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This morning I woke up in a cold sweat with my skin all but glued to my sheets and a lingering feeling of terror settling deep into my bones. I tossed and turned about in my seemingly small bed unable to return to sleep, partially due to the fear of continuing the dream I could not remember. When I finally managed to settle down it was only moments before my alarm went off and it took everything out of me not to rip my brown coils from my scalp.

My soul felt antsy...almost as if it and my body were going to separate at any given second. Yet the oddest part of it all was an unfamiliar urge to leave my house, something I rarely do unless absolutely necessary. It’s not that there is a pandemic going on or anything, but I’m simply uncomfortable in large crowds with untoward intentions.

As I stood in the shower, absentmindedly yet firmly dragging the soapy cloth across my body thoroughly, I attempted to recall anything else I could about this morning. Was there an unknown demon or energy vampire trying to sap my spirit? Perhaps, I shouldn’t have listened to my former classmates when they said I put too much stock into spirituality and superstition. What the hell did they know anyway?!! In between my racing thoughts, I carefully placed my washcloth onto its hook so that it could begin drying while I rinsed off my body wash. Luckily enough for me, I only slipped once in my attempts to simultaneously dance to the music blasting from my speakers. I sluggishly glided toward my bedroom to get dressed and in the next few blinks, I’d worked my shift and returned home in time for lunch.

It seemed that I’d dragged through my day as a spectator and had only returned to my body and any semblance of reality once I returned to my house. If I’m being honest, it’s probably because of the food. It always has done the trick. As I waited on last night’s chicken marsala to reheat, I nervously drummed my fingertips against the pink marble of my counter.

*mmmmmmm* *mmmmmm* *mmmmmm*

I won’t lie and say it didn’t take my overeager and equally hungry self to realize that the frantic buzzing came from my cell phone which I’d forgotten to take off vibrate after work and not my microwave. I was about to reflexively swipe left before I caught sight of my mother’s name and caved because I’d rather not deal with her and anyone else she could find calling repeatedly until I answered.

“Chile, it took you long enough to answer″ her Southern drawl slithered its way through my phone. “I thought for a second you weren’t going to answer, but we both know you have more sense than that.” I rolled my eyes, flinched, and then relaxed my shoulders when I remembered she couldn’t see me and the only way she’d know is if I hinted towards it. “...Like I was saying Tisha’s daughter is getting married next week and she said she thinks she might be pregnant. I’m not one to make assumptions but they are getting married awful quick and young. Probably are getting married because they don’t want anyone talking about her and her Daddy doesn’t want to deal with the fact that his daughter is the exact same type of person he spends his Sundays talking about. Hypocritical piece of shi-. Lemme not. How you been?”

“Huh?” I chimed in dully, having stopped listening to her hometown gossip. I really couldn’t care less about what was happening back there. I moved away for a reason.

Huh?!? Girl, anybody who can ‘huh’ can hear. I asked how you been” she berated. “I can’t wait for you or your sister to have children, so I can try again and hopefully have them come out right this time.”

It took everything out of me not to retort, so I damn near bit my bottom lip off before replying: “You know what, Mama? I’mma have to call you back. I have a lot of things I need to do right now and not enough time to spare. Love you, bye”. Almost as soon as I disconnected the call, I felt most of the weight lift off my shoulders and the dark cloud that’d temporarily stationed itself over me resumed its path. That woman irritated me like no other and I daily prayed for the strength to fully extricate myself from her toxic web. By the time my treacherous microwave finally beeped, I no longer felt up to enjoying my leftovers. The peace I’d found upon returning to my space had disappeared and I found myself restless once more. For whatever reason, my subconscious would not let me rest, so I hastily dressed in my outside clothes once more and rushed towards my door with unexplained urgency.

Despite it being summertime and me having an overwhelming urge to vacate my self-proclaimed safe space, I didn’t feel the need to use my car or go very far for that matter. So I grabbed my keys and gracelessly stumbled down my unfinished gravel driveway. One of the few perks of living here being the slight isolation from the prying eyes of others and the persisting sounds of the busy city. I managed to walk for several minutes before I found myself unable to resist the urge to reach for my phone. As always I had no messages, aside from my mother’s many messages and tidbits prefacing her critiques about how I should be more like anyone other than myself. I rolled my eyes and shoved my phone back into my back pocket, not the safest place but where I felt the most comfortable with it being. Had I placed it anywhere else, I would’ve been consumed by the anxious feelings of nudity that came with not having it in my close possession. Maybe those scientists who’d argued the negative effects of this new technology-based society were onto something after all. I was certainly starting to agree that I am addicted.

Shrugging my shoulders in defeat, I allowed my ever-shrinking attention span to wander to the next sensation. Had they repaved the roads? Were those new flowers in Mrs. Bodega’s yard? I still had no clue how a near ninety-year-old woman managed to maintain her garden so tediously, but a small part of me hoped to be able to do the same in my old age. My gaze traveled with my feet, stopping for a bit on the ice cream truck before I disappointedly remembered I left my wallet at home. I didn’t feel bad for long before the unwanted voice in my head chimed in about how I didn’t really need ice cream anyway and when it went on to say that I’d been packing on the pounds lately, it sounded suspiciously like my mother.

I continued to amble my way through the well-known streets for about twenty more minutes feeling the blazing sun ruthlessly bear down on my sensitive skin and the pavement harshly abusing the skin of my feet through my worn sneakers. Eventually, I lifted my gaze and shaded my eyes reading the sign in the sky. My feet had guided me to one of my favorite places. Little Red Park. Ever the paranoid person, I carefully observed my surroundings, noting my solitude before leaping onto the nearest swing.

I spent a few hours at the park, enjoying the reprieve from the darkness of what had become my everyday life before a disheartening thought brought the rain back to my parade. It was Wash Day and there was no way I could continue to put it off. Just like that in the blink of an eye or better yet the flash of a thought, my peace of mind had been shattered. I reluctantly slipped from the swing, all the while mentally preparing myself for the intense workout that awaited me at home. Despite understanding the urgency of my task, I couldn’t stop myself from lingering and casting a few final forlorn glimpses at the park that no longer felt that empty. Nevertheless, just as before I didn’t see or hear anyone suggesting another’s presence but couldn’t change the way I felt. No longer being able to take the internal and external pressure formed by the clashing of my duties and instinctual urges, I kicked rocks irritably observing that the only thing that could make today worse is rain.

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