Sunlight streams down on my face, washing away the nightmares of last night with its warm, embracing rays. But it’s no use; the empty space in the bed can’t be filled with a warm glow. The frigid emptiness embraces me, fighting back against the crisp golden slivers jutting through our curtains.
“Our.” It almost seems like the wrong word to use. I know that he’s not gone forever. At least, that is what I hope. But I can’t seem to believe it, at least not whole-heartedly.
I curl up into a ball and hug my knees. They provide little comfort. I try to hold myself in a way such that I can pretend that I am holding him, but to no avail. No amount of imagination can turn my hard knees into his soft arms.
I lose track of time, but it must have been hours. The slow march of the alternating patches of light and dark across the bed are proof enough of that. I can’t sleep, but I can’t get out of bed. I must have missed at least the first two periods of the day by now. No matter, it’s never mattered.
I try running through the hundreds of different mental exercises that I’ve learned from dozens of doctors of varying ilk, but to no avail. No matter how much I imagine myself ascending stairs or descending escalators I can’t escape the clawing void that has a grasp on my soul.
The patches of light retreat from the bed and escape outside. It must be mid-afternoon. Skipping classes might be acceptable, but missing so much as a minute of work would result in serious repercussions. We barley have enough money to pay for everything as is, and Hisao’s second home isn’t going to make that any easier. At least he gets cheap food in the dorm.
Somehow my paralysed limbs defrost and I am able to pull on my blue-and-white striped uniform. The thin, cheap cotton always leaves me vulnerable, but I have no choice. Undershirts are strictly forbidden except in the middle of winter. I stare at myself in the mirror for an immeasurable period. No matter how hard I try I can’t contort my face into a smile. I resign myself to painting my face thick with makeup. Hopefully the gaudy rouge will distract customers from my scowl.
I remember the first time I worked a shift at that place. Hisao wasn’t on duty, but he still donned his uniform and stood beside me the whole time. Before long I realised that people weren’t paying anything but the most cursory amount of attention to me. I could never relax completely, but I could at least manage myself into a state whereby I appeared normal enough. Every now and again I would have to squeeze my eyes closed and try to shut out the sounds around me; building a virtual cocoon around my psyche, and impenetrable fortress of the mind.
It never worked as well as that, but it was a start.
But now… now he wouldn’t come along for those long, lonely shifts. He wouldn’t just “pop in” to buy some biscuits or some other unnecessary item. He wouldn’t send me messages of encouragement. Now it’s just me and the rest of the world. Again.
Time fights against me. It feels like I’m wading, waist-deep though a pool of dirty, black grease. My mouth is on auto-pilot, and I let the till do all of the calculations that have become habitual in my time at the register.
I’m not sure how many times the parade of fractured sunbeams and greasy shifts repeats itself. It might have only been once. It might have been a thousand. I’ve long since given up on trying to count. Simple, everyday tasks have fallen out of my consciousness. I haven’t charged my phone in days. After the first night away, Hisao only sent me tawdry messages of encouragement. There was no sign of him returning, so I stopped looking. If it weren’t for the required attention to the roster, I would have no other method of measuring the passage of time.
It is Monday, and once again the dappled sunlight scars my bedspread. It’s almost been a week since he packed up his things and left. As I hug my knees my depression turns to anger, anger to loneliness, and loneliness to depression. Cycles of fear and acceptance of my fate churn like the swelling of the tide, eternally ebbing and flowing. Today is a day off. Today there is no reason to move.
And yet… I almost feel as though I can’t stop…