By: Mackenzie M. Hebner
It’s a little too much light that slips through her heavily drooping curtains at midday. She’s spent several minutes attempting to adjust them, hoping with the perfect alignment a sense of darkness will be created in her room. A sense of safety. You see, it’s in the dark that she can sleep. And if not sleep, it’s in the dark she can write, scribble down her imagination, express herself on paper to control her outbursts in person. She cannot have outbursts, lest she be reminded she does not have control over her voice: that each time she opens her mouth, she is betrayed. A concept she has been enlightened of far too many times. So, she continues to pull the curtains closed, hour after hour, day after day, seeking asylum in voluntarily encapsulating blindness. But blindness only beckons at night, leaving ample hours of the day exposed, uncertain. And as uncertainty beckons, so do the encroaching whispers hailed home by rumination. Home, sad to say, being her. So, she continues to pull the curtains closed, hour after hour, day after day, waiting for the perfect alignment to unveil blindness. After all, ignorance is bliss, and ignorance only beckons in blindness.
There is a poster across from her bed, it’s a map of where she has been. She wants to find peace gazing at the lines forming countries and the faint letters defining capitals, but instead, she finds longing. There is a canvas above her bed, out of sight not mind, a canvas reminding her of where she has been. Ages ago it seems now, back when memories collected are merely imagery infused stories told by mom and dad at supper time. There is a box of books beneath her bed, books reminding her of where she has been. She remembers when mom would crawl into bed with her, arm around her once long and flowing hair, a sweet smile superimposed over her truth, innocence and simplicity dancing freely in the thin air, pages turned to reveal unbelievable twists in the plots of childhood stories of ole, timeless and overflowing with imagination. She remembers when dad would crawl into bed with her, arm under her neck, snuggled up in fatherly love, peace and tranquility resting softly in the calming air, pages turned, and memorized lines quoted as the protagonist of her favorite bedtime story would ride out onto the range, excitement welling up inside of her as she impatiently longed for the reveal she knew adorned the following page. She couldn’t sleep back then. But then again, that was before she was gifted curtains. The trails of dust would flicker in the air until the sun had finally set, only to be replaced by shining moonlight, reilluminating the very same trails of dust, distracting from sleep.
“Dinner time!” a voice rings out from down below. She takes a deep breath, pulling the curtains closed. One more minute. One more minute.
Hey! How was your day? His words pop off of the screen as she goes to lock away her phone before stepping out for dinner, two worlds suddenly colliding as she must choose one over the other. Another deep breath, a flash of light seeping in through the curtain, a locked drawer. She steps out of her room, dinner time. She will reply later. When the sun goes down. She will be ready later.
She is greeted by steam rising profusely off of the dining table, covered in a feast of continually mounting abundance. It was the same h'orderves and entrées as she had been accustomed to for years now. A delicately designed platter of antipasto is set out on the quartz island, to remain untouched throughout the evening. Vibrant yams, perfectly crisped and seasoned with herbs and spices rest at the far left corner of the dining table. Chicken, marinated for hours prior and decorated with excessive herbs swimming in a kitty pool’s amount of robust broth, creates the eye-catching centerpiece elevated on a raised wooden tray. A separate assortment of root vegetables tossed and turned in herbs and oil is plated at the far right. Salt and pepper shakers, butter dishes, and individual toss salads fill in the empty gaps, creating a more fulfilling illusion than what really is, yet another concept she has become all too accustomed to.
As mom fills the water glasses, dad comes in from the back porch, his face long from an endless day at work, and she stands still and silent at her chair, waiting patiently, submissively. Remember, she cannot have an outburst. They sit up to the table, modeled after one mom saw in a store years ago and loved. The replication is so perfectly matched you’d almost never know it was a fake. If it wasn’t for the small plaque hidden intelligently behind one of the supporting beams, there would really be no way to know it wasn’t what they claimed. But once one sees the plaque, they can never go back to the ignorance of yesterday, though oftentimes she wished she could.
The invigorating conversations of dinner time banter, “how was your day,” “what did you do today,” “what are your plans for tomorrow,” etc. are exhausted early on, and the feast concludes sooner than most. She brings her plate to the kitchen, several bites taken out of the small portion she had served herself, a portion whose size no one ever dared to mention. The remnants, a majority of what furnished her plate at the beginning of dinner, are swept into the trash as mom rinses dad’s dishes to place in the dishwasher. She slips her own plate in between mom and dad’s before tip-toeing away.
Reentering her room, she readjusts the curtains. The sun’s setting hues welcome a warmer, dimmer tone, more easily eradicated by closed curtains. She pulls her phone out to address the message left unanswered before dinner.
Hey! How was your day? It reads. His intent, beautiful. His heart, authentic. His emotions, pure.
It was great! Yours? And it was, in her own little world. In the world she found to swallow the pill of reality. To drown out the condemnation. Behind closed curtains, her world came to life. In blindness, she could be anything, create anything, ignore anything. The unbearable dinner times and painful-to-internalize conversations that welled up inside of her dissolved behind closed curtains. And in her world of blissful blindness instilled voluntarily, her day was great. In fact, her day had been amazing. So, as he types his response, she smiles, truly smiles, as the sun sets, and silence creeps, because now she knows she is safe in her room, in her world, her blindness will not be disturbed by angered yells or insufferable reminders. Mom’s hums will not float in the air now. Dad’s disengagement will no longer sting. The endless flow of concerns will fade. And now she can simply sit silently in her own little world that keeps her strong and unfazed as his words fill her phone.
It was good! I’m glad yours was great! What did you do? And so she tells him, of what she did in her own little world that day. She didn’t lay in bed awaiting the awakening of her sphere of safety when it comes to life in vivid colors of the night. She went out with friends and embarked on adventures around the town she spent her days exploring. She didn’t shed a tear at hurtful words or overanalyzed contemplations of past days. She went on a hike through magically draping trees housing species of all kinds. She didn’t clench her fists at her powerlessness. She got a job promotion at the place where she had always dreamed of working. She didn’t fold clothes endlessly, over and over again to pass the time. She got a speeding ticket as she felt the wind blowing freely in her hair and music ringing out of her radio. She was not curled up against her bed on her carpeted floor anticipating her nightly conversation with the boy in the phone. She was chasing love in the pale blue moonlit evening.
Wow! That sounds amazing! And it was, just as every day was. Safely engineered in her own little world. Freedom, power, and adventure defining every moment. All the things reality couldn’t provide, came to life with fire and passion in her world. Perfectly preserved, tucked securely behind closed curtains. Safe and sound for eternity.