I woke up drenched in sweat. My hair was stuck to my face and my t-shirt was soaked through. I groped for my phone in the dark. It was 3:24 a.m. I had only managed to sleep for two hours. And even those two hours were interspersed with the same nightmare.
Ever since my father died three years ago, I've had recurring nightmares. Sometimes worse, sometimes less bad. I kept seeing him lying in state in his coffin in the morgue, surrounded by flowers. I still remember that he had looked incredibly peaceful. And I almost expected that he would wake up at any moment. But of course that wasn't the case.
A few months after Father's death, my mother had moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania. I, however, stayed in my dorm at Pennsylvania State University. But like every year on the anniversary of Father's death, I went to see Mom.
Actually, I wanted to leave early today. But when the usual sleep disturbances made themselves felt again last night, it quickly became clear to me that nothing would come of it. My mother was already worried about the dark shadows under my eyes. And if I then showed up to her completely exhausted, a discussion would be inevitable.
I swung my legs out of bed and rubbed my neck. It might help if I went into the kitchen of my small apartment and made myself some tea.
I fished my phone off the bedside table and shuffled towards the kitchen. Well, actually my apartment was more of a closet, but at least the bathroom had a bathtub.
When I got to the kitchen, I grabbed the kettle and poured in enough water for a cup. While waiting for the water to boil, I unlocked the phone and searched my contacts for my best friend, Damon.
Before I could tap his contact, an incoming message appeared on the display.
"Go back to bed!"
I had to grin. Sometimes I thought Damon was telepathically connected to me. In fact, he could see into my kitchen from his living room window.
I wrote back:
I then looked over at his window and could see how he shrugged his shoulders demonstratively.
The kettle clicked. I poured the steaming water into a mug and dunked a bag of mint tea into it. Then I went to the window and looked at the cloudy night sky. I looked for a very special star among the countless stars. My father had shown it to me once when I was a little girl. We had lain together on the back lawn of our house and looked at the stars. Dad had explained every constellation to me. And why the Little Bear was called what he was called.
Once a month, when the moon was full, we used to follow the migration of the great bright disk. Until dawn broke on the horizon. The bond I had with my father was something very special. Because he only became my father when I was already five years old. That was when my mother separated from her husband, my birth father, and met Dad. I remember like it was just yesterday: when Mom introduced me to this huge, long-haired man, a switch flipped in my five-year-old self. And without thinking about what I was doing, the first "dady" slipped out on the first evening. And from that moment on he was the father of my heart.
Many years passed. I had a happy childhood with lots of freedom. And when I was finally old enough to go to concerts and festivals, Dad and I would move across the country to various festivals in the summer.
It became clear very early on that my taste in music was definitely harder in nature. I started listening to bands like Metallica, Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden. For my fifteenth birthday, my parents gave me my first drum set. And from then on it was clear to me that I would later study music.
After high school I applied to Pennsylvania State and what can I say, I got accepted. Everything seemed perfect.
Until the darkest day of my life. The day the dean broke into the middle of a lecture and summoned me to his office.
And as I sat in the chair in front of his desk, my whole world fell apart in a matter of minutes.
The dean informed me that my mother had just called and immediately summoned me home. My father had been involved in a fatal traffic accident that had occurred on the highway a few hours earlier. Attempts had been made to fly him to the nearest clinic with the help of a helicopter, but he had already died on the way there.
That same evening, Damon drove me home. I can't remember the funeral to this day. Only the way he lay in his coffin and seemed to be asleep. And that's where the nightmares started.
I had started countless therapies and stopped every single one. I had even neglected making music more and more until I finally stopped doing it altogether. Instead, I buried myself more and more in the university, taking extra lectures and courses. There were nights when I just studied. Just to keep from falling asleep and having nightmares again. I didn't let anyone get close to me. Not even Damon.
And now here I was, staring at the sky again. As a cloud lifted, the star I was looking for all along came out. It was the brightest of them all and I imagined it was Dad's star. It was always comforting to look at him. I sipped my tea. It was now dark over at Damon's. Presumably he had gone to sleep. I checked the clock again. 3:49 a.m. If I didn't fall asleep so gradually, the drive would be hard tomorrow. I sighed and took my cup to the bed and sat on the edge of the bed.
When I lifted my head and looked in the mirror on the opposite wall, a weary, alienated reflection of myself stared back at me. Long, emerald-tinted hair hung tangled from my head. And because I didn't bother the night before removing my makeup, the black eyeshadow had completely spread around my eyes. I wiped my eyes, but the result was just a black back of my hand.
When I looked away and fell back on the pillows, I stared at the ceiling for a long time. At some point I must have fallen asleep. For I fell into an uneasy sleep...