Awake

October. The sneaking onset of darkness suggested a much later hour, but it was early yet. Too early for her to be in bed already, but what difference did the hour make anyway? She’d been lying there for days…

The light patter of rain tapping at the roof muffled his footsteps as he crept down the hall to her room. There was no reason to be quiet. But there was no reason to rampage through the house like an asshole, either. So he was quiet. Stealthy. Sneaky. Moving soundless toward the door to her room, and the only noise to be heard was the endless ticking of that weird little clock she kept beside her bed, even though she’d never bothered to set the time.

“What difference does it make?” She’d asked, and he’d shrugged his shoulders in response, because he wasn’t going to argue with her over a cheap thrift store cast off she shouldn’t have bought in the first place. He’d shrugged his shoulders, and left her alone with her useless clock with the hands keeping track of some alternate timeline, in another universe where maybe she gave some semblance of a shit, but probably not.

The room was dark. The heap of blankets in the middle of the bed was motionless, but he knew better than believe it.

She was awake. She was always awake. She hadn’t slept since the night in the basement. Nightmares on both sides of her eyelids now, but at least the ones while she was awake could be contained.

So he hoped, anyway.

Her skin had taken on a vaguely gray pallor, and her eyes stared at him, unblinking, from heavy, sleep-bruised lids. He could still see the faint stains of unwashed makeup crusted in her lashes, and her hair looked both dry and greasy. He imagined himself trying to touch it and having it tear away from her scalp, stuck to his fingers in clumps and tangles, raw strips of skin still hanging off the ends. A real horror show. Movie-worthy.

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. It was a strange kind of perversion to think about his sister that way. Disturbing and filthy and unkind.

He just wanted to touch her. He knew, even before he reached out to her, that her old black shirt would be sweat damp, but she wouldn’t kick the blankets off. Even when they were kids, she had to have the blankets pulled up to her chest. The sweltering heat of summer couldn’t dissuade her; she’d just lie there and boil in her own sweat. Nobody fought her on it, because it was the only area of her life where she showed any determination.

So they let her suffer.

Looking at her now made him sick. She had to be miserable, lying there on her dirty sheets with her dirty hair and her bloodshot eyes that never closed. It had to be maddening to lie there and listen to the clock ticking and tocking as it sat there on the nightstand, lying about the time.

He didn’t talk to her as he gently touched her shoulder. He didn’t ask if she was hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or completely fucking insane, because she wouldn’t answer, and what difference did it make, anyway?

He didn’t say I’m sorry, or It was an accident, or I didn’t mean to. She already knew all of that. She had absolved him that same evening, tucked his hair behind his ear and kissed him softly on his forehead (just a feather light scrape of dry lips across his brow, because he wasn’t her favorite, wasn’t his twin, wasn’t her dog) and then she’d gone to her room to lie down and hadn’t gotten back up.

Instead, he just stood there, with his hand on her shoulder and felt the wet heat radiating off of her, felt her breathing even though he couldn’t hear it over the ticking and the pattering of the rain and the violent bloodstorm in his own head.

There was nothing to be done now, nothing that would make any difference. He just stood there, and stroked her hair and though it was almost gummy with filth, it didn’t detach from her skull in thick bleeding patches, and he let her suffer.

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