it is two o' clock in the morning and i can't sleep. or i sleep too much. one of the two, and the pills make three. they stew and burn the back of my throat; the chemicals dissolve and form words.
the medical literature didn't say anything about that. or the numbness in my arms and legs. the tingling has crept up my right leg for the past week, weaving itself between my toes and nipping at the back of my knee. maybe it's a side effect, or maybe it's diabetes. or a blood clot. maybe my foot will need to be amputated, and i will have to hobble down the aisle for our wedding.
he coughs beside me, still fast asleep, and i touch one of his eyebrows so softly that maybe i am imagining the wiry hair against my fingertip. will he still love me if i only have one foot? i could ask him. i should shake him into reality and tell him about the burn and the tingling and the wedding photos that i will likely ruin.
"i'm sorry," i say, just to hear the words aloud, but he doesn't wake up.
the one that got away wasn't a human boy with bedroom eyes, and besides, that's the stupidest description ever. the one that got away was a dog. a little red dog with long legs and ears.
it was 11:00 at night. i pulled my car off the side of the road and stepped out into the darkness. something rustled in the long grass to my right, and then it crawled out in front of me, head low.
"come here," i said, admiring the way the moon made its back glow. "you're going to get hit by a car." as if called by my words, a car squealed past, just feet away.
"this is a good way to die," i told the dog, and it whimpered and wagged its tail.
i'm sweating now beneath the blanket and my thighs slide against each other, sticky-slick. i shove my foot out from beneath the covers, abandoning it to the cold of the room. it doesn't matter. i can't actually feel it, and the toes won't move like they should.
he coughs again, and i throw back the blanket, fumble my way through the darkness. i bark my shin against the wooden bedframe, and the guitar rings softly when i bump into it. my fingers touch the bathroom sink, and i flip the lightswitch. the bathroom is too bright, too cold. i slit my eyes and peer out at my naked, blurry reflection.
my arms are soft. my legs are bruised. the eyelashes on my left eye are bent straight down.
i touch my reflection's glass lips. "what do you want?" i ask the girl in the mirror. when she doesn't respond, i bend my leg at my knee and stare at the empty space below my kneecap.
the dog's nose was dry, and its ribs threatened to break through the surface of its skin. it cried softly as i felt around its neck for a collar and tags.
"come with me," i told it, standing slowly to my feet. "i'll keep you safe." the dog looked at me and took one step back. "please?" i asked, but the dog's eyes were on a pair of headlights in the distance. it huddled low as the car blazed past in a blur of light and noise.
i took one step forward; the dog took one step back.
"please," i said again, watching it back away. this time the word wasn't a question. i already knew the answer.
the wave of nausea is quick and overwhelming. i stumble and collapse against the toilet, vomiting bright yellow and red. it's a sunset, i think. or sunrise. my body is turning inside out. i jerk when two cool hands press into my shoulders and knead my back.
"shh," he says, it's going to be okay."
"i feel all wrong," i tell him between gasps and heaves. tears are dripping off the tip of my nose and filling my mouth with salt. he takes one step back, and, panicked, i lurch towards him.
"careful." he steadies me and reaches for the water glass by the sink.
"don't go," i tell him. "even if we have to cut off my foot."
"i'm not going anywhere," he says solemnly, and he holds me on the bathroom floor until we both fall asleep.