I always forget to lock the back door, and my older brother likes to joke with me about it. Except half the time he’s not really joking, and he looks at me and shakes his head, and he’s actually pretty serious in a funny sort of way. He’s afraid someone might open the door in the middle of the night and shoot us all while we sleep. He also has nightmares about snakes, and he won’t sleep without his cat in the bedroom. I guess he’s kind of an interesting guy.
My brother doesn’t know that I don’t actually sleep. No one will murder us because I’ll be awake and I’ll notice the dude first. I’ll call the police and scare the pants off the guy and everything will be all right.
I’m the last to lock the door because I’m on the porch sitting while everyone else is asleep. Our back porch is perfect for that. There are a few lawn chairs that are always strewn around haphazardly, and I have a good view of our old garage and some gigantic trees that loom over our small neighborhood. Sometimes the night is clear, and I’ll watch the stars glisten as the huge oak trees sway in the breeze. Other times it’s cloudy and I’ll wait for the moon to shine between the drifting clouds. Or I’ll watch the clouds themselves, and the slow movement will calm me.
Usually I’m too busy to watch anything. I’m wrapped up in my thoughts, and all I see is the shadow of the garage looming before me. This time of year it’s cold outside, and my thin body shakes under my pajamas and bathrobe. My mind turns in circles and feels taut like a stretched rope.
I cannot sleep, so I sit in my room and read or waste time on the computer. I don’t feel like sleeping. I’ll sit and read and then invariably end up on the porch, huddled in my favorite chair. Later, I’ll head back inside, and I’ll forget to lock the door. I’ll sit in the kitchen and pour a cup of milk. Sometimes I’ll turn on the radio – softly, so I don’t wake anyone up. The radio plays rock music and I’ll lean back and try to enjoy it while my mind whirls. Everyone else is sound asleep.
I don’t know why I feel so lonely at night. It’s probably because everyone else wants to sleep and I don’t. Everyone else decides that they feel tired, so they lie in their beds and rest their heads on their pillows and then they fall asleep. I don’t understand exactly how it works, but I think it goes something like that.
Sometimes I’ll feel adventurous and I’ll walk down my driveway and watch the street. Usually there are no cars driving by, because it is late and my street is small. I sit and watch, not quite waiting. Then I’ll walk back up my driveway and in through my back door, which I’ll forget to lock because I’m too busy thinking, and I’ll pour myself a cup of milk and maybe listen to the radio. And then I’ll head back upstairs, treading the steps carefully so as not to wake anyone, and I’ll sit in my bed staring at the ceiling. Sometimes, I actually fall asleep.
Last night I forgot to lock the door again, and my brother barged into my bedroom early and woke me. By early I mean like eight o’clock, which means I’ve only gotten about three hours of sleep. He didn’t look happy. He asked me if I locked the door and I lie and say I think I did, knowing that if he’s asking me, I probably didn’t. I ask him if anyone’s broken in and shot us. He ignores my question and kneels down until he is level with my face. He tells me that I’ve got to stop, something’s got to give, I’m insane and there’s something wrong with me.
I agree with him. Then I snuggle into my pillow and fall back asleep.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.