Of the nights that I have not slept, these are the ones I will remember most:
- My arm is in a sling and I cannot move it. I am sleeping on the roof of a boat and it is cold. There is a collection of bats flying overhead and they make funny noises and scratch the sides of the boat. Moving makes my arm hurt, but I am restless and cannot lay still. I am the only one awake on the boat.
- I am mixing pumpkin bread in the dark with a wooden spoon so as to not wake the children. Something must be done with all these hours and when they wake, they will be happy there is bread.
- I believe I must have been in the bathtub for an hour. I think I was angry at first, now I am only wet. Very wet.
- They think I am asleep. They are in the other room. They are talking. They are laughing. They never come to visit, but now (when I almost wish that they wouldn’t)—they are here.
- Laundry is a beautiful task. There is so much which can so easily be made perfect. Perfect creases, perfect folds; perfect sandwiches of pants, perfect piles of socks. I almost wish I had more laundry I could do. But a friend is helping me carry the basket up the stairs and I am glad. I am glad to see him, to hear his voice, to listen to him speak as I make piles of perfect things to make up for all that is not perfect. He is a nice man.
- I am never so hot as this. Sweating through the night has never been my trouble. I have always been the one to be cold—to wear extra sweaters, to build cocoons out of blankets that reach up to my face. Tonight I lie flat on my back with the blanket tumbled to the right side of the bed and I stare at the ceiling. I am in a desert. I suddenly realize that I have fallen in love with a desert. My parched lips tell me that the desert cannot love in return.
- I have run everywhere and there is nowhere else to run. I come home and say without thinking “I am so tired of competing with asian women!” Nobody appreciated that. I know it wasn’t nice, but I guess I’d been thinking it for years. It’s a little sickly how good an explosion can feel.
- The parents are not home. I locked all the doors but still feel fear. But most of all I feel the loneliness of a single mother sleeping alone in a quiet house. Though I guess it is little more than the smallest fraction of that feeling. But weak as I am, I cannot stand it, and so I bring the little girls to my room and fall asleep kissing their little faces.
- It is the last night of camp. I have finished packing my own things, so I decide to pack my friends. None of her clothes are folded so this gives me plenty to do. I hear the others downstairs. In my mind I see them laughing and dancing and eating things covered in whipped cream. I think I would like to cry now, but instead I get out the windex. I shall clean all the counters and all the windows and all the floors. But first I sit on the porch and listen. I listen to the life I have chosen not to live, the words I have chosen not to say, the risks I have chosen not to take. Then, after a few minutes have past, I get back to work. There is plenty to do; plenty to pack.
- I think I thought there would be some sort of closure. That something would be said—that something would be done. He sat on one couch and I on the other, staring forward saying nothing. I think I would have liked to cry but I think they were looking for keys. I regret coming. I regret hoping he would care. After being in the room some twenty minutes in silence, I decide to leave. I do not believe that he noticed. If he did, he certainly did not let me know. It’s odd how much I’m not supposed to care. It’s odd how much I do care in spite of it all. I wish I had said something. I wish I had said anything!