Note: I have a secret, part 1
Somewhere between sleep paralysis and a nightmare, I struggled to open my eyes and breathe.
Over the years I had come up with a process to get out of this situation: The one sharp shock process. Summon all the strength my breathlessness will allow and jerk any part of my body alive, as a result my eyes will fly open and finally, I will be able to breathe.
But before I could do any of that, I must have slipped back into unconsciousness because the next thing I remember is waking up (my body somehow still asleep), still unable to move and still unable to breathe.
It could have been hours later or it could have been minutes. I still have no idea. All I knew then was that I had to get out.
Inside my head, I tried to talk down my panic.
All you have to do is jerk your ankle, don’t slip back in..fight it, stay awake..you know what this is, you know how to get out of it….
I went on and on talking until, suddenly, it moved.
My eyelids threw themselves open and I gasped.
With a sentiment that can only be described as greed, I took in as much air as my lungs could hold.
Once my head knew I wasn’t dying I was left free to discover that though my eyes were open, I couldn’t see a thing. It was darker than it had been with my eyes shut. It’s a special kind of darkness, the kind city-dwellers rarely get to appreciate.
And I knew my eyes were open. All my energy, every last bit of it was going into keeping them open. I knew what would happen if I rested them even for a second.
I would fall back in.
Right back into the terrifying mess that I was unsure I could escape from multiple times that night.
I had to get up. I needed to turn the lights on and splash some water on my face.
I tried to fold my knee and lunge forward.
But I couldn’t, I could not get up. In fact, I was being pulled back.
I knew I was awake and the movements of my body weren’t part of the visions my brain created to make me believe I was actually moving during paralysis.
I knew for sure, I was moving.
The shock of the confusion was enough to jolt me back to clear consciousness.
I wasn’t home.
The actual nightmare was nowhere close to over.
I got back into my sleeping position, I probably hadn’t moved that much anyway. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t felt the cuffs around my wrists or heard the chain attaching them to the handle of the back door until then. Or wondered (even despite all my preoccupation with dying) why I was sleeping with my arms outstretched over my head.
My eyelids grew heavy again; all those thoughts together were exhausting.
I really needed to stay awake but I could feel myself falling. I caught myself each time the top lid so much as touched down on the bottom. I shook my head violently each time it happened.
But it wasn’t working. I knew it wasn’t working.
I let myself drown.
This time I know I woke up just a few seconds later with the undeniable urge to scream.
I couldn’t fight it, and in my heart, I really and truly believed I was screaming my lungs out.
I wasn’t, of course.
My head knew I couldn’t even open my mouth, let alone scream out for help.
By now, my head knew that even if I did, there may be no one up there to hear me screaming.
As the breathlessness came back, fervent and unforgiving, even the silent screaming let up. Not the desire to scream though.
And then I convulsed.
With one sharp shock my arms jerked above my head. The slight slack in the chain allowed it to clang against the floor and rusty metal door. The sound woke me up more than the movement.
I could breathe.
But I was parched. Even if there was any water around, I couldn’t reach it.
Yet, the desperate are optimistic.
I moved my entire body the few inches that I could in the hope that I would bump against a dish of water. Even if it was for birds or dogs or rats, I would drink any water I could find within a few inches of me. Just, if I could find some water, everything would be better.
I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed. Angered, even.
I banged my wrists against the floor and the sounds of the metal echoed back and forth, then back again.
I had hurt my knuckles.
It felt good, it was waking me up.
It no longer took all of me to keep my eyes open.
But I needed to stay awake. I needed to pursue that goal as if it were the only thing that mattered. Just as well, because as it stood back then, it was the only thing that mattered.
I made a little game out of keeping myself up; I played the chain (using my wrists and arms) as an instrument to see if I could in any way make the melody sound like the song I was singing.
At first my voice was stuck in my throat, the only sound coming out of the blackness was metal gingerly colliding into the door.
I cleared my throat. Given how parched I was, there was no clearing my throat.
I licked my lips, there wasn’t all that much saliva to speak of but I swear, it helped.
At first, only in whispers.
On a cruise to freak you out
I’m no good at playing any instrument, let alone improvising an instrument so my apologies to Garbage (and Cash, CoF and I think, Nirvana) but at least the singer in me was gaining confidence. A slight voice that even kind of sounded like me broke out of my throat as I sang further.
I’ll be back to frame you
My head was in a happy place, back in the Karaoke bar in Goa where I was hopping around in salty air, free and unchained, singing the song that never failed to make me happy. My back up played and I sang, just like that carefree young girl sang as she inhaled tequila…
When I grow up, I’ll be stable
When I grow up, I’ll turn the tables