Down the river, around the bend, washing over the hours I’ve spent…
White walls caging in white floors, white tiles, the adhesive between the edges all I have to work with. White tiles, white walls, white memories make white rooms.
Wallpaper peeling, wrapping back up - adhesive between the tiles. I walk my fingers along the grooves between the whiteness, as if through a… trail? Words I didn’t know I knew, words I forget. Memories I think I had long ago. A white room, white tiles, and white walls, and a tendency to suck the sound from the space, to suck the space from itself.
Flowers. What were those things? Lining… trails. Lining… houses. What were those things? Lining… rooms.
When I was here first, if time was a measurable thing, there were tallies across all four walls, there were tallies scratched into the ceiling, tallies scratched on the tiles I lay upon. Each time I went to sleep, whether for a nap or a while, a tally disappeared. I tried staying up, once. I sat in front of the next tally and I stared and I glared and for a year, the tally stayed where it was, until my eyes were blown closed by breezes of passing time, and when I opened them again, for what felt like a blink, the tally had disappeared altogether. As if our life is but a revolution of sleep.
When I sleep, I dream, but my dreams are white walls and white houses, and whatever words I recall are bathed in whiteness, a blank canvas, an empty shell with plaster tally marks peeking their way through a veil of misinformation, mistakes. Dreams are but memories warped with imagination. When we were babies, what memories did we have to dream of? Did we see our mother’s eyes in the wakefulness of our sleep? I see tally marks and whiteness, and a grid of houses and flowers drawn into the smooth adhesive between tiles.
When I look down I think I should see shoes, but when I look down, I just see tile. I do not appear as I should. I feel fingers and eyes and feet, and I can touch the walls and the floor and the tally marks, but when I look down, I don’t see feet, when I stretch my arms out in front of my face, I don’t see my fingers. It’s as though I’m in a dense fog, a dark blackness so thick I can feel everything around me, but I’m locked in a blindness. When you’re sleeping in the dark, do you ever hold your fingers above your face and wonder if you’re feeling something you can’t see? If you’re seeing something you’re not supposed to feel?
A few tally marks down the road drives a man insane.
When I was but a few tally marks through my time, I counted them. The numbers came to me like clouds, like raindrops through a broken sky. One, two, three, down the line.
I try to think about the time I left the life I had. To be a man alone in a white room, to be a man on the other side. I live alone in a white room. I tally down my days to die.
I’ve noticed a tendency to measure life in cycles. A birth, a life, a death. An egg, a break, a lay. A wake, a sleep, a wake. I sleep to pass the time. I pass the time to stay awake. I stay awake to wait the sleep. Til the wallpaper curls up and the tally disappears and again I’m left in the world I’ve been born into, the tallies rolling up like words in my mind, letters I forget, memories of the same blank wall - was that from the first tally I was here? Was that from the first cycle I adhered to?
Madness in my eyes like a storm, madness in my mind like a disease, growing and consuming and I FORGOT HOW TO SCREAM. MADNESS LIKE WORDS I FORGET AND WHITE WALLS AND WHITE TILES AND PLASTER TALLIES. Madness like sleeping and waking and forgetting to breath. Madness like a word… drifting away from the memory. Like a face slowly growing blurry, like a hand in front of your face that you can neither see nor feel - is it truly there?
Two tallies remain. A sleep and a wake and a sleep and a wake. A cycle at the end. A tally at the corner of the wall, another one nestled next to it. Two tallies in a cycle of life, a wake and a death and a wake. When I was surrounded by the numbers of my life, the prediction of what I had left, I think I was a little more sane. I think I knew what I thought, I think I remembered my dreams, I think I might have imagined color in the soles of my feet. I think the hand in front of my face disappeared when the thousandth tally did. I think the room expanded when I slept for a hundred years. I think the world dipped and flew and leapt when the last two tallies remained, and a feeling like… a feeling like exhilaration. A feeling like the words coming back to my tongue, the madness seeping out of my mind, a feeling like the world cracking open like an egg, the roof splitting and falling and crushing me under its weight.
Two tallies remain.
I can do nothing but wait. Sleep and wait and sleep. A forceful nap, a tiresome wake. Sleep and wait and sleep, and two tallies remain. I could cry if I had eyes, I could scream if I knew how. A tally and a tally and a lifetime remains.
I think I forgot how to say my own name. I wonder if my dreams will remain the same. Crack open the mind, the cage, the room. White walls and white tiles and one tally remains.
I dreamed of it once, when I was awake. To sleep for a last time is to dream of escape. I wish I could see the look on his face. When for a moment, my fingers trailed across the adhesive between the tiles, when for a moment, the wallpaper curled and the man between the tiles escaped.