I had doubts. When the nights came, the bedroom walls pulsing out like ripples growing further and further away from my bed, those doubts amplified to the beats of my hollow heart.
Echoes, I called them. The echoes of a misspent life had come a calling. They would never leave. No matter how hard I pressed the pillows to my head, those residual murmurs remained. Sweeping in across oceans of night, they haunted my island self. There was nowhere to hide. I didn’t deserve to.
Time: a relative concept, more so still to the timeless. I was timeless, a salient detail my demons knew. There would never be respite from my tormentors. Never!
When sunlight came sweeping through my curtains like filtered candy, I opened my eyes. Another night over. Another night done. Breathe, my mind said. Breathe, it repeated, as it was wont to do at each new dawn. Just breathe.
One hopes for evil to pass, prays for it even. One imagines those doubts dissipating like broken clouds to never regather. And, sometimes, when the darkness was dismissed for the daylight hours, I thought it possible. I’m me again, my brain promised. I’m me. That’s when the voices came.
’You don’t really matter,’ they said. ’See you tonight.’
Regardless of the provocation, I resisted. Although my fists balled so tight that I thought my fingernails to burst out of the back of my hand in sprays of crimson, I bit back the pain and sought the meditative calm of Zen. But, as always, my temper was not mine to control. One word from you and I poured upon them like a tsunami of pent-up rage. No one was spared. No one cared.
The child, a young boy of perhaps ten, looked from them to me and back again, smiled, then took back his lunch box.
They expelled me, of course they did, but justice had been served. She took me in, or so I told my parents, gave me a job and respectability. I’d have done anything for her, fought armies, braved monsters, loved. I didn’t, but would have.
When I woke one day to find her gone, I collapsed. Not a word written or verbal had warned of it. Not a clue to my desertion did she leave. All that remained was a single voice in my head where once there’d been two. I hated its owner. I hated me.
It was not an admission of guilt, but a cry for help.
Words didn’t come easy to Simon. Most children learnt early that a ‘Sorry’ whether meant or not would alleviate situations that otherwise might end with a slap. Sorry was a get-out clause written into childhood law. Sorry was the most perfect word ever created, one I used with over-eager indulgence. Simon, however, couldn’t say sorry no matter what the circumstances. I often thought he wanted to though. The word would sit on his trembling lips like a bad-tasting vegetable, perhaps, a turnip or a jagged broccoli.
When Simon did what he did, the world went crazy. Yet even then, his fate could’ve changed. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he stood in the courtroom. He could’ve said it then and made things right. He could’ve, but didn’t.
I’ve often wondered if his old sorry phobia resurfaced, if it had ever left, or if it was the plain and simple truth that the others had always touted: Simon was nuts.
Two in the morning and I still can’t sleep. The night stands silent bereft of even cicadas. Everything is still. My bedside alarm blinks in slow motion illuminating a small, green patch of table, then flicks to darkness. When it flicks back, you’re there. You’re always there bathed in green.