Fleeting East

I found myself wearing a borrowed face. I squinted as if I could more clearly see the reflection of myself in her. The squinting didn’t help. I looked at her as if I had known her all my life, because I had, because she was me. Or we were me.

I am pulled into the mystery of her like an undertow. My mind screams to swim vertical with the shore, but my body bobs in her intoxication. I worry that if I surface for breath, she won’t be there when I come back under the water. I hold my breath, drinking in her enigma. I blink away the sea, never taking my blue eyes off of her blue eyes.

“What’s your name?” I ask through rising air bubbles.

She answers not in words. I think her name is my name, because we are me.

I feel weak. I stare at her for strength. I’ve been holding my breath for so long. I don’t know if I can hold my breath any longer. The current is too strong above my head; I can’t get air. I have no access to air! I see panic on her face. My lungs have written on a white flag, calling for surrender.

Her feet kick in blunt, forceful rhythm. She is getting closer to me. I am getting closer to me. We are touching. The lack of sound is deafening. It is just us caught in this undertow. She kisses me, but only to answer the call of my white flag. Air is swirling in my mouth, down my lungs. I am drinking her in. The ocean is pushing, pulling us. Her blonde hair is wrapping us.

I hear a buzzing. It is a lifeline. It is my lifeline. The nurse is calling my name. Do I know my name? I want to swim in the undertow with the girl who wears my same face. But she tells me not to follow her. She pulls away from me, points to the surface. Her lips mouth “go.”

I look up and see a light, the sun maybe. I look back at the girl with my face to say goodbye, she has already gone. I kick the water away from my body until I touch the sky.

“Ah, there you are,” says a nurse when I open my eyes. I hear the ticking of the lifeline sounding like a heartbeat.

The nurse looks down at me with hazel eyes and I want to see the blue eyes that mirror my own.

“Where’d you go?” she asks.

She’s looking at me. I think I should answer, but I don’t know if water will come out of my mouth when it should be words. I know the answer. I’m pretty sure. Past the nurse I see the overhead light and wish it was the sun reflecting on top of the current.

“Are you just going to stare at me?”

She says it with only a hint of impatience, which matches or contradicts the slightly slower speech pattern of her southern accent. But otherwise, her energy is warm and not serious. I keep looking at her, wanting her to be the girl from the undertow. She isn’t. She’s old enough to be my mom, but young enough that she probably doesn’t like the word old. I tell myself to come back to reality, get out of my head. I must.

“No,” I say, but my voice doesn’t sound like my own. It’s groggy with underuse. I have no concept of how much time I’ve been in my own dreaming.

“Well, that’s good, Sweetheart, I’m not that interesting to just stare at.”

“You …” my voice gets caught up in groggy underuse and peaks in the ‘ou.’I restart, “You aren’t?”

“No, no one is.”

“You think so?”

“I wouldn’t say something I didn’t think, Easton,” she says and helps me sit up by positioning my pillows high behind my back. The white down comforter waves over my body. The stillness of this room is unsettling.

My mind still feels murky from waking up.

“That’s not true.”

“Excuse me?” she pulls back from me in mock shock.

“People just say things, we don’t mean everything, we don’t think everything through, in the ends it’s just words to feel space.”

“Well, I see you are feeling better, since you are being your usual combative self.”

“See there, you don’t mean that.”

“I’m your nurse, I certainly can make declarations about your health. In fact, I’m quite qualified to do so.”

“No, not that, combative that’s not really how you would describe me if you considered all the words at your disposal.

“All the words at my disposal, huh?” Her “hun” and “huh” sound similar with her South Carolina peeking through again.

“Sweet. Wise. Young, but old-souled. Boyishly vulnerable. Creative.” Those are the words I would use.

“You missed handsome.”

“No, I missed overly-confident.”

“Matter-of-factly confident.”

“Well, I matter-of-factly need to move on, unless you want to tell me why you’ve been sleeping for 20 hours at a time. It’s far too much, Easton. The researchers are talking.

Pass her I look around this white room. I see a clipboard attached to the bed that is only big enough to fit my body. To the left of me, there’s a metal table that looks sterile, held up by wheels. The whole room looks sterile. It’s so formal that I feel uncomfortable.

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