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I liked to call my disease “The Album.” It was up for debate whether to call it “The Album of Horror” or “The Album of Sleepless” or “The Album of Lauryn’s miserably quiet life that consisted of two or less hours of sleep each night.” The situation tended to call for abbreviation, though, as I didn’t want to insert an endless title of my sorrows while rambling on to myself.
It became “The Album,” a fitting title, of course, with all of the music, the sounds, the noises, and the thoughts. Out rang the whole notes of the ceiling fan thrumming it’s wings and the staccato sixteenth notes of the fan’s pull-cord clicking against the glass frames around the bulbs. Out rang the constant quarter notes of my dad’s snores from the next room over. Out rang the car engines zooming swiftly into a crescendo, then back down to a distant pianissimo. So, you see, everything became music bubbling and jumping atop a large staff, everything synthesizing into one large score, composed by God’s conducting hands.
And I hated all of it.
As I lounged atop my sheets, eyes creeping across the high and sharp ceiling, I listened to the ruckus of nighttime, wondering how any sane people could commit themselves to a pleasant or constant sleeping schedule. Music, dreaded noise, penetrated the armor-less walls of my room. Crickets, cars, the buzz of the yellow streetlamp that beamed through the cracks in my curtains and somehow happened to befall exactly upon my restless eyes.
The music halted, as if the conductor had fallen. I glanced at my alarm that shone blood-red numbers to my bloodshot eyes. 12:59? Was it really that late?
I rose from my soft-sheeted tomb, shuffling to the kitchen to take some sleeping pills. D*** insomnia. I retrieved a glass from the cupboard, glancing habitually at the microwave clock.
Any other night, perhaps earlier when I wasn’t so sleep-deprived, I would’ve laughed and assumed it a mechanical error. But not tonight. When half mad with sleeplessness, my mind rambled loud thoughts about how the noise stopping and the time increasing had tied together in some manner or another.
Eyes wide, I swallowed my little cerulean pill and leaned against my kitchen counter. I tended to constantly overreact, which proved the impossibility of the situation. Yet, when I heard nothing, when no sound sung to my ears, I rushed out of my front door, stumbling to the street ornamenting the front of my little house.
Inside, there raged a complete war with what I had set as a goal within myself. Ever since God cursed me with my sleeping disorder, I had sworn to myself that I would find a way to be in complete silence. Any way that I could find peacefulness in a chaotic world would be my sanctuary. Now, I had found it.
And the insanity filled me. I kept hearing things… the trees whispering, the bugs chirping, the booming music from the neighbor’s car pulling into their driveway. But I’d look at the golden leaves frozen in time, feel no autumn breeze, wait and listen for something to interrupt the tranquility. Nothing. Just silence.
I thought I’d enjoy this moment. I thought I’d scream “I’m A Little Teapot” at the top of my lungs just to listen to the echo that wouldn’t come. Instead, I found myself screaming, not a song, just screaming.
“Let me out,” I wailed, fighting tears like a soldier marching to his own doom. “Let me out.” Pretending that the repeated phrase had echoed my scream consoled me the smallest bit. Pretense, never enough, caused me to bow my head in defeat and collapse to the curb, the concrete digging into my tailbone painfully.
Then I heard a noise, a sole noise. Footsteps were approaching with a slow crescendo, and they were the most complex rhythms I had ever heard. But then, I heard a voice, deep and smooth and calming enough to make me jump and tilt my chin upward just enough to find the speaker.
“You have funny eyes,” was all he said to me, gazing mysteriously into my tear-filled orbs as if they were an alien’s mask.
“Aren’t you going to ask if I’m alright? I just screamed at the top of my lungs like a mad lady,” I snorted, using the quiet sarcasm to hide my fear and inner turmoil.
“One’s blue and one’s green,” he stated obviously, sitting down on the curb immediately next to me. I rolled my strange eyes to ease some of the tension between the two of us, then glanced at his, their comfort like chocolate on a bad day.
“Well, yours are brown,” I countered cleverly, and his grin perfectly matched mine.
“Touché,” he smiled, his head bumping the pavement as he lay onto his back. “Name’s Tristan,” he greeted shortly.
“Lauryn,” I smiled in return, the sound of our voices filling the deathly silence with a warm comfort… Everything was fine. Silence, and the moan of soundlessness flooded my ears once more. “Say something!” I yelped, clutching my head forcefully.
“Uh… Something?” he laughed, and I glared at him. He sighed dolefully and reassured, “I know, I know. The silence is killing you, isn’t it? You’ll get used to it, eventually.”
“Eventually?” I whispered, the quiet noise sounding harsh from my lips. “How long have you been here?”
“I’ve lost count, but the met keeps silently clicking.” His words were a snort, as if it didn’t matter anymore. When he noticed my puzzled look, he continued, “I have a metronome to keep track of the time. I’ve set it up to mark the seconds, and it’s nice to have something to listen to, you know, so I don’t lose my mind.”
“Am I going to be here that long, too?” I asked, voice nearly soundless. He shrugged, and when he wouldn’t speak, I interrupted his silence. “Where exactly is here?”
“Some people need a place to think, some people find it.”
I moaned loudly and wrapped my arms around my knees, burying my face in my dark red pajama bottoms and smelling my mom’s favorite brand of fabric softener. “So I brought this upon myself, right?”
“Only if you say so,” he smiled, eyes twinkling and sparkling in the noiseless street lamps above us. And that’s how it went for who knew how long, maybe ten hours. Me asking questions, never getting a complete answer. That’s how Tristan was.
Almost as if we could read each other’s minds, it was like we were the same person. Tristan and I were almost destined to be friends, in all essences. We both somehow met in this strange in-between of a silent place. He would even sing, terribly, so I wouldn’t have to hear the silence.
“I think that you’re the only thing that’s keeping me from going insane,” I smiled, and he bumped my shoulder with his as he ended his disgrace of The Star-Spangled Banner. He disrupted the silence quickly, as he always did.
“Insane, not insane, who knows anymore?” he chanted in a singsong voice, but there rang a hint of minor chords in the small tune of his wisdom.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I questioned him, eyebrows drawn over my odd eyes. He looked down at his hands wordlessly, as if they held the greatest secret of this silent universe. “Tristan? What are you talking about?” My words were slow and forced to be calm. Was he telling me that he was some insane person? Had I been kept sane by insanity itself?
“Nothing.” He flashed his usual, pearly grin, reassuring any fears I had. An insane boy wouldn’t be as composed as this one before me. Tristan, like an angel, could calm and soothe. Nothing could taint the image I had of this great friend that had stayed by my side for the past ten hours of madness.
“I’m just wondering, why haven’t I needed to pee yet? I usually have to pee all the time.” My words changed the tone of the conversation instantly, and Tristan barked a loud and consoling laugh.
“Consider this as time freezing, that’s how I’ve come to think of it. After all, you can’t stop music without stopping the world. Everyone else is in their beds sleeping silently, and they don’t notice the extra time that we endure. So basically, our bodies don’t function while we’re in this. You won’t be hungry, tired, or have to pee,” he explained intelligently. Sometimes he made me wonder whether he’d been here for thousands of years.
“Ever?” I squeaked. “Thank you very much, but I like food. Are you trying to tell me that I won’t ever get to drink another smoothie again?” No way could I give up my chocolate banana smoothies; they were my life and soul.
“Not until we get you out of here,” he grinned, gently bumping his hand against mine, lightly enough so that I felt it, but not enough to startle me. Was that a signal? What exactly was a signal? I’d never had a boy interest before, and I had no clue how these things worked. Tristan was… Tristan. Did I even like him that way?
And that was that.
Funny, really, how a kiss works wonders. I felt butterflies multiplying into a storm in my stomach. It was… funny feeling. Not like how any movie or person could explain it. It felt just plain weird, but not in a bad way.
Then I heard it: the whoosh of the wind in the autumn leaves. I could feel the chill as the wind rattled everything around us. I returned. I returned! “Tristan!” I screamed, jumping to my feet and dancing around. ‘Tristan, we did it!” He stood next to me, slowly and gracelessly. “What?” I asked, halting my victory dance to approach him.
“Uhhh… You just kissed me,” he mumbled, itching his neck awkwardly. I raised my eyebrows at him.
“What, you didn’t like it?” I grinned, crossing my arms over my chest and jutting my hip out lightly. He did the same action to mock me.
“Well, yeah, of course I did. I like you, Lyn. But… Was this all planned out?” he asked, taking a step towards me.
“What do you mean?” I questioned him, biting my tongue. Had I just screwed everything up?
“Well, we both ended up in the silent place. Was this, you know, supposed to happen? Is this for the best?”
“Well, who cares if it’s supposed to happen. It happened and I’m fine with that,” I shyly explained, scuffing my slipper against the concrete.
“Whatever,” he snorted sarcastically. “But you’re doing all of the introducing.”
“Lucky for you, my dad doesn’t give half of a crap about my life. But I can introduce you to my mom in the morning,” I promised, and he shook his head nervously.
“I don’t think…”
“Come on, don’t be shy,” I teased, twining my fingers into his. Of course, with my extreme feminine powers, I convinced him. By the time I had finished my persuasion, my sleeping medicine had kicked in and I passed out on the couch, all noise aside.
Tristan did, too, actually. It shocked me that no one even noticed his presence with me. My mom even came downstairs before we both awoke. Finally, I approached her, Tristan’s hand in mine.
“Mom,” I grinned mischievously, tugging on Tristan’s hand so that he came closer. He shyly stepped towards her, and I squeezed his hand reassuringly. “Mom, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend.” She looked up momentarily from her paperwork, at me and not Tristan, and then returned her eyes to her business.
“Since when have you had a boyfriend?” she questioned, obviously trying her hardest to sound nonchalant. Why wasn’t she even looking at him?
“Since recently,” I reassured her. She nodded, almost absentmindedly, as she scribbled over her papers. “Mom,” I whined, as if presenting him right to her. She finally looked up.
“Alright, he can come over tomorrow,” she promised, scraping her pen across the paper when the ink stopped coming. I cocked my head, and Tristan bumped my shoulder with his knowingly. Something was up.
“But he’s already here,” I countered. She looked up and around.
“Where? Bring him in.”
I rolled my eyes at her staged stupidity. “Right here, mom.” I pointed to him, and she looked at the spot, then to me, then the spot again.
“No one’s there, honey.” She stared at me, questioning my sanity. What was going on? I waited for a big “April Fools!” to spring down from the ceiling on a silver banner. They were joking, right?
“Mom, stop messing around. This is Tristan.” She still stared at me with wide eyes, and he sent me an apologetic smile that didn’t explain anything.
“Sorry, Lyn,” he pleaded, brown eyes twinkling. I raked my hands through my ginger hair and scratched my head.
“What are you talking about? What’s going on?” I yelled, tears forming in my eyes like shattered diamonds. He released my hand, and I yelled, “What’s going on? What’s happening?”
My mom evaded the kitchen table to approach me. “Honey… There’s no one there. Are you okay? Lauryn?” She reached a hand out and I dodged it.
“Leave me alone! Don’t touch me!” I screamed, clutching my aching head. “Tristan, what’s going on?”
“I don’t exist, Lyn.” The words were pain itself. What was that supposed to mean? He might as well have said that I made him up, like some child’s imaginary friend. He existed. He kissed me. He saved me from the silence.
Tears poured down my face, and it only took a single blink. He disappeared.
Mom sent me to therapy. They all called me a schizophrenic and said I needed treatment. I didn’t need their d*** treatment; I just needed to be alone in my room with my music playing blissfully all around me.
And through it all, he held my hand.