Every day you wake up at 5:54. Your clock is six minutes fast, but its rickety groan every time a button is depressed scares you out of adjusting it. You don’t do anything for a half hour, but I suppose you like to watch grayness sweep the sky. You sit cross-legged on your bed, peering out of your window at the dawn, silver glinting in your eyes. I look with you, but you never know.
You rouse yourself. Extricated from the blanket’s embrace, you stumble into the shower. Cold. Piercingly so, every time. In the midst of a thousand freezing shards pummeling your back, you again peer into nothing. Your every movement is slow, measured, as if you must summon an infinitesimal will to produce the slightest gesticulation. You drag a comb through your hair. Another thirty minutes.
Finally you meander downstairs, swirling a cup of coffee you won’t drink, performing the smallest of everyday obligations like packing a lunch and tying your shoes. You kiss your mother’s worn cheek, and no matter what her good-byes to you are, you always respond the same.
“Have fun at school, sweetie.”
“I love you.”
You trudge to school with the gruff grace that can only work on you. Your head never swivels. Not to the right, not to the left. You always look forward. I walk with you, but you never know. I trace circles into your hand, plotting the constellation of freckles speckling your skin. The swirling plume of your frosty breath permeates the January morning.
You ride the bus to school. I always sit next to you, but you never know. I sift your hair through my fingertips, the inky strands tattooing my palms, but you never know. Sparse bursts of chatter erupt between you and another.
You amble through your day, navigating through the incessant vitality of school life. It tires you. The ceaseless, throbbing hum of screeches and giggles, papers rustling and pens scratching, chairs groaning and teachers shouting – it forms a cacophony whose roars never ebb. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but stop listening, because the noise and the people clap against you until they etch away at everything you are. They take and take and take.
That’s why you’re so full, as if every fiber in your body is tipping and spilling, and you must portion every movement to keep yourself inside.
You come home. You do your homework. I never leave your side, but you never know. You brush your teeth. Swish. Spit. Rinse. Floss darting in and out. Your fingers deftly braid your hair.
You go to bed at 7:54. You don’t do anything for a half hour, but you sit cross-legged on your bed and look out the window at the onyx expanse illuminated by stars. The stars glimmer in your eyes. Finally you are enfolded in blankets, and your ears must always be covered. You’re a side sleeper. I nestle in and ever so carefully cloak my arms around you, but you never know.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.