waking up to a heartbeat

How is it to feel yourself falling asleep?

For me, it’s like I’m standing on a cliff to unconsciousness. I feel my feet hang halfway off the edge and look down into oblivion. Vertigo hits and I feel momentary nausea, like my stomach is being pulled into sleep before the rest of me.

There’s a lace-thin layer between eyes and lids. It’s in that portal between practical effects and faraway fantasies, that slice of time and space, that I am pushed into by the hand of exhaustion. I am plunged into the black before the bloom of a dream.

That’s where I see you.

You’re only there for the smallest amount of time, a greeter at the door to dreams. But you pluck me from the murky deep and help lay me down gently into an inky spot in the sky. But before you go, I freeze frame you in my mind and you’re the picture I choose to carry over with me onto the other side. It’s where we can be together, where I feel safe to explore the imagination that uncoils during boredom or a great need to feel something. It’s where I can act out the scenarios I can only sketch in a notebook when my eyes are open.

Being with you here, in this space carved out of the cosmos for just us, feels bittersweet, like a chocolate candy flecked with copper. It’s the only place I can see you idealized. And the only place anyone can see who I actually am.

You’re like a ribbon that weaves through my ribs. You push air into my lungs. You turn me from a corpse to a Casanova. I sink into a scene of me resting deeply in your arms, your hands running through my hair, my mind reprieved from the black that steeps into my skull every day.

The same hand that callously casts me into the abyss plucks me from your pulse. But your veins have worked on me. I wake up to a heartbeat. I pull a remnant of your face back into reality and use the morning sun to sear it into my memory. Sometimes it works. Most often it does not. But even when you slip away and pass through the portal again, I know you’ve been with me from the residual red on my chest and cheeks. And with breath on the blankets, I feel the push of blood again and the comfort of knowing you’ll call for me when I reach the precipice once more.

This is what being human must feel like.

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