pg | no warnings apply

You know you won't be able to sleep, but you try to anyway.

You never worked night shift before coming here, but you didn't sleep when you worked days either. You would lie in your bed with the lights off, enveloped in darkness, waiting for sleep to come and claim you. You knew it wouldn't come. You knew you would shut your eyes and your brain would refuse to give in. You knew you would be able to hear each and every sound in your apartment. You knew you would still be aware of every bump and lump in your mattress. You knew that when you opened your eyes, the darkness would still be there, the lumps would still be there, the weariness would still be there, and the only thing that would have changed would be the little red numbers on your alarm clock. Time would pass for you in the normal way. You would not be able to sleep through it.

He once told you that it made sense for humans to be diurnal. Since we rely so much on sight, we're better hunters during the day. That's probably why melatonin - a hormone that helps to regulate sleep - is itself regulated by light.

Actually, you're not sure that he told you that.

But it sounds like something he'd say, and you can't pin down exactly where and when you heard it, so your brain has assigned that little factoid to him.

Now the world isn't black outside when you try to sleep. You have dark curtains and Venetian blinds, turned closed with the slats pointing up, and they do a pretty good job of keeping the light from coming in. But you know that outside, the sun shines.

You get up and hop on your computer for a while. You send emails and surf websites and type up reports. Your eyelids droop. You lean back, resting your head on your chair. You drift off for what seems like a few moments. When your body jerks, you focus in on the corner of your computer screen, jostling the mouse to get the screensaver to dissipate.

About twenty minutes. Barely long enough to get refreshed. Certainly not long enough to dream. There are some small favors in this world after all.

You close your files and shut down your computer. You get up and go to the refrigerator, pulling out a gallon of milk. You know you're supposed to heat it up, but you don't like warm milk. You don't like the taste. You drink straight out of the container, since your father isn't here to look at you disapprovingly. You down the cold liquid quickly, returning to your bedroom.

The bed is still uncomfortable. You know you should get a new mattress. You close your eyes and listen to nothing until sleep comes again, bringing random images.

A hand.


Jewelry. It's silver.

A hand.

A featureless face. It's bloody.

The flashing lights of a police car.

A hand.

You're awake.

The clock tells you that you were only gone for an hour.

You shower. You let the warm water cascade down your body. It's too early to go into work. You turn down the cold water, wincing as the hot spray hits your chest. Your body adjusts, however, and soon you find it soothing. You shave your legs even though no one is going to see them today and no one would know if you didn't shave them.

You get back into bed. You close your eyes and try to will yourself to sleep. When that fails, you think. You categorize the people in your life into five easy groups: friends, lovers, acquaintances, co-workers, and strangers. Life isn't that simple, of course.

Some people fall into more than one group.

But you do it anyway, because it's too early to go into work and you've already used up all your overtime. Your body doesn't want to sleep and you're too exhausted to argue.

So you think.

You think about your open cases. You think about the life you left behind in San Francisco. You think about the first time you saw him and the last time he said your name. You think about the other him and the other her.

The alarm goes off. You wonder if you actually fell asleep. But your body is still tired and your eyelids still feel heavy. You've managed to elude the sandman again. It's not much of a victory.

Your hair will be curly. You didn't straighten it when you got out of the shower. You don't really care. You get dressed and drive to work, peering at the other cars through blurry eyes. You think about the statistics on fatalities from motor vehicle accidents caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Life goes on. Usually. Then people die. You come in afterwards. You can't make them live. You know this. They're dead. This is all you can do.

Maybe once it was enough, but you're not sure anymore.

Is your life going on? Are you standing still? If you died right now, would the world take notice? Would anyone take notice? Would he?

Would you?

That's really the question, isn't it? If you died right now, would you be able to tell? Would there be a difference? Or would you just go on, unaware of any change until your flesh began to decay and fall off your skeleton?

You're not really sure anymore who is dead and who is alive in this job.

He meets your eyes for the first time in days. He knows. You know he knows. The question isn't whether or not he's aware. It's whether or not he cares. You're not sure he does. You're not sure you do anymore.

Caring hurts too much.

"You didn't sleep, did you?"

You don't reply, since he knows the answer and you know he knows the answer and you don't feel like wasting breath to tell him what you know he already knows.

"Go home."

He sounds like a supervisor. A supervisor concerned about the health of his employee. You ignore him, tapping keys on the computer. You've forgotten what you were doing, but if you keep tapping keys, something will jog your memory and you can begin again. His arm enters your view and presses the button on the monitor, turning it off.

"Go home."

His voice is softer now. You don't look at him. You don't want to. You're tired of looking and looking and seeing nothing. You're tired of trying to fight though his walls and getting nowhere. You're tired of wondering if he ever really gave a shit about you. You're tired of dreaming about him on the nights when you did manage to sleep.

A hand.

Soft lips.

His hair.

Those dreams served a purpose for a while. They took the place of others. Others that you didn't want and had never asked for.

But now the new ones hurt almost as much as the old ones.

"I have to work on this."

You speak, and the minute you do, you're sorry you did. Your voice betrays you. It shakes ever so slightly.

"I'll do this."

You know he will. You know that he's not just telling you what you want to hear to get you to go home. When has he ever told you what you wanted to hear?


You don't say good-bye. You get up and he sits down. He doesn't ask you what you were working on, perhaps because he knows you're not really sure yourself. He looks at the file you had sitting next to you as you turn to leave. Maybe he looks at you as you walk out the door. You don't know, because you don't turn around.

You go to your locker and put on your jacket, your right hand automatically sliding into your pocket. You pull out a piece of paper, folded up like a high school calculus exam. You don't open it because you know what it is. You think about how easy it would be now to drop it on his desk or put it in his mailbox. Anything but hand it to him personally. Maybe you don't want him to try to talk you out of it.

Or maybe you just don't want to see him not try to talk you out of it. That way you can imagine what might have been. Some romanticized ideal of him pining away for you, sitting in his townhouse, listening to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and ruminating on the life he never had.

You go to his office. You unfold the paper and place it on his desk so it's the first thing he sees when he sits down.

But then your hand snakes out, seemingly of its own accord, yanking it off the desk.

Tomorrow, you decide.

Tomorrow, when you've gotten some sleep and your mind is clearer and you know what you're doing is the right decision.

You stuff the paper back into the pocket where it's been sitting for three weeks now. You will turn it in. It's just a matter of time. You can't go on like this.

You just need to wait for the right tomorrow.

You go home. You get into bed.

You know you won't be able to sleep, but you try to anyway.