In all honesty, I used to think I was a very intelligent person. I grew up being told just that. Days were just tests to see if I could pass again and again, and I did. More on the scale of paper exams than social ones. But is any of that real? We see a shift in focus nowadays.
The light is always pink and purple over the lake in the mornings, barely visible through the blinds that I put up a little for the cat. It is hard to lift out of bed on the days that I have to work, sleep making my eyes hard to open, pounding in the front of my head making it hard to focus. The air has not been as damp recently as it is in the summer but still clings to me most mornings.
This morning is different. I feel lighter, though my head is still uneasy.
Yes, I know it’s the air.
It was filling with water now, as I got up, the lamp and the book were drifting away from the nightstand. My sheets were damp and swirling just above the bed as I dressed. I wasn’t trudging through the water as I walked around, readying myself for the day ahead. The water was all around, tinted a blue and green, but I moved quite freely. If it kept this up though, filling the world like a watering can, maybe getting to work was going to be difficult.
I pulled my coat on, the weather was cold today. Leaving the apartment, key in the lock, I looked over at the lake again. Just above the surface, a fog hung, blurring the lines of the boats that floated there. Kayaks from my neighbors. I never saw anyone use them, but they sat there blurred with the morning. I had half a mind to wave at them.
Driving to work was quicker than usual, maybe the other car’s drivers were still in bed afraid of being caught in the cold. The sky was pink and purple and blue, and full of light in a melancholy way. The twilight of the morning was playing the blues in the clouds and the road- well the ramp onto the road- drove up, high up, through these theaters in the sky like it wanted me to take the show with me. I stuck a hand out of the window and tossed a rose at the performers because the smoothness of the music was making me cry.
Wiping a tear from my cheek I pulled into my parking spot. I started parking closer to the front of campus because it was hard for me to get out of bed in the morning and this made me less late. I threw my bag over my shoulder and grabbed my coffee that tastes like sweet cream and heaven and walked the cement sidewalk up to the front of the library. The steps I took up the stairs clicked with the heels of my shoes and every step of the three floors I climbed spoke back to me.
Yes, I know it is too early for this. The coffee helped.
At my desk the words from the stories in the books on the cart were already loud, speaking and shouting in all different accents and using different vocabularies. Telling them to be quiet wasn’t an option, they didn’t have any ears. They just had words. I put in my headphones and tuned into silence or static or music, it’s a little fuzzy, to be honest. I worked with the books, calming them down a little and they were quieter and quieter until they were ready to be taken downstairs.
This trip was something else, to go down in the monsters instead of the stairs. I am not usually afraid of elevators, but these elevators are not usual ones. They were loud and shaky and if you didn’t pet them just right they would bite you. Not with their mouth, but with their words.
“You aren’t as smart as you think you are.” They say sometimes. I try not to listen, the books talk enough to me anyway. “Men don’t like you. You are ugly.”
Yes, I know, but I like it that way.
The books don’t normally defend me, but it’s fine. By the time they would have had a word in, I am already dropping the cart off and I set out for my morning walk. I stroll past the circulation desk hoping to go unnoticed, but the skeleton’s for the medical students notice me and climb and clamber over the desk to join me. They love being taken outside on colder mornings, it lets them air out their bones. The skeleton with the head on likes to talk a lot. The one without a head plays music sometimes, but not today. Today, he wanted to hold my hand.
“You look lovely today.” The skeleton with a head said.
I didn’t reply. It was best to not encourage him.
“How was your weekend?” He asked.
He always caught the eye of a few students on campus whenever we went out together. This morning was no exception. Students and staff walking by would turn their heads to look at my companions, some snickered and laughed at my expense, but it wasn’t worth it to tell them that everyone has skeletons in their closets, some are just more real than others. The pastors and hippies and monks at the booths that littered the walkway on crowded mornings sometimes spoke out to me, telling me different things about my bony, skin-less friends.
“If you come to me you will be saved,” they all say in different ways, but when this happens the skeleton without a head would start playing music and it took my mind off things. There was no one speaking to me today, which I preferred. Everything else is so loud. The skeleton with a head pointed out the clouds and the sky and the sun, and how colorful everything looked on a chilly day, not faded by the heat which is normally so oppressive. He went on and on about the way the colors of the trees and the buildings and the people painted such amazing mosaics, fitting the colors perfectly but imperfectly into a pattern that made sense and didn’t make sense. I did agree with him, but I let him explain and I just listened. The skeleton without a head was still holding my hand and squeezed it a little but there was no way to tell if this was a good thing. The skeleton with a head was still talking, talking, talking, and the skeleton without a head squeezed my hand harder and pulled me. I stopped walking and I could hear trumpets and jazz music playing from somewhere in the distance, maybe the trees this time.
I turned around to see where the sound was coming from and there was nothing. No color, no buildings, no people. Well, there were buildings, but not like before. They were grey and broken and cracked and the sidewalk was full of holes and covered with vines and leaves and this black soot that spread up into the air forming miasma. I covered my mouth with my sleeve and tried to breathe in, but it got caught in transit and I could only stare at the mess of the world behind me. The grass was overgrown and unkempt and in places, I thought I saw boots or jacket sleeves sticking out from the chaotic underbrush.
The jazz kept on playing like it was an old nightclub or hipster cafe, and I looked to the skeletons to see if they were just as in awe as I was. It was hard to tell since the skeleton with a head had no expression and the skeleton without a head didn’t have a face. They were both quiet though. The air around us was filling with debris and darkening ever so slightly. I felt a tug at my sleeve on the arm that the skeleton without a head was not holding onto. I looked down and saw a lightning bug. Strange, we don’t have those here in the south. And definitely not in the winter. The bug had a pen and was writing something on my hand. I waited patiently since that is the polite thing to do. When he was done, I looked at what he wrote.
Yes I know, I was just thinking that.
I turned and the world shifted back into focus again, with the blue sky and all, and the jazz had stopped or had turned into laughter. The skeleton with a head told me it was time to head back to the office, so we did. The skeletons climbed back over the counter to re-hang themselves on the stands and wait to be checked out and I climbed back up the three flights of stairs to the office.
Climbing the stairs the heels of my shoes were quiet and the world seemed to still.
Sitting at my desk again, a new cart of books was whispering away, waiting to be opened and heard. They were more tempered than those before. I tried to remember the last time it was this quiet. The pipes in the walls for the water in the bathroom started to sing for a minute or two, but the books were speaking so softly it didn’t even bother me.