I sleep well, mostly. Eyes close, sections of my brain take out their time card and clock-out, eager to board the train to REM-town. But sometimes, a few minutes in, brain goes full hypnic jerk: I’m falling falling falling into moody blues and bloody reds and right before I hit the ground, eyes bug open, back arches. A few breaths later, my heart collapses into comfort.
We didn’t die, my brain assures me. We are awake.
At 4:43pm, Facebook shares a photo of you and her mid-laugh over half-empty amber pints. Your cheeks are flushed with honeymoon hope. She has dark brown hair with highlights the colour of melting milk chocolate and her tanned left hand is reaching for you across a glass table.
My cursor reaches toward her face. Tagged: Ariella.
Sweat finds home along the lines of my shaking hands.
A name from a small Sicilian village, where the smell of fresh croissants waft through the stone-cobbled streets at dawn to wake its residents. A name that doesn’t need a last name. A name exhaled into warm, damp sheets at midnight.
I beg myself for the jolt, but this time, I’m not sleeping. My lungs tell me to go outside, seek natural defibrillation. I pull my balcony door open and step onto the cool concrete. The July air is fresher in Toronto at night, the hot summer sun blocked out by apartment buildings attempting to reach heaven. I grab the railing, steady myself and stare at the sunless city sky.
How long has he loved her? 30 phone calls? 70 breakfasts? How long?
My brain refuses to cry and instead focuses on the balcony right across from mine, where a cat sits against forced Greek-coloured walls. A failed imitation of vacation blue. The cat raises his paw at a tiny...what is it? A lizard? I squint my eyes and I don’t understand how the lizard found her way to a cosmopolitan climate. She would be safer back home, where she belongs.
Run, I urge the lizard. But she just sits there, neck stretched in awe of the cat. He swats at her and she submits to him. He swats and swats and then the lizard is on her back. Motionless. The cat licks his paws, picks up the lizard, and moves her closer to the edge of the balcony. Then he scratches at the door until he is welcomed back inside. The lizard is dead and I sink to the ground and weep like it’s the first time I’ve ever cried in 25 years.
He always made you uneasy.
You were never enough for him.
But you loved him.
He is happy
you are alone.
And then, as I wipe the mucus from my nose, I see the lizard flip onto her stomach and scurry onto the next balcony, where she crawls into a potted plant.
We didn’t die, my heart promises me.
We are awake.
Tita Kyrtsakas is originally from Windsor, Ontario and is editor of Feminist Space Camp Magazine, an online arts collective. She's been a barista, tutor, and waitress, but writing is where her heart is happiest. Tita is starting her first year of her PhD in English, with a focus on young adult literature, and she's been published in Shameless Magazine, Type/Cast, and received an honourable mention with WOW! for flash fiction.