There is a terrible comfort that can be found in pillows. They hold you fixed to a specific spot. You want to stay, cradled in their false protection. They sooth you and tell you are safe. They have no way of knowing. They have no real power in our world. They talk a good story of sanctuary and they offer you reprieve from your day. For all the promises of pillows, they hold no real sway over mankind.
Pillows, in and of themselves, are objects. They are support for your head. They are portals to the dream world. They are liars with silver tongues who whisper in your ear, telling you the secrets of sleep. At night, they are your head’s best friends, but in the daylight they transform into the enemy of your productive waking hours. They pray on your fears and keep you in bed past reason and repeated alarms.
I listened to my own breathing, waiting for provocation to rouse. None came. “I’m warm and soft” came the subliminal suggestion from beneath my head. In the stark quiet of the early morning I could hear my chest rising and failing with the ghostly shifting of the sheets. I dare not open my eyes for fear of breaking the spell of invulnerability cast by the unspoken words of the pillow mage. None of what waited for me could touch me until I empowered the day with by daring to sneak a peek.
In the darkness of shuteye, in the half conscious world of pre-dawn waking I could pretend the world was perfect. The mistakes and faults of days gone by were washed way by the blessings of sleep and the forgetfulness that came with it. The inconsistencies of the things I couldn’t explain were smoothed over and filled in by the healing power of sleep. In this moment, the lives and death of Daisy were a far off memory hidden in a book tucked away behind the fog provided by the cottony embrace of my down filled dream guardian. In bed, I am whole and perfect, but increasingly aware that this is an illusion.
Sunlight bled at the edges of my blackout curtains. The room is filled with hints of daytime and reminders of things yet to come. In the slowly warming air of the enclosed room those premonitions turn into undone “to dos”. In the murky moments of wakefulness, I finally snap upright in bed. I know instantly I am late for work. It’s only then I realize I am not alone in the room.
The thing about intruders is that they are present and unbidden.You don’t get the option of preparation or delay. They must be addressed immediately and on their terms. They have an agenda that is completely outside of your current needs, wants and timelines. Intruders often have the benefit of surprise and use it to keep you off balance. Since I had begun my interludes with the dead, a person in my home hardly seemed terrifying or out of place.
My intruder allowed me to compose myself before attempting to engage me. She sat quietly, watching me swing my feet down to the floor so I was sitting on the edge of the bed. She made no move to grab the revolver in her lap. She was dressed as if she was about to go out clubbing with a bunch of girlfriends, rather than to interrogate a schoolteacher in his pajamas.
Her green eyes tracked my every movement. She remained motionless as I wiped the sleep from eyes. I couldn’t tell if she meant to threaten me or felt threatened by my presence. She was definitely studying my movements and me. Why she was doing so was a complete mystery.
“I made you coffee” she began.
“I’ll phone ahead next time.” I said, still fuzzy. I wasn’t completely sure if I knew her or not.
“Comfy?” she continued.
I was. So I responded, “Yes.” I wasn’t trying to be playful, but it came across that way. I was still trying to sniff out if she meant me any harm.
“You’re in my apartment.” I offered as fact.
“I was going to say the same thing to you” she responded.
“3b” I stated flatly with a hint of a question in my voice.
“Since I moved in,” she confirmed while nodding her head.
“You have a lot of guy stuff for the owner of this apartment” I countered, as if in explanation. I gestured with a slow sleep burdened hand to the pajama’s I wore. My pajamas. I had taken them from my dresser the night before. They were my favorites, a Christmas gift from my sister Ronnie.
“It’s a condo by the way” she clarified.
I knew this.
“Stacy gave me keys and told me I could crash here a while” she added as an afterthought.
I had forgotten this. Stacy was my nineteen-year-old niece. I had told her she and girlfriend could crash here for a while they were town for an internship at an art gallery. It was part of a semester exchange her school had with another school here in town. The dorms were in rough neighborhood that wasn’t really all that close to where their internships were, my condo was only a few blocks away. I could never say no to Stacy.
Stacy and her friend Carol had yet to arrive.
I studied this girl in the shadows as my eyes began to focus. Carol wasn’t really a girl at all. She looked more like she was woman in her mid to late twenties. Her blond shoulder length hair swept back over her ear and was brought together in ponytail by a cute, pink scrunchie. She was pretty but had sad eyes. The kind of eyes that told stories that didn’t match the ever-present warm smile. Stories that smile didn’t want you to know.
“I’m guessing you’re 'Uncle Laz'?” she proffered.
“The one and only, I think?” I stated questioningly.
Motioning to the gun I said, “Carol. It is Carol, right? Unless you plan to shoot me, stow that somewhere safe and I’ll make us some French toast and bacon.” From the smell carrying down the hall, I could tell she actually had made some coffee.
Rising, I noted, laid crisply at the foot of the bed, were what I presumed to be Carol’s pink silk pajamas. How had I missed that when I crawled into bed, tired and defeated the night before?
She smiled and let me leave my bedroom without putting a bullet in me. My mind raced to a mental checklist of things I needed to do when I made it into the kitchen, including calling in sick. As I exited the room I glanced over my shoulder and saw the two large suitcases by the dresser I had somehow also missed the night before.
“I’ll move into the guest room” I heard from behind me as I padded into the kitchen.