The Insomniac Propaganist is pleased to announce the next installment of our Sleepless Stories series. Edition four, “Lost in Time”, explores the several ways in which one might become lost, be it physically, cerebrally, or something in between. Yet time, the consistent drummer, marches on, beating out the minutes and hours that mark our passage through life. What then, would become of a person who got lost in time itself?
Below, please find “3am, Here, Again”, an evocative and gritty piece of prose by Kiernan Norman, the first offering from our “Lost in Time” series.
I try to live Here. Here is humid-sticky-underground-dance-hall hot. I’m caught tight in a mess of limbs- bodies stretch and sway from this to Eden. I have never been more lonely. Together we inhale metallic Old Spice. Together we exhale stale tap water hymns. I am breathing all alone.
My tired tongue kicks awake to cheap nail poison as I tap each fingernail against bottom teeth and lightly push three times.
(Four times or eight times. Ten times in one quick, heart-drop minute but who’s counting?
Me. Of course I’m counting. There’s not a beat, rhyme or giggle that hasn’t busy-bee buzzed around my foggy brain. Each thought its own color, each touching down on a different set of crumb-glazed quilts or a different tower of gutted magazines. Each bee is long and thin, pointy in a terrifying way. Each bloated and dripping with a grand idea- which they leave like droppings and are so specifically intense they will never make any sense a breath apart from this moment and this context which crumpled and blew away while I dully, dutifully checked my pulse. I’m alive but my thoughts took off. I can see their exhaust but they fled fast, like they knew I could only begin to gnaw on them. They were born to quickly, maniacally live and die- in and out and there then off and gone.)
Here. Here the walls are chipping off one hundred years, one hundred lives of lead-based paint and are dripping onto the frayed denim of my trashy cut-offs. Impossibly long hair, absurd to call it mine, hangs heavy and wet. The strands shed drops of atmosphere on my (and their and your and-) bare feet. I’m my own sumi brush- my calligraphy is not words, but a footprint-marked path to treasure. Braided bits cling heavy and soaked to the curve of my neck and then billow like sheets hung out in the wind. My sharp, slick scapula must be the laundry line. It’s one of the good bones. Good bones only exist while jutting. The scapula is the beautiful asshole of my skeleton and we finally have made nice.
Here the music is so loud. The bass ignites my dental cavities. They sting and pierce as a reminder of how terribly I’m taking care. Lights blink, the room quakes and I need water. I’m throbbing and flickering and faces attached to bones slither between each other and grind up into my own perfect focus. They’re smirking.
One at a time they appear with a warm, grainy hand on the small of my cold-sweat back. Each face of bones lean in close, dry and cracked lips that graze my own fever-hot ears. Goose bumps sling up and down limbs and the lips, all smudgy red lipstick and cigarette breath, whisper something to me that is absolutely crucial. It’s something beautiful or something hilarious or something crude but I can’t hear it. I’ll never hear it. They throw their bones back and cackle-laughing so hard it must be painful. All I can hear is my eardrums cracking and breaking, laying the bass for a high pitched dial tone.
One by one they do this and then, with a huge play-dough smile and eyes as deep as I feel, they slowly back away from my flimsy, electric body. I know they’re relieved they didn’t get stung. This goes on for forty straight hours. I feel like the Queen bored and still as they file through to kiss my ring. I feel like I’m at my own wake. I am beginning to erupt. I am lightly vibrating with the burden of militant creativity. I think I’m melting from the inside out. The bones still laugh and the bees, diving like war missiles, are screaming that it’s time to flesh out that novel, string precise words together in a huge, monumental way down golden strings that will change the world for the better and forever hang on God’s graceful neck. It’s time to record that beloved lullaby and sculpt that masterpiece or put on black clothes, sneak out and vandalize monuments. It is all absolutely crucial and so very urgent. Everything is wailing and I’m nodding slowly because if I do not do it, ALL OF IT, now- right this instant and quickly- I will die having said nothing. I will have wasted my opportunity to matter.
Here. Here the bone-bodies continue to mock me. The room stays dim and damp and I don’t think I’ll ever get clean. After twenty minutes or seventy years the crowd thins out, lights switch on illuminating exit signs and the room slowly, sadly, empties. I am sticky and aching and have never felt dumber. The bone-bodies left their blurry sweat, their empty bottles and their void inspirations like blank fortunes trailing across the bar top. There’s a real, fur, calf-length coat and a fake Birkin bag in the corner. My feet are filthy.
Here. But I’m not really Here. Here is bougy and exclusive. There’s no list but you probably can’t get in because actually Here is utter bullshit. Here is the moldy bricks and pre-war ceilings inside my head.
Leaving Here is too easy. You blink and you’re gone. Then I try to remember what party I even went to but I’m sitting Indian style and cramped on rough carpet and my back is in knots and everything I’m thinking is slow, melting taffy lose and inconsistent.
The sun starts to rise up pink through broken bedroom blinds and I know that I went way down deep and danced and gripped tight to flurrying ideas and made a big mess and now I’m stuck ripping papier-mâché, three inches thick, off coat-check walls and trying to read the graffiti-ed bathroom stalls but the Sharpie is dripping and I might be illiterate.
The Somethings I came to flirt with are hiding and won’t answer ‘POLO’ no matter how loudly I scream ‘Marco! Fucking Marco!’ I’m reeling and under-breath begging ‘and please come find me and let’s make stuff and we can’t waste this and I can’t be a waste.’ But below all the pacing and knuckle-cracking I know that there are no Somethings listening to my panicky prayers. They sneaked out while I was braiding my hair for the sixth time, humming something old and Johnny Cash-y that I remembered and liked and had to Google and perform eight times for a mirror. I sneeze and I want to cry. I don’t think I know how to read. Edges start to blur and the alphabets a mess.
In defeat I’ll wash my face and slide under one light blanket and quickly sweat through it. I’ll lower my heavy, thick-thought and dizzy head onto a stack of three pillows. My vision will fall away from me and stars will explode in a chatty whisper that has be immobile and straining and sore. I will treat them like a sky full of fireworks blazing just for me. I’ll ooh and ahh and my heart will palpitate under the weight of them. (Really I do know they’re just amphetamine snowflakes falling slowly and burying my wasted night. I swear next time I won’t waste it.) But at that moment I’ll watch the show and feel safe and small and inconsequential, at last.
This has been “3AM, Here, Again” by Kiernan Norman, the first installation of our Lost in Time series.
Kiernan Norman is a student at Southern Connecticut State University and has studied at The New School University. She has appeared in the films CUT and The Night Before, been in several local and regional theatre pieces and her writing has been published by Germ Magazine, Wild Quarterly and Coalesces Lit Mag. Ever Forward, Ever Grateful..