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The way that the light cupped the dust that floated about in the early hours of the morning was fantastic. As if on a trophy stand, the minuscule and infinite particles swayed in the unnoticeable breeze professing minute wonders that I will never be able to fully comprehend.
I was alone in the house that morning, my parents were off to work and my siblings most likely still unconscious and tangled in their comforters. They seldom woke up early enough to make it to school on time. I never understood the point of sleep. So much was constantly occurring, especially in those hours so near to the sunrise.
Half asleep and happy to roam in my solitude, I dragged myself down the hall and into the bathroom. I turned the handle and water gushed from the shower head. Sudden images of the ocean burst from my memory and filled my vision. It was there, late at night on the sand, with my Grandmother, a lifelong insomniac, that I first learned the downside of sleep.
I couldn’t have been any more than five years old when she would settle me into her lap while she sat on the sand. We used to listen to the rhythm of the waves pounding into the tightly packed sand by the water line. She would whisper little lies, with the purest of intentions; stories crafted from utter fictions, of whimsical things.
The two of us used to sit out on the sand for hours beyond the time that the rest of our family had fallen into bed. The next morning, when all others were still fast asleep, we would creep out after only a few moments of rest and watch the sunrise.
I was brought back to reality when I noticed that I had forgotten to get under the stream of water - that’s one of the downsides of very little sleep: exhaustion.
Soon after I stepping under the water, it became scalding and I winced. I went to hop past the shower curtain and my stomach lurched as I felt my weight shift away from beneath my feet. I lost all control and felt myself fall back as I lashed out for anything to grab. I was able to latch onto the shower curtain. Thankfully, the fabric was sturdy enough to support my weight.
With my heart racing, I pulled myself up. I felt lighter somehow, more air-like, different, but in neither a good or bad way. It was interesting, the way that the usual weightiness of early morning exhaustion had suddenly dissipated.
I shivered at this new self-awareness as goosebumps spread themselves, much like waves, over the entirety of my body.
The rest of my morning routine was finished quickly, I even had enough time to make myself a cup of coffee - a rare pleasure. On my way out the door I passed my sister in the hall and whispered a friendly good morning, knowing that she despised the early hours and had no trouble making that fact obvious. She had a scowl set across her face and made no response. She continued on her way to the bathroom and I continued across the house to the front door. She never said much to anyone right after she woke up, so a hello was never expected. Just as I was about to step through the doorway, I heard a horrible screech from the bathroom.
My sister had a deep-set fear of spiders and I assumed that one had appeared. I thought for an instant that maybe I should go back and assist her, but decided against it. With the scream the rest of the house would have been awake and out of bed - they could handle it.
I slipped out the door which was already cracked open. Dad must not have closed it all the way after his even earlier morning walk with our eleven year old golden retriever. The weather was just starting to get warm and the fresh air would not have hurt anyone. I reached behind me to grab hold of the door handle but had trouble locating it. I was waiting for that barely audible, but very satisfying ‘click’ of the lock. I guess my exhaustion had set in once again. I glanced down at my watch and frowned. I was going to have to move quickly if I wanted to make it to school on time. I gave up trying to reach for the handle and, being too rushed, I didn’t bother to turn around to close the door.
I flipped my backpack onto both shoulders and jogged down the front walkway and off in the direction of school.
I slid into my desk just about three minutes late but my teacher paid me no mind. I had never liked him and he was often passive aggressive. I was sure that I would get some sort of punishment later on from him, most likely through an obnoxious and snide comment in the middle of a lecture.
None of the other students acknowledged my presence either, but that wasn’t all too unusual. I was quiet during school hours and would rarely talk. Neither of two of my closest friends in the class were present so I had no reason to speak at all that period.
The class floated by listlessly, my teacher’s voice droning on about irrelevant topics for all of the forty seven minutes. I tried my best to pay attention but found my thoughts wandering once again to my long departed Grandmother and to the ocean waves.
The bell took me from my half slumber and jolted me into a standing position. I meandered out the door, not daring to look back at my teacher, so I wouldn’t have to witness his glare filled with misplaced anger.
The rest of the day crept by in the same fashion, boring and terribly uneventful. I skipped lunch to sit and read in the library because none of my friends had shown up to school, odd, but nothing to worry about.
On the way to my last period class, I saw my best friend whom I had grown up with pass by on the other side of the hallway. His face was a little bloated, his eyes were raw and his cheeks red. It was unsettling. I couldn’t remember a time that I saw him cry. Maybe it was his grandfather - he had been sick for a couple of years, but no one had thought that he would pass away this soon. The extremes of my lips tipped down in a frown - I hated that I automatically assumed something so tragic. Optimism is always the best policy.
I was dragged away by the sea of people in the halls before I was able to turn and catch up with him - he was turning into his own class anyway. There’d be plenty of time at the end of the day to hear about what happened.
The rest of the day sped by without consequence, I spent my time chasing after dust particles in my mind as they collided with the sunlight.
After school, despite my best efforts in searching for my puffy-eyed friend who had eluded me in the hallways, I had no luck in locating him.
Worried, I headed for the side door out of school, wondering whether or not I should stop by his house just to make sure that everything was OK.
I hobbled down the stairs that led to the little used exit that lay closest to my home. I hadn’t realized how badly the fall in the shower that morning must have bruised me up - I couldn’t remember any time that I had to grimace with such severity. Each step I took nearer to the door the pain grew more and more intense, and as I reached for the handle I thought for a moment that my head would explode with pain. It was a skull splitting kind of throb that rocked my entire body.
I was sure that I was about to vomit when I threw the door open intending to rush outside. The instant it swung out, all of my pain evaporated. The roots of worry for my friend that had set themselves into my core disintegrated and I felt lighter than ever. I was content to the fullest sense of the word. A deep-set sense of peace began as a warm, tingling feeling in the tips of my fingers and toes, the heat pulsed through my body, and I felt utterly full and at peace to an extent that I could never have imagined.
From outside the door there was a blinding warmth that struck me right in the stomach and I staggered back, brimming with the realization of what had truly occurred. Where there should have been a parking lot there existed nothing - where the sky should reside, I saw nothing - in the direction of my home, my family - nothing. No color, just a feeling of intense longing to step on into the warmth and succumb to my now deep need to sleep for an eternity.
I took a step forward and the ground removed itself from under the soles of my shoes. Top had become bottom, nothing was clear, the world had turned on its side. My foot moved forward again and fell on nothing solid, the entire building had left me. Or had I left it behind?
I swore that the smell of salt water tingled within my nostrils.
As the salt filled air began injecting itself into my flesh I found myself at home once again, and all the events of the day grew clear. Accidents happen to everyone, mine just more serious than most. I had continued on, unaware to the signs all around me. My feeling light, a scream that appeared innocent from my sister, my inability to close the door, my teacher’s disregard, my boyhood friend’s swollen eyes.
All because I was no longer there, in physical form at least.
I moved forward, until the warmth encompassed all of my being. I was removed from the dark, colder world of the tangible, into one of carefree fantasy.
I could feel the grains of sand that had stationed themselves, like little soldiers, on my scalp, their hearts set on remaining there. A smile crept up from my toes and erupted onto my cheeks as the saltwater mingled between my toes.
I picked myself up off of the ground, my pockets nearly overflowing with different shells that emerged from the sand each time a wave came near to say hello. Only about twenty feet away was my Grandmother, watching the sunrise with silent attentiveness, and a deep interest I’d never before seen in anyone’s eyes. Still too young to be in complete control of my limbs, I nearly tripped as I started off toward her.
I placed myself in her lap, my form fitting hers with near perfection. I had only known her for the short time of five years - just as long as I had known the face of the earth in fact - yet my thoughts appeared with fantastic clarity.
I was in love, and only in the most pure and good sense of the word.
She spread her arms over my frail shoulders, and I fell back into her.
She was warmth,
I allowed the symphony of waves pounding against the sand to bring me to an even more peaceful place of rest.