eight: prompt 2

n.b. this piece is a stream of consciousness, a personal uttering of dark corners.

The tunnel stretched ahead, neon tubing the only guide point against a deep expanse of black. The only sound was an occasional wind like whistle that I held to like hope, the only sign that this tunnel did open somewhere. An 80km sign appeared, and the gravel turned to grass, but still the tunnel stretched, until finally a brick wall appeared.

I don’t want to die. Not really. But it comes to me. I’d say I think about it, but that would imply a conscious effort, and what I mean really, is that it comes into my head so passively I would be concerned if not for its consistency.

The microwave glowed green. If you stared long enough, the numbers seemed to move, a pulsating buzz that flickered. It didn’t matter so much what the numbers were, they always moved forward at the same slow rate. A thousand hours could only move it by the minute, and every second it flickered I wondered if time has stopped. I felt the tension in my muscles, my eyes refusing to look forward.

The carpet in the hallway was a deep green, old but of quality that had stood through time, not pilled – just faded from the sun, and ragged as though it had been cleaned one too many times. The floor creaked beneath it, unpredictably except for a few hot spots. The fireplace, the pantry, and the part just after the old photo frames, held deep creak pockets. There were ways to sneak through with minimal noise, but the best was to not risk it.

The hallway had a nook, a place where you could see most of the house, but it couldn’t see you. You could see the entrance to his office, his seat at the head of the kitchen table, even (thanks to a well placed mirror) the opening to his bedroom. It was this nook where time often froze, here, in the long march between safe spots, that one could listen for signs of movement. The nook was just outside my mothers bedroom, close to my bedroom and not too far from the bathroom. It was the pocket where, we could listen in to his phone conversations and figure out if he would be home today. It would be where we could hear him in his bedroom, leaving his office – and his day planner, open for observation. It was here where I could listen to him scream and yell, and freeze on the spot as another bottle smashed into the floor. When I try to explain my anxiety, this nook in the hall is the only descriptor I know.

I can’t read a clock. I never learned. I can’t remember exactly why, beyond that maths was always a struggle for me.

I am standing on a bridge, and trains rush underneath. I watch them go, the rumbling so loud, the vibrations hitting my feet. The tracks have their own maze of neat lines and parallel paths, and the trains come in a range of bright colours – yet all the dirt and dust has put an urban filter on them. The yellow is not yellow like dandelions, but yellow like paper left in the sun too long. The red looks like rust, and has rust to contrast, but none of this matters because the grunge is a testament to its labor. I remember the wind pushing me closer to the edge, my legs swinging above the line.

I know I had a tape that played my times tables. I know I had a book. I know I wrote them again and again in exercise books, and I know I was quizzed on them. I know I was quizzed in front of a classroom of kids who already knew them by heart, I know I was tested while staring at that same glowing microwave in my kitchen. I know these things. But I don’t remember them. I remember the sinking feeling. I remember the fear most of all, and the sadness of watching shadows move across walls as I was made to go to bed long before it was night time. I remember shame, guilt, glass and some of the words – useless, failure, pathetic, unworthy.

I want to like numbers. I love the idea that something is either right or wrong. That answers follow a simple equation. I don’t understand them because I know the world is not black and white. I know that power is not a number. I know that wealth is not money. I know that I cannot buy love or respect or consideration, and I know that failure equals punishment.

There was something in me then, that there isn’t now. I think you call it hope, but to a survivor that’s not quite the right word. The hands move around the clock, but nobody counts the number of times it turns. In fact, nobody ever notices it turns, until it stops.

I wanted to write a piece about the number 8. I wanted to write about playing 8 ball to pop songs and dancing with cue sticks. I wanted to write a piece that was quirky and fun and silly. Sometimes we don’t get to do what we want to do.

The nightmares are hard sometimes. The flashbacks are hard sometimes. My illness is hard sometimes. But my life doesn’t stop.

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