I awoke with a fit. My eyelids, sprung to attention, afforded no smooth transition into the searing light that came in sheets from the single window. I had no use for an alarm clock. Every morning, as far back as I recall, had begun as such. Even during the greyest of winter months, the streetlamp perched above the window stood substitute for the summer sun; in fact, its light forced me from rest with even more efficacy.

     It was a Saturday, but that didn’t matter, I hadn’t worked in years. When I had worked, weekends meant nothing. Each day was indistinguishable from that last and a remarkably accurate prediction of the next. Nothing more than a metronome. I watched the months from a railroad crossing – each full of people, and life, and difference – they never stopped. Forty two years, cast off with the flint, and exhaled. Thin, and nocuous. With anxious mind, but aimless body, I pulled myself from the bed to the shower. I never bothered letting the water warm up; those first few minutes under ice seemed to purge the guilty tedium.

     The driver hadn’t been on the route for two months yet, and he was uncomfortably aware of his own inexperience. His affability was layered so thick that it all but disguised him completely. His name was Terrance. He spoke as if I were his boss, and it was his first day, at his first job. I must have been awfully imposing. As Terrance helped me in, his speech picked up, both in volume and in stride. I seemed to be the only passenger worthy of such humility, commanding praise from my winged throne. He asked me where I wished to sit, despite fifty six prior inquires each to the same conclusion. The air was thickly polluted with mechanical nicety. Still, I was wont to fuel the fire with Ps and Qs in turn. I had long since mastered charades, so the trip was far less bearable for him than for I. Besides, we were only fifteen minutes from DeLamar Center, and the feigned congeniality was a refresher course in social accord.

     The interstate billowed with the filthiest mist of clamor and malady. Terrance had finally remitted conversation in lieu of concentration. His eyes struggled to discern the road from the air, and he began pleading with the bus as if it were threatening divorce. The Felicity off-ramp was a crack of lightning. One of those brilliant illusions whose existence is so fleeting you question it ever was thought. Rain descended upon us with the rage of a thousand war-robbed mothers. Fiberglass and aluminum a chaotic orchestral symphony composed by the frozen tantrum of winter. For all the blinding fury, not a single brake employed. With spiteful deliberation, the hurried cavalcade persisted.

     People spoke of adrenaline as if it were a drug; the more you used it, the more you needed it, and the more you used each time you needed it. That notion held water like a wicker basket. In some twenty five years, not so much as a suspicion of adrenaline was solute in my blood; by all accounts, a single grain of calamity should have panicked every vacuole of my being. Yet, I had the tolerance of an aficionado. Probably I was broken. I hadn’t ever felt ecstatic about anything. I had been disquieted. I had been disturbed. I had possibly been alarmed. But never so emphatically as to exhibit evidence as such. I worried like an aching back. My anxiety was a continuous droning pulse. It was white noise. It was the sound of the ocean that drowned my thought in an under-toe of trivial desperation.

     Terrance strangled the wheel with passionate consternation. His voice bellowed from deep within his cavity. Aroused by parts of the body that reason never pierces, his words were swathed in the very terror from which I was sorely spared. My world was small. It only had accommodations for two. However, at the precise moment of the driver’s volcanic outburst, there began an inexplicable and inescapable distention of my cozy Lillipution universe. First one, than two, then a third. Nothing could have concerned me more. Never had I felt such pervasive torment as the crushing presence of excessive life. No less than four individuals, brimming with alarm the likes of which I had only begun to know, now threatened to rupture the membrane of my swollen cosmos. Forced into my awareness by the convulsive assaults of our crippled vessel, a man twice my age was thrust prostate at my feet. Before I could even counterfeit the desire to assist, he was stripped from my view and scattered about the waterlogged benches.

     I had felt it before, it was a tumultuous obscurity aroused within some abysmal organ not accustomed to emotional expression. It was familiar, but not welcomed, an escaped sentence that haunted an insensible aspect of the mind, but whose shadow postured over every cell of the body. All those years, that tepid anxiety took residence in my stagnant reaches, entombed beneath heaps of guilt and deprivation and self-concern; I’d buried it alive. Maybe it was fear, maybe sympathy; I could not have known precisely. The only thing that I was assured of was its origin.

     Gravity was overturned, then corrected, then overturned again. A shred of fabric whipped within a peaceful squall, awash with the satiated salivation of torrential uproar. Lingering silence had replaced violent discord. A static hiss of blowing moisture, the only audible voice. At once I was struck by an inordinate atmospheric transformation. An air so pervasively acute that I had unwittingly succumbed to a deluge of long restrained fervency. Something entirely foreign washed over my being. I was insulated from the immediate world by a steady and strenuous heat – radiating universally in the core of every tissue. The glorious evidence of my mutilation was no longer inconspicuous but for its sight. I had been blinded in the dishevelment. My eyes remained clouded with murk, and mist; yet I was concretely aware of my condition. As I lay crumbled in a frigid mixture of greasy rain and thickening blood, I reveled in the seething heat that engulfed my body. Privileged at last, ensconced in luxurious agony. Freedom, embrace, sensation – my consummate breath.
Bill E.

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