Dawn is a pulsing light behind the pale suburban homes.
The woman sits on her bed, her comforter and sheets in knots behind her, flotsam from the night’s shipwreck of hours. Darkness seeps out of them as sweats seeps out of her. As if after a broken fever, her shirt clings to her like a double skin but her body is cool in the lightening gloom.
She blinks and stares at a sky she has never seen before. Not with these eyes which see light instead of shadows and color, so much color!
“How long?” She whispers. How long has she been swimming underwater, with only the shallowest of breaths to keep her going? Ages. Millennia.
“Depression robs a person of everything,” her mother said weeks before. “This is not you. I know that. Do you?”
And she hadn’t, not until this morning. It’d been so long since she’d felt anything but coiling darkness inside her that she’d forgotten what just breathing felt like.
The room smells of a struggle and abandoned sleep, but she has never smelled anything like it before. It’s like everything around her has bloomed; the lavender liquid with which she washes her sheets pushing through the dough-like scent of sweat; the glass of water she hasn’t touched that smells of dust; even the paint chipping off the walls. All of it surrounds her, strong enough to make her press her hands to her nose.
Tears sting the patches of skin on her face she’s rubbed raw throughout the endless night. “Ouch,” she moans and then snorts with a swallowed chuckle. She can feel her skin again and it hurts, but it’s the kind of hurting that can heal. Her whole body, her mind, feels like a blister, just waiting to be drained of water and puss.
The light keeps growing, pushing against her room’s darkness. It reveals the book she’s hasn’t opened in weeks and the bottle on her bedside table. It’s tipped over and empty.
Pills lay scattered on the carpet like powdery white landmines which she cracks into pieces as she gets off the bed and walks to the window. She doesn’t feel them dissolve under her feet, each one of those pills she counted over and over again throughout the night, making sure they were enough.
Nothing miraculous had happened. There had been no voice from above or sign that she should stop. She could have taken them times over and no one would have known. It’d just been a sound. One tiny, pinpoint of noise she’d balanced on the entire night.
The shower head dripping onto the tiles in the bathroom, the sound echoing through the open bathroom door. The stupid shower head she’d meant to have called someone about for months now, but had never found the push to look for a number, to pick up her phone, to make the call.
“That’s going to be the last thing I hear,” she said and felt…something. The beginnings of the rage that would launch her to scratch the walls with her bare nails, to rub her face enough that days later the marks would still be intact.
Drop by drop, rage built until she couldn’t sit anymore. She counted the pills again, to steady herself, but each one matched a drop and her teeth grit together. Her heart pounded harder than it had in months or years or centuries and she pressed her heels against her chest, trying to make it stop. Just stop!
The drops counted her backwards, like a hypnotist’s voice, and she saw the wasted hours in this room, on this same bed, the time spent keeping track of how much time she’d lost. Over and over and over. And she was sick of it. Sick of herself like this.
That was when she’d lunged out of bed, tipping the bottle and spilling the pills. She grabbed the curtains that hadn’t been opened in days and ripped them off the window, sending the beam that held them up crashing to the floor. With a scream, she grabbed on to the very walls and dragged her nails down, peeling the old paint in strips.
It continued for hours, the ripping and tearing, the knotting of bed-sheets. She thinks, now, that she hadn’t thought even once to head into the bathroom and yank that shower head off the wall. Instead, she’d massacred her room until her hands swelled.
And here she is, now, staring at the growing light as if she’s never seen it before. She hasn’t, not really.
After a plunge in such dark waters as the ones she’s been swimming in, light is never the same.
Nothing ever is.
She watches the light.
And hears the drops falling behind her.