The Sun Always Rises
The dark silky tendrils of sleep slipped from my eyes even as I desperately tried to hold on to it by squeezing my eyes closed. Two years had gone by and even though I was no longer at the shelter my body refused to sleep past 5 a.m. After only three hours of sleep, I was wide awake and my exhausted mind was screaming in defiance.
I spent a few more minutes with my eyes shut before sighing in defeat, rolling to the left, and slowly peeling them open to stare out my window. A blanket of darkness greeted me seconds before a flash of lightning lit up the sky. Then, the heavens opened up and poured out its sadness.
I love living in Texas but when I moved here, I only thought about the warm weather and summer glow of the sun-kissed skin I had seen on others. I never paused to consider the other seasons or even the possibility that it could get cold. These days, the weather was a mixture of rainy days and cold nights. The daily 75-degree weather I had chased seemed to have fled upon my arrival.
I spent another few minutes watching the rain, as it tried to get in, attacking the windows in a fierce dance of desperation. It was soothing and I hoped it would lull my mind back to sleep but no such luck. Sighing once more in discontent, I rolled to the right, faced my bedside table, and reached for the TV remote.
If the rain wasn’t going to lull me back to sleep maybe some music would. Without looking, I clicked on the TV and keyed in my favorite music channel. The soft keys of Maren Morris’ “I Could Use A Love Song” flowed through the room until it wrapped itself around my heart and soul; a well needed balm. Before I realized it, I drifted into a memory I had buried a long time ago.
Bright lights flooded the hospital auditorium. It was 4:50a.m. on the dot. The shelter had a strict routine. “Good morning ladies. Time to wake up!”
Forty-five women, sleeping on cots lined up in rows of nine, groaned and stretched as they started getting ready for the day ahead. Some had been doing this for more than ten years but for others, like me, it was a new experience. Three months to be exact and I hated it with every fiber of my being. I got up slowly, rolling my shoulder cuffs as I tried to warm myself up. My body had adapted to rising early; it was the freezing cold that was pushing me to the edge.
The colder it was outside, the fuller the shelter got and the surplus bodies had to be shuffled offsite. Luckily, the hospital around the corner was gracious enough to let us have its auditorium. However, as a part of their disinfecting process, every morning at about 3a.m. the temperature was dropped to about 30 degrees, regardless of how cold it was outside.
Every morning my anemic body struggled as it tried its best to warm up. I spent the first few weeks in a state of miserable desperation and empty desolation with half-frozen tears rolling down my cheeks, daily. With no one to turn to for help, I descended into a void of nothingness with no desire to do anything and a burning desire to cease to exist.
Like someone waking from a nightmare best forgotten, I blinked a few times using my eyelashes like a mini katana to slash through the painful memories. Flipping on my bedside table lamp, I drew deep steady breaths until the last of the memories dissipated.
There was a distinctively stark difference between three years ago and now and my apartment was a testament to that. It was a perk for achieving my dream job. A job that I excelled at as one of the most sought-after comic book illustrators in the publishing world. The thin, scared, little girl left to fend for herself at 17 years old who had ended up living in a shelter, was now, at 24 years old, head of an entire department.
Until I got this job, my life had been a revolving door of regret, pain, and disappointment but, the years following had been the complete opposite. This year alone had transcended my wildest imagination. I had accomplished so much, and the best was yet to come! Just a few days ago, Daniel Clarke, a 6’2” Jamaican who was as gruff as he was kind, heard that my favorite author was shopping around for a new illustrator and sent her to me. Favoritism was a huge no-no at our agency and as the President, he knew better.
When I brought up my concerns about how it would look to my colleagues, he just laughed and said that it wasn’t his fault I was so good at my job and reliable to boot. I couldn’t help but laugh with him. The truth was that I really wanted this author as a client, so I didn’t complain too much. Ms. Jamerson, a New York Times bestselling author for the past four years, was my idol. I was ecstatic to work with her and after our meeting next month, I am sure that I will be the only illustrator handling her new series of children’s books.
Releasing a gust of air, in resignation, I sat up and scooted until I was at the edge of the bed. I might as well get up and ready myself for the day since sleep had gone into hiding, flipping me the bird in the process. With all the manuscripts I had waiting on my desk, I had no time to chase after the fickle creature.
Hopping down off the bed, I groaned a bit at the jarring in my bones. When I originally bought my bed, I thought it would be cool to have it 10 inches off the ground so I would have to do a running jump to get on. It seemed fun at the time and, in truth, I still enjoyed it but getting down was a damn pain in the ass.
The gym was my first stop. I needed the flood of endorphins like a caffeine addict needs coffee. Luckily, there was a gym in the building only a floor below my apartment. It was fantastic! It had everything a lazy person like me wanted such as bikes and yoga mats for those days when I didn’t want to exert too much energy. Thankfully, I only needed forty-five minutes for any lingering wisps of sleep to slither away.
Now that I was wide awake, the next thing on my mind was food! With a grin, I made my way back to my apartment. Chances are, something delicious would be waiting for me. I stepped off the elevator to the smell of cinnamon. It perfumed the hall getting stronger the closer I got to my door. I knew right away that my home had been taken over by my crazy best friend who also happened to be my personal chef.
Sarah Campbell came blazing into my life about eight months after I started going to the shelter. I had become a living zombie by the time we met; merely going through the motions of being human. Eating, drinking, sleeping, and performing basic hygiene. The only other thing I forced myself to do wholeheartedly was to attend college classes and only because I had promised my grandma.
After a while, not even that promise was enough to give me strength., I saw nothing, cared about nothing, and felt nothing. At first, I barely acknowledged Sarah with occasional grunts whenever she spoke to me. Later, I found out that my lack of response was why she made a point of saying something every time she saw me. It took months of coaxing on her part but soon we were inseparable. She had reminded me that being at rock bottom was not the worse that could happen to me. Better yet, I should take it as an opportunity to come back swinging.
Before I knew it two and half years had sped by with us supporting each other every step of the way. It worked until the day I got a job offer. Amici Degli Scrittori, one of the top ten publishing houses in the world, had decided that they wanted me. At first, I was thrilled! I had double stacked my classes and worked hard to graduate early just for this one chance. When it became clear that I would have to leave behind the person who had played a huge role in making it all possible, I balked. I couldn’t see past leaving Sarah and had come dangerously close to turning them down but, I knew she would never forgive me. Worse, I would be throwing away my grandmother’s vision for my life.