Marlene awoke in the early hours of morning suspended in the air. She was floating above her bed, bouncing gently against the hard surface of the ceiling like a helium balloon. She had been having her regular swimming dream, one in which she found herself at the bottom of the ocean or a pool. In this recurrent dream she always started running out of air and in the instant before resurfacing she would take a deep, desperate breath of water. Like now, this was her cue for waking up.
Looking down at the messed up bed below her, she did not realize instantly where she was. Because she assumed herself to still be dreaming, she remained calm. Keeping her eyes open, but not understanding that they were open, she inspected the world through the fuzzy gaze of the freshly stirred.
She had fallen asleep the night before repeating the following words to herself:
I don’t care who Julian fucks.
She had whispered them, unconvinced, trying to caress herself into complacency with the harsh phrase. It had eventually numbed her into the restless sleep out of which she was now, unknowingly, awakening. It was also the first thing that she thought when looking down at the empty place left by a lost lover.
I don’t care who Julian fucks.
She closed her eyes, waiting to see where the early morning dream would lead her, but when she opened them again and saw that nothing below her had changed and that the room was beginning to look more real than possible in an unconscious state, she started to panic. She flailed her arms and kicked her legs, seeking in the empty space around her for something to grab onto, but reaching into nothingness. A silent gasp escaped from her body as her head hit the ceiling, the result of her demented manoeuvres.
There was moment of silence before she began screaming. Her hands moved to her head and she wove her fingers through her hair and started to pull, as if by inducing pain she could in some way force her body back to normalcy. She banged her head into the ceiling and dug her nails into her scalp. She wept, she cried, she sobbed. She punched herself and tore at her body as if it was an enemy, punishing it for violating the laws of gravity and making her into a fool.
Dawn entered through the window and the remaining darkness cowered and hid from it in the remote corners of the room, defeated and deflated. Likewise, Marlene, sore and scarred from the abuse she had inflicted upon herself, hung motionless in the corner of the room, curled up.
There she remained throughout the morning. The alarm had gone off, calling her to attention. The snooze button stood ready for the daily assault it received, but it got no attention and eventually gave up. Then the phone began to ring. Even before the machine did the job of answering, she knew who it was. It was ten o’clock and Anna was making her daily series of calls.
“Marlene,” her voice was pleading. “Pick up the phone. I know that you’re there.”
A pause. A sigh.
“I know this has been hard on you, but please you know that I am always here”
Another pause. Another sigh.
“Marlene, you really need to talk about this…”
The last statement was threatening and was followed by a malicious click.
Again and again the phone rang, but Anna did not leave any more messages. The machine was already full of her voice. Then the ringing stopped. She gave up for the day. She would try again the next day as she had everyday during the past few weeks. Anna was such a good friend. When everyone else had given up on her, Anna still stood by the sidelines, cheering her on, especially now, after the worst fall that Marlene had ever experienced. They had met as children and survived the wretched years of adolescence together. Now, they still held hands as adults.
Thinking about Anna almost caused Marlene to commit another session of self abuse. She stopped herself, realizing how pointless it was and contemplated getting down off the ceiling. She desperately wanted to return to the earth.
She curled her legs underneath herself and aimed her head towards the ground. She thought that if she pushed herself hard enough, she might re-enter the Earth’s gravitational field. Her logic was that by some astounding force of nature, the gravity in her room, had been altered in the night and that she had accidentally been ‘let go’. This gravity theory seemed as reasonable as possible for someone in her position and for a few moments she took comfort in the possibility that other people in the city might at that moment be suffering the same malady.
She pushed against the ceiling as hard as she could and made it about half way down when she could feel the invisible hands again pushing her back up. She bounced against the ceiling gently. She made several attempts. She didn’t make it far enough to grab onto any objects in the room the first few times, but on the fourth try she managed to grab a chair that had been haphazardly placed in the centre of the room the night before. There was a moment of relief when she felt the cold metal of the chair against the palms of her hands, but the feeling did not last long, because shortly after making contact with it, she felt herself again rising upwards. The chair was not heavy enough to keep her attached to the Earth.
Again, she levitated, this time not quite against the ceiling, but holding a chair. She hung onto it for a few moments before hurling it with all her might against the nearest wall and thudding, once more, against the hated ceiling. This she turned over and punched, causing her hand to bleed.
I have to get off this fucking ceiling!
She turned to face the ceiling and clawed her way to the doorframe. She grabbed onto its edge and pulled herself down towards the ground. After several minutes, she found herself in a very awkward position. Her nose was touching the ground, her legs up in the air and hanging onto the door frame with such determination that her knuckles had turned white. She was afraid to let go. Having made it this far to the ground, she was determined to stay.
She looked around and realized that the bed was only about 10 feet away. It was heavy enough to keep her grounded. She manipulated her body into an even more awkward position, with one hand curled under the door and the fingers of the other stuffed into the hole she had kicked into the wall when Julian had first confessed his infidelity, she curled her legs underneath her body. After a deep breath and a dramatic countdown, she kicked off the wall and aimed her body for the bed.
She made it and crawled under it, into the small space occupied by half read books, condom wrappers and socks that went missing in the wash. There she remained until the darkness returned and took control of the room once again.