it wasn’t once upon a time or even far away. it was this morning. but i still couldn’t fucking believe it. i was lying there in bed thinking about oatmeal, not an unusual start to the day. not deeply contemplating it but generally wondering about raisins and pecans and those things that take absolutely no energy before facing the day. there was a vague flickering next to me, letting me know that there were exactly nine minutes left before my alarm would pretend there was a radiation alert to make sure i couldn’t postpone my trek to the real world any longer. nine minutes. is that truly all it was? they tell me spacetime is curved. it’s certainly not that i doubted it for a second. or believed it, if you know what i mean. it just wasn’t relevant to my life. what the fuck difference does it make if space and time are bent? hell, most of my friends are and all it means is a somewhat mandatory appearance at yearly pride celebrations and that doesn’t seem to change my life much, especially not nine minute before my morning alarm.

the truth of the matter is that i was restless. dream memory is an odd thing. you wake up. you’re gasping for air and panicked beyond all reasonable possibility. and you have absolutely no idea why. none. no vague ideas of demons haunting the bedroom. no monsters crawling up from the depths of the bed’s shadows. no devilish exes torturing recaptured genitals. just a sense of dread, unease, silliness but the heart is a flimsy thing and it’s not good to take chances with that, especially now that i’m not exactly a teenager anymore. catching my breath takes awhile. to my count, fifty-six minutes, which is exactly fifty-five minutes longer than it should take but sleep-induced panic attacks have become a nightly ritual for me. it means i was especially alert in spite of the five-fifty-one-ness of the moment.

and the voices couldn’t possibly have been real. if they were real my roommate probably would have noticed. except that she’s visiting her mom in oregon for the week and even with her colossal ears and attention to every moment of my existence, that might be a stretch. so it was real. i admit it. it’s either that or make an appointment with my therapist. again. and telling her that not only am i suffering from the sixteen things that are already wrong with my mind but that a seventeenth has appeared on the radar in startling predawn fashion. i’m hearing voices. so it’s better for it to be a ghost. a spirit. an apparition. a mindfuck.

kris, listen. you’ve been having a bad run of luck lately. sure, i wasn’t going to argue with that. all-knowing spirit or imaginary voice, brother was preaching truth and movement was at an all-morning low, anyway. it’s time to change. sure, i was going to put on clean clothes anyway. even clean underwear. ok, maybe clean underwear. a girl’s got too much laundry. but changing was going to happen with or without spiritual intervention. you know what i mean. great, the voice is interactive. inside my head. am i hearing this or is it all in my mind? does it matter? no. i suppose not. i give up. i’ll just have a conversation. it’s time to change, kris. you said that already.good, you were listening. and what am i supposed to change? you know that, too.

i do. wrestling with quitting after i just got this job? nightmare. doing it this early in the morning before coffee and the joys of pecan-infused oatmeal breathings, altogether impossible and the voice should know that if it’s been watching carefully. and when it comes to voices, i figure if they can talk in empty rooms they can figure out when i’m up to having a serious think about my future and when operating the stove is the limit of my abilities. is this what you want? fuck no. then stop screwing around. thanks. really, though, thanks, dude.

i can take criticism. really, i can. sometimes. when i’m up to it. ok, i can’t fucking take criticism unless someone’s telling it to me in a way that sounds like… no, you’re right. i admit it. if you’re going to be critical, you can leave. i need confirmation. it’s not that i’m in a particularly bad place, although i am. it’s that my self-image makes rice paper look solid. you told me what you want from life. always. it’s always been the same thing. i did? who did i tell? me. what did you say you could never live with?

pets? sure, kris, be a smart ass. you can’t live with 9-5 jobs. you can’t be at someone else’s mercy day after day. oh. right. normal jobs are like bad relationships, all the commitment, all the work, all the fucking around, none of the sex. so you’re awake after all. good. and what’s the answer?

i get it. this is my subconscious telling me that sitting at a desk day after day making pretty good money, if you like that sort of thing, which most days i have to admit that i do, is a bad idea and i’m killing my creative spirit. what about the spirit that wants to pay rent?

you know you can be happy drawing. dude’s not wrong.

ok. you’re right. i’ll call her this afternoon. no, this morning. i’ll do it this morning. is that enough for you? sure. and don’t forget my baking trays this evening. that’s what i called for in the first place. sam? who the fuck did you think was giving you such sage advice? the ghost of cellphones future, maybe? nevermind. see you this eve, dude. yeah, go get a bowl of whatever it is you eat in the mornings with raisins and stuff. later.

looking at the phone, the alarm had been going for almost three minutes. i didn’t hear it.

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thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.