supposed to be there. As if it was a part of my dream.
I reached out and opened it. Behind, there was a hall filled with light. The opposite wall was made of glass. White tiles on the floor. Empty.
Until another door creaked open down the hall. A face appeared from the seemingly smooth wall. A smile. Maybe it replaced the sun.
“Don’t tell them about this,” she said, a giggle escaping her mouth. And she was gone.
I heard another door open. The sound came from behind me. From my own apartment. I shut the shower door and walked out to where my bed was hanging in the middle of the room.
“Good morning, welcome, how are you doing?” came a voice from the kitchenette. It was cheery, way too cheery considering it was coming from someone who was actively breaking into what was now my apartment.
“Who is it?” I asked and my own voice sounded alien to me.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you all set up, how did you sleep? Oh, look at you, poor thing!” I saw a bald man, smiling with his mouth, his eyes, and probably his liver, too. He walked to me and grasped my cheeks in his hands. More words of compassion came from his mouth but I couldn’t understand them. I couldn’t understand anything that was going on.
Behind the man, a tall woman stood, looking directly at me.
But I couldn’t see her, couldn’t see her face, her hands, nothing.
I could tell she was there. I could tell she wore a pencil skirt and a blouse. I could tell she was talking to me.
But despite looking directly back at her, I couldn’t see her.
“We’ve prepared some things already, clothes and others,” said the man. I started to look into the drawers in the kitchenette. Yes, there were some things. Some things. Some things… but what were they? I felt like I was supposed to know. I felt like I was supposed to recognize them.
A jolt of short-lived excitement shot through me when my eyes landed on one of those things, wrapped in a checkered red and white kitchen towel. I still couldn’t tell what it was.
“Ah, feeling better now? Poor thing, you look so sorrowful. Look in the other drawer, I got you a present!” said the man.
I opened the drawer. Something was there. I knew something was there, something that was supposed to make me happier. But despite looking directly at it, I couldn’t tell where or what it was. Space didn’t make sense anymore.
I turned to the man, feeling like I was supposed to show him some gratitude for trying so hard to make me feel… to make me feel.
“I had the worst dream,” I said. I was sitting outside with Stephanny. A truck drove by, pulling into a parking lot next to the coffee shop where we were having brunch. Well, it was snack time for me, but I didn’t tell Stephanny that I already had breakfast a couple of hours earlier. My eyes flew to the passenger window on the truck.
From the inside, a woman was staring back at me.
The woman I saw in supposedly my apartment from something that was supposed to be a dream, a dream I had to force myself to wake up from, a dream I was afraid would trap me forever.
Her lips stretched in a grimace distantly resembling a smile.
“You okay?” Stephanny asked. I got up and ran before the woman had a chance to get out of the car and trap me.
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