It’s a survival adaptation. A habitual practice. Or maybe I just prefer the milky light moon to the blare of the sun. The way the iridescent fog of my cigarette blurs out the blooming stars one by one by one. It’s easier to think in the dark. I’m hylocereus, I’m ipomoea and mentzelia. I’m a night-blooming species—like a single star—insignificant in this kaleidoscope city.
Stay up all night to sleep all day with strangers.
Bloom. Nap. Rinse. Repeat.
No real REM. Chain-smoke Belmont’s beneath the fire escape and paint my shit paintings; listen to the rambling monotonous tones of some old fogey record that makes me feel unlike the rest of them. Songs From a Room on repeat. The scrawl of the needle on vinyl when it’s time to flip; when it’s time to eat, time to pray, time to use my paintbrush as a pleasure tool and get off
the fire escape.
I don’t own an actual clock: only the internal ticking, the hum of my Whirlpool Cabrio, and an incessant, intermittent knocking.
Iron pressed. Crisp. White.
Only the damned sleep in dirty sheets. All those skin flakes. Carbon black hair curling like snakes on the pillowcase; bitten off fingernails, prick. I imagine it’s what hell fells like: an incessant itch, the pilled fabric twisting against your toes for eternity as you toss and turn between dreams.
Not even the cool side of the pillow can save me now.
Incessant, intermittent knocking. The staccato of the thrump-thrump-thrump. Metacarpals bulging, fisted knuckles—thrump-thrump-thrump—against my splintered wood door. Never mind the brass knocker.
Those paraffin smooth palms clenched, milky white and stark against bleeding, hang-nailed fingers. Sure, he’s handsome, in that well-kept, look-at-the-way-my-hair-flips-naturally sort of way. His exhaustion.
I’m an actor, he says, without any further introduction. I don’t care. My gaze is locked on the way he’s still clasping the knob of my closed apartment door behind us. Is he keeping something out, or holding something in?
The hum of the Cabrio dulls, then silence. It’s clockwork, no shiftwork, no, work.
1 part bleach.
Just your generic drug store brand will do.
2 parts detergent.
Fill to line, and then above. For good measure. Turn up your nose at the damned. Err on the side of overly sudsy—overly hygienic.
You never hear people complain that their plates are too too clean, their delicates too too fresh, their faces too too unblemished.
Same goes for sheets. Hot water; tumble dry; high heat.
Iron pressed. Crisp. White.
Is he keeping something out, or holding something in?
Hi, he says.
Hi, I say back.
I stare into deep, stone-well eyes, dark as his coal black hair, taking him in wholly: full, drooping lips masque a snared eyetooth; coal stubble frames sharp jaw; placidity in expression.
I can’t sleep, he says.
If it’s your first time, there’s no need to be shy.
Pick your nap a-la-cart, or better yet, choose a package.
The stimulant nap, the power nap, dare to try the catnap if you please? 30 minutes is a refresh, but 90 will get you through the full-cycle.
Like clockwork, no shiftwork, no. This is my line of work.
I’m insignificant in this kaleidoscope city, he says.
There’s no work for actors like him anymore. His face is too too pretty. His accent is too too polished and his posture too too tall. His hands are too too soft and he’s too too sheltered to be standing here, in full bloom.
You’re hylocereus, you’re ipomoea and mentzalia, I say.
Only the night understands your beauty, I say.
Superior Vena Cava bulging, fisted atrium—thrump-thrump-thrump—against my splintered rib cage. It’s my fault he can’t sleep. I’m not doing my job.
Our circadian rhythms are too too in-sync; skewed to rise with the sun’s fall. He’s thrown my cycle off. The Cabrio doesn’t hum.
These sheets will stay dirty.
We are both damned now.
Reanne Derkson is a working writer living in Vancouver, BC. She has been previously published in This Side of West, Penduline Press, Gravel, and more.