Chamomile, Lavender, Rose

(The pronouns, the pronouns.) I am so tired. It has been two days—two full days—and I am so tired. I am exhausted. It is the second of September. Summer is dying. Summer has died thirty-five times right in front of me, and I have never gotten used to it. In the mornings it is cold. My alarm goes at five-thirty. There are two alarms; one a gentle ringtone, the other a shrill bell housed in an old clock less than a foot from my sleeping ear. If I miss the gentle ringtone, then it is the shrill bell that gets me, and my body has cause to move as fast as it can to shut it up. The first thing I notice are the nightmares. I wake from the nightmares in tears, trailing out the crying I dreamt of. That does not happen to anyone else in my family, and they told me so, stared at me strangely. Those tears take a long time to dry in a cold room. I sleep with the window open because I prefer fresh air to warmth. Either I am in a stuffy office or I have a mask on; fresh air has increased in value; I must take what I can get. The duvet is up over my shoulders, folded over my ear.  Even though it is cold, I wake up covered in sweat and the sheets sticking to me, caught up around my limbs and restricting. The second thing I notice are the headaches. My stomach cannot function at that time of the morning and it has convinced my brain to do the same. Both have conspired to torment me. I dig my fingers into my eyes and tell myself—‘Just make it to the shower.’ The shower is cold. The house is unheated. The shower is very cold. Now my brain has talked my spine into aching. My whole body in a state of revolt! This morning on my way to the station, I turned on the spot where, two weeks ago, I had caught a breathtaking sunrise; today there was nothing. The sun was hidden. The house on the corner with iron bars over its front door and windows has taken down its rainbow flag. The birds do not sing.
    Even though I sit here writing, I am too tired to do so. My head aches still and I feel as though I have nothing left. I drink a tea that my mother bought to help me sleep: chamomile, lavender, rose and holy basil. I try to sleep. My body—now functioning correctly—turns the tea into pee and, on the cusp of dropping off, I must dash to the bathroom. There is a podcast playing because I prefer to fall asleep to the sound of voices. Sad thoughts enter my head and I shake them off as though they were horseflies on my hide. They are the saddest thoughts in my world. The thoughts continue. They pester me. I start to cry and try to think of something else: what is holy basil? will Messi fit in the premier league? if I pull a spider’s leg off, does it live long enough to grow one back? if a Russian is visiting Spain and they want to send a postcard home, do they write the address in the Cyrillic or Latin alphabet, or both? what was I doing the last time I ate wasabi peas? The thoughts blend and swirl, they drift and fall me into sleep, without even giving me the opportunity to be grateful for it.

    But, despite my tiredness, I must write. Work, dinner, TV, sleep? Only a savage could thrive like that. No, I must do something when the house is quiet and they are in bed. On the first night, I wanted to play with my birthday present; setting the chess up on the kitchen table. A cup of lemon squash and a hard-fought victory that made me very happy. The wood was so good in my fingers, the felt, the smell of varnish, tiny imperfections, tactics, no blunders, checkmate. The second night I must write. ‘When are you going to come out drinking again?’ they ask me; I tell them I must go ‘home.’ Every day I feel like I am dying. Writing and chess are the only things that make me feel otherwise. Every day, more & more, I feel like I am dying and there is nothing I can do about it.

    Because of the headaches, I drink a lot of water. Before I even get to work, I have drunk a litre of very cold water. Painkillers and coffee. A mist lingers over the fields at the bottom of the hills. I dream of running my hands through it, my entire body. There is a woman down the other end of the carriage—the only other person with me—and one can tell, if one has the eye, that she is not a regular; the way she stares out of the window, as if she were seeing it all for the first time. She has a paper cup of coffee, and does not relinquish her gaze from the passing scenery. I do not know why: I think it is wonderful.

    The first thing I do when I get home is wash my hands. There is a reed diffuser in the bathroom now. My mother bought me the exact same one for Christmas, and it reminds me of my flat and of what I got up to in my flat, and I become terribly sad as I dry my hands. Afterwards, I wash my face. I must cleanse all the muck I have cast upon myself underneath the glasshouse of my mask. It is slimy, and then it is soft. There are painful boils and spots and ingrown hairs. Leaning my head forward, closer to the mirror, I inadvertently enter a shaft of fluorescent red light from the dying sun. Balancing carefully I study my boils and my spots and my ingrown hairs. There is a safety pin I stole from my mother’s embroidery & sewing box, a safety pin I held in the flame of my lighter. I push the needle into my flesh to extract the ingrown hairs that peek from beneath the skin in the most stunning of dusk’s lights. The needle is maneuvered to get underneath the tiny hair, deeper into the flesh and then the blood comes and dribbles in gravity’s straight line down my jaw. Soon I cannot see the hair for the blood, so I probe the needle blindly, stirring the blood. The blood plants roses on a strip of toilet paper, but it keeps dripdripdripping so I give up and leave it.
The headache is here. I should go to sleep. There is an exam tomorrow, for which I have not revised, so I will fail with glowing colours. Work should have paid for it, but I knew I would fail, so I took it out my own pocket. I do not care; it will be nice to get out of the office, walk across London Bridge and get south of the river to the examination offices. There is enough ibuprofen in my backpack to get me through. I am looking forward to it. Such beautiful things cannot be ruined by failure at the end of them.