I try not to pull at the invisible threads on my neck while in line at a pharmacy to buy erection pills. It's one of the few things I am allowed to take with my medication. They ask me questions, then more questions. When I was very young, I used to have to crawl under our house whenever stray cats wiggled their way past the plywood. My face collected spider webs and things that I don't like to think about. The invisible threads feel a lot like that. But I know they're not really there, so it freaks me out even more. I'd much rather have actual spiderwebs.//
I can't drive without crying. It's my cat. I keep picturing her displaced after the meteors strike down. That's what really knocks me out. Imagining my fat cat wandering around without food and water.
On the floor of my truck, passenger side, plastic water bottles clink together. They are there to stop hallucinations that like to sit with me while driving. My boyfriend has gone along with this for months; he's gone along with me for years. There will be no meteors. This, I have been told three times a day for the past fourteen months.
When I park outside the house, I take a pill and try to look awake.
My eyes are open. Darren is sleeping. We have just had sex. My erection won't quit; my brain won't be quiet. I'm itchy. The cat sits outside our room watching. I have not told Darren about the erection pills.
"Lee, your cat is creepy," Darren whispers against my shoulder.
He's in love with me and I'm afraid of what the words hiding in the back of my throat would say, so I pretend to sleep.
I don't mind rising, but Nurse and her team think space is too big for me. I'd get lost in the cold and the dark and sleeping gives me too much floating time, a whole nighttime of it. So, I take naps. Darren goes to bed at eleven. I go to bed at 2 a.m. and wake up at five a.m.
I get jealous when I see him sleep. Sometimes, I purposely cough to shake the bed. Sometimes, I walk into the room and slam a drawer.
Yawning feels like swallowing roses. When I call Nurse, she picks up on the second ring.
Nurse works the night shift at a small office in Phoenix that deals with people like me. But she tells me, affectionately, that there is no one quite like me. In fact, I'm the only one who rises.
Around midnight, she eats a cup of ramen and drinks a quart of tea that she's picked up from the convenience store across the street. She probably smells like grapefruit. I know she wants me to take my pills so she can jot down that everything is routine and that I'm cooperating.
But today, I haven't taken my meds because I was tired of feeling constipated. The other side effects are something I can hang with. But that isn't one of them.
"Was it selfish to do?" I ask.
But she says nothing.
Later that night, I take my medication and I think of Nurse while I do so. I hope she is not so lonely in Arizona.
I do not float, but I wake up about thirty-seven times throughout the night, at least Darren didn't have to wake me up at 3 a.m. to bring my head back to bed. I didn't float because the medication has done its job. My head stays here on earth, and not up in space where it wants to go whenever I fall asleep. When the sun comes up, I pretend I'm not tired when Darren kisses me on my mouth.
Nurse calls me her Little Balloon.
I call Darren a Nazi every time he wakes me.
Darren's thumbnails are as smooth and as flat as quarters and if I rub them between my fingers enough I can make myself fall asleep. Darren wakes me up two hours later. It is very early. I'm so tired that I kick his shin.
"You were rising," he tells me.
"Only for a bit," I say.
"Not everything is a warning. You wouldn't even know where they were," he says.
"Where what is?" I ask.
"The meteors, Lee. The things you go to sleep to see," Darren says.
"I can tell if they're close," I say.
"You don't know that," he says while turning on his other side, away from me.
I reach for his hand in the dark. My fingers find his flat thumbnails. For a minute, I think he'll pull his hand away, but he doesn't.
"So, what did you see?" he asks me.
Nurse tells me she loves me after our fifty-seventh phone call.
"Me too," I tell her, but only because I don't.
After I say it, I am out of my body, but only for a second, just enough to see tails of meteors.
In the past she's told me that the meteors I see have probably already crashed down somewhere else, that they are like home movies that space can't seem to throw away.
But there's a chance I'm seeing meteors that could touch down. I feel it. I know it. I don't mind that my head likes to drift in space. I think it helps me to sleep. Paranoia sucks. But it's something I can manage, like remembering to eat avocados before they get too ripe.
"It makes me feel useful," I say.
"And when you become too scared to walk out your front door?" she asks.
"I can manage it."
In the background, I can hear her eating. There's a click, too. Darren's hung up after he's finished his spying.
The erection pills are floating in the toilet. I find them there after a week of using them. I stare at them for a minute before flushing. I'm happy to see them floating there. Darren doesn't mention it when I join him in bed at 2 a.m.
Hours later, I hear him drift to the bathroom, just as the sun is waking up, I follow him, then open the medicine cabinet. I grab the bottle of my rising pills and hold it over the toilet. My forehead is sweaty; my teeth fuzzy.
"So you're just going to flush those?" he asks me.
"I can handle space," I say, as I empty the bottle into the toilet.
My cat walks into the bathroom to lie down at Darren's bare feet.
There was a moment where I knew he was going to leave, so I blocked the door just in case.
"You'll take them again if it gets too be too much," he tells me.
The phone rings. It must be Nurse.
"How were the stars?" Darren asks after I wake up.
"Mostly just see their deaths. But I think they're good."
The meteors never come up in our conversations anymore. So I've learned not to talk about them even though they're on my mind constantly. I go to sleep early sometimes just so I can see them and he'll wake me up with fake sneezes if he thinks I've been up there too long.
During a grocery run, raindrops plop against my windshield. It has been a week since I've last talked with Nurse. I hope I never get to know her real name. Darren's feet rest gently on top of the plastic bottles. There is a moment when the quiet plops frighten me, and I know I should not be driving.
When I pull off to the the side of the road, Darren steps out of the truck. Along the side of the road, there are wooden fences but no horses. I wonder where they have gone.
I step down from the truck and realize there is no rain. My hands glide against the dented surface just to check, and I want to make a joke, but then I look up to see Darren right next to me, looking at me like I'm far away.
"How about you drive?" I ask.
He says something I'm not supposed to hear, but I hear it anyway and know that I will always hear it. I don't want him to feel heavy with worry, but it's too late.
For a moment, I wait outside while he sits alone in the car and wonder if he would ever drive off without me. The wooden fences are long and dizzying, and I remember that the horses moved years ago.
When I climb back into the truck I turn away from him and rest my head against the window and close my eyes. The road is bumpy and my sleep is slow to start then I'm rising outside of the truck and into the black while Darren's thumbs create heat signatures against my back.
is an editor for Five on the Fifth
. Her recent publications include Crack the Spine