I leaned against the back of my chair, knees curled up to my chest, a drape of black chiffon protecting it from the harsh edge of the desk. My eyes threatened to close, and I considered taking a brief nap and berated myself for not getting enough sleep all at the same time. The dull whir of computer machinery droned on in the background, a monotonous lullaby tempting me with a promise of refreshment and respite.

It was the only constant sound in the building, lonely and mournful, and compounded by the cloudy gloom that swirled about outside. The cooler weather was welcome after the searing heat of the previous day, but it did nothing for my state of mind. It was strange, I thought. Strange that the weather too often mimicked my thought processes. Either quick, crisp, and bright, like shuffling a deck of cards with perfect precision, or slow, gluggy, dragging your feet through mud.

I’ve always liked silence, but it’s hard to capture even a glimpse of it nowadays. It has a mystic kind of quality – so easy to obtain, yet also so very elusive. I liked silence because it gave me time to think. It gave me time to sort out my thoughts, to attempt to tease apart the tangle of overreactions and overthinking that sat in the back of my head.

I thought about the cascade of events that had led me to this place. To this place, with this feeling of inexorable doom. It wasn’t anything new, but it was scary. It was always scary, and yet I kept repeating it, over and over. It’s hard to break a cycle, even when you know what’s happening and what you’re doing. But then again, maybe it’s just that tenacious part of me that seems to never give up. Or, at least, it seems to never want to give up.

It was an innocuous phrase, one which slipped out without explanation, and while I was in the throes of fatigue. After that, nothing was really quite the same. Maybe it was all in my head – honestly, most of it was probably in my head. It usually is. That’s why I need my silence. That’s why I like it when I’m alone, when I can tell myself out loud that I’m being silly and to pull my head in. I looked over at him, sprawled out across the bed, his chest rising and falling almost soundlessly.

It was light – almost too light. The sun filtered in through the windows in the study, past my computer, and through the creamy wooden french doors that announced an entrance to my room. There was a curtain, but there seemed no point in drawing it. It would find a way to get in anyway. I had woken with the sun, like I did almost every other day, to a stifling heat I knew I would need to get used to. He was still blissfully asleep – of course he was – and I didn’t want to disturb him.

I counted the freckles on his back, brushing my fingers against him, anticipating bumps but instead just meeting smooth skin. They chequered his shoulders, which felt solid – attractive – before making a trail down to a dip in his back. The smoothness of his skin was still surprising, even after I had dug my nails into it so many times I had lost count. There’s something to be said about the strange ways in which sensory memory works.

I remember running my hand over angry red bumps, feeling out the corrugations that rippled across her back. She was ashamed of them – she hated them. They made her feel inadequate and different, but in that secret way where she was the only one who thought she was different.  It gave her character, I remember thinking. She would shake her head and bury it in my chest. She was gone now, but somehow, she was still here, in the very tips of my fingers.

He rolled over, pulling me towards him. Our bodies didn’t fit together like they did in those generic romantic comedies, but I leaned in to him and felt his arms wrap around mine. I tried to close my eyes, but the sunlight was too strong. It penetrated my eyelids, making them splutter open. I wanted to close them, to return to a world where I didn’t feel like Schrodinger’s cat, alive and dead, hopeful and hopeless, all at the same time.

I wanted us to stay there. I wanted to keep that memory hanging, just there. I wanted to keep it safe, locked away in a box somewhere so it wouldn’t shatter or break or dissolve.

But that’s not the way memory works. It seeps into your skin, your fingers, your lips, the intake of breath that seems to always escape when you realise you fit inside each other oh-so-perfectly, the way you collapse on each other in exhaustion after you’ve both had your fill.

So now I’m back here, thanks to another cascade of events. In a different room, this time with a more comfortable silence. A clock ticks in the background, and the airconditioning roars softly overhead. There is still a sense of unease, lurking in and amongst my ball of tangled thoughts. But somehow – somehow, I know there is sunlight and hope and an unwavering belief in the mysterious power of memory.

I know that because I have these on my side, I will be all right. No matter what happens with him, or with her, or whatever silly phrase decides to make its way from my brain into the world again. It is okay to be confused, to be scared, to be frustrated, I tell myself, because no matter what happens, you will be all right.

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