The weight of my head rests on the softness of my pillow. I can hear each inhale and exhale of my breath. Muscles consistently bring my chest up and down and up and down. Two molecules of oxygen—twenty-one-percent of the air passing down my throat—reach my lungs and cling onto my blood as they rush through the branches of vessels, accumulating into one big vein, as the blood pours into the chambers of my heart. Instinctively, I press my cool fingertips to my chest, and feel the steady thuds. Again and again and again. I can hear it, too, as I lie here in the darkness, just as I can hear the rush of water outside; the quiet, shushing stream of rain being carried in the gutters along the roof, draining away beneath the ground.
It’s never dark here. Not quite. There’s a permanent orange tinge that stains the sky every single night, peaking through the crack between the stubborn blinds and the window sill. The soft blue glow of my diffuser, and its steady hum, make for background noise and my room smells like a lavender field. I close my eyes and think of what I’ve learned today.
It’s one-thirty a.m. and my neighbours just got home. There are cells in my body that committed suicide today. They fell apart as their walls disintegrated, their content oozing out only to be quickly engulfed and digested. Gone. Chemical signals told it to. These were signals instructed by signals instructed by signals, over and over again, and my mind is a mess trying to figure it out. A tight knot of tension, full of ideas and ideals and lyrics and guitar strums of the song I was listening to on the tube today, and the image of my weekly calendar, stuck up at the fore-front of my mind’s eye.
Try to relax.
My ice-cold toes are tap-tap-tapping against the mattress and the heavy duvet enclosing my body in a cocoon of what is supposed to be warmth and comfort. My stomach is an endless pit, wriggled with apparently five hundred types of bacteria that influence my mood — maybe that’s why I can’t think straight.
Me. An accumulation of chemical signals, encoded by two helices present in every cell in my entire body, regulated and distributed by the very same two strands, wrapped and bonded to one another.
“Who am I?” she asks herself, as she stands in front of a mirror and drags clammy hands down her pale face. Just send her to the people in white coats and blue latex gloves. They can say exactly who is staring dumbly back at her. If she dares.
All the same, I cringe away as I decide I’d rather remain oblivious to the realities of my nature. My pre-disposed conditions, or genetically determined IQ. The exact countries of origin of my grandmother twice removed. Brilliant work, but no, thank you. I’ll try and figure that out on my own. A search for the truest form of myself. Nature or nurture? Surely the former. I’m presented in all my glory on two A4 pieces of paper, hand delivered by the post man. Yes, thank you, sir. Have a good day. How bizarre.
The blood circulating through my limbs and torso and the very same head resting on the softness of my pillow, are being replaced at this exact moment. Dead skin cells are peeling away from me, quietly shedding and nestling into my sheets as I toss and turn my awkward body in mental agony, willing myself to submit to blissful slumber. An escape from the torment of my reality, as my mind runs rampant.
Right now, a distant star is exploding and spreading its particles across the black expanse of space.
Right now, I yearn for the tranquil darkness, but it’s just out of reach.