Ally Riddle

Too much of my time is spent reading about sleep. If only that time could be spent actually sleeping. Instead, I learn how detrimental it is to my immune system not to. At this point, cancer or Alzheimer’s must be guaranteed. Through embarking on this sleep–or lack of it–journey, I’ve stumbled upon that old French chronobiologist guy, Jean Jacques d’Ortous Mairan. He discovered that heliotropic plants, which are essentially prettier and less-destructive versions of us humans, are not actually subjected to the sun’s patterns. Later studies related this to humans, and we’ve discovered the circadian rhythm, a biological clock internally driven by the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Pretty cool. Mine is just broken.

Only on the most restless of nights do I turn to the thought of falling in bed next to Elise. The feeling of falling persists as I run my fingers up and down the cotton sheets that mimic the feel of their skin. Synching the rise and fall of my chest to theirs, my stomach finally settles, and I land in their embrace. Their right forearm proudly displays a dagger tattoo and is secured tightly around my chest like a seatbelt that has been protecting me since I broke contact with my ex, the most notable of demons locked in my pandora’s box. The key I’ve misplaced as it is far too easily surrendered to anyone who asks nicely.

With exception of the circadian rhythm, there are biological processes that are very much tied to the sun’s patterns. For example, my anxiety. Ever since I lost the one I loved — or should I say, was toxically codependent on and would readily abandon all remnants of self and die for — my anxiety rears its head as the day expires. It activates each pain receptor that resides in my body and sucks every ounce of joy from my bones like a hungry vampire. I wonder if that could explain my pale complexion and quickly dwindling friend group.

To preface the remaining paragraphs, I will be giving my anxiety she/her pronouns. At this point, all manifestations of my fear can be linked to subjects with those identifiers. My mommy issues, ex-partner, queerness, and hyper-fixation on my gender expression. Her, her, her, and her(?). During the day she conceals herself in the depths of my mind, just waiting. Toying with me. Mornings trick me into believing I am free. Hedonic adaptation is failing to desensitize me, as she continues to make her grand debut every evening.

It’s too easy to pick lovers over friends when you are a love addict. Over the past month, I’ve no longer been able to tell which category Elise falls into; my desire for more time is often met with more distance. Nonetheless, I have become accustomed to the fantasy of their presence, even with the exponential increase in time between visits, their body still cradles me through the worst hours of the day, for a moment anyway.

Each night as the sun sets, the sky is flooded with a bloody red, and the time I had been given to finally wash the piling dishes in the sink is taken. Earth has completed a rotation about its axis, and God hasn’t sent me a sign despite my incessant and desperate pleading. A full day, and I’m so exhausted — all the books about sleep still haven’t taught me how to do it. 24 hours, and my ex still hasn’t texted telling me she can’t go another day without me.

Elise’s arm, which was supposed to shield me from my past, now suffocates. The cotton sheets that were gently cradling my restless body scratch at my bare skin. My partners operate like flimsy bandages, too soon they are over-saturated by the bleeding wounds that lie within. Malignant wounds so deep, woven into the intricate fabric of my DNA, infecting me while violently transmitting the pathogens to those I seek to fix me. Thanks, mom. Careful to not disrupt Elise from their sacred and peaceful slumber, I unsheathe the dagger from their forearm and attempt to carve out the pieces of myself that I’ve lost in them, too. Tonight, I’ve managed to add a second ghost that haunts my prolonged wakefulness.

My only solace at this point is that the mercies of my anxiety are new every morning. I will soon feel free from her again. The hourglass will be flipped, and the sand will fill the hollow cavity in my chest that my ex created when she left, two, maybe three times ago now. As the great artist generously pours light through my windows at dawn, I will breathe freely. Until night returns, and my vampiric nervous system is permitted to run wild, sucking away at my soul.

About the Author

Ally Riddle is a first year XE student.