Something Coming, Something Not
Mina slept four days and four nights and woke up unrecognizable to herself. She could no longer curl her stuck-out tongue; she could no longer rapidly and with rhythmic charm recite the alphabet in reverse, another of her self-entertaining standards. Her head felt as stale as a cracker left overnight on the counter. Nevertheless she sat up and tried to get on with the business of being whatever she had become.
At the bedroom door her long-departed mother stood waiting for her. “Well,” her mother said, not entirely a question, not entirely a declaration. Her mother had been an elliptical conversationalist at best, so Mina wasn’t surprised by the scarcity of tonal clues. Unsurprised but, as usual regarding her mother’s utterances, puzzled. Was her mother inquiring after the state of Mina’s health after the long lie-in or was her mother (more likely) insisting Mina declare what next she intended?
Since there existed (still) a threshold between them, Mina opted not to cross it, instead shutting the door, returning to bed and resuming the dream she’d temporarily exited, two scenes playing on a continuous loop. In the first she packed and repacked a suitcase. In the second she cleaned and reorganized the disordered contents of a mini-fridge, knocking her head frequently on the highest mini-shelf. Tedious, repetitive tasks and, in dream, never ending. Three days and three nights later she woke feeling even more exhausted than she’d felt at the end of her first sleep marathon. Deep cavities of blue hung below her eyes. Higher, her eyelids looked puffy and stung when she blinked. She seemed to have raked her left cheek with a fingernail while dreaming of scraping clean the mini-fridge.
Her mother sat in an uncomfortable chair in the corner of the room, paging through a magazine that contained only Roman numerals.
“Well,” she said again.
Mina shut her eyes—but only temporarily. When next she opened them, her mother lay beside her in bed. For a while they both stared at the ceiling that seemed (to her) full of jumps and starts and flickery shadow but possibly to her mother seemed as blank and bald and empty as the moon.
Before her mother could speak again, Mina herself did the honors, using her flat voice. “You were always in such a rush,” she said.
Her mother grunted. Mina took this for basic agreement with the evaluation, but sensed her mother was constrained from further elaboration. Mina’s ankles were swollen as if she’d walked many miles, though in her dreams she’d packed and cleaned from a central command post, her movements confined to leaning down or leaning in. Any hour now, she supposed she’d be compelled to get on with whatever awaited her, events that had her name on them, feelings that erupted from verifiable interactions. She supposed such was the case. Yet not even her dead mother had categorically nixed another sleep-in, if Mina needed another, to prepare.
Kat Meads, the author of more than 20 books and chapbooks of prose and poetry, lives in California. (katmeads.com)