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Sleep Mask

42 Nocturnal

Memoirs

Rachelle Toarmino

Kay publishes a book with Nightboat taking down a poet named Robert Crilley. I wonder whether it’s an intentional misspelling of Creeley (to make fun of him) or someone else entirely, and feel sorry for the poet if it’s the latter, realizing people probably always think of Creeley when they hear his name, and that they probably also wonder if it’s a misspelling.

 

*

 

We are all on mushrooms in a hotel room. Everyone but me and Aidan are standing on the two queen-sized beds and pissing on them. Meanwhile, Aidan takes a piss in the bathroom with the door open. Everyone makes fun of him for leaving the door open, which I find hypocritical.

 

*

 

I try to steal Lucy’s mom’s credit card number.

 

*

 

Esmie is decapitated while I’m supposed to be watching her. I leave the house, and her body in it, because I am unable to bring myself to look. When I return, she yelps happily and I realize she is still alive—only now, because I’d left, her time is close to running out. Later, after a montage of against-the-clock driving scenes and a successful trip to the vet, we are back at home with Camille and Esmie, who is happy, healthy, and unbothered. The vets saved her by reattaching her head with a pool noodle, and because of this, her neck is comically thick.

 

*

 

Asking someone if they have any plans for the evening and they nearly cry because “No one ever asks me questions like that.”

 

*

 

I pull The Tower. Aidan sees, so I know I can’t hide it.

 

*

 

I read several of my poems out loud, except now they have the same meter as Emily Dickinson’s.

 

*

 

The leg hair on my thighs is a darker shade of brown. I notice it in front of Aidan, though he seems not to. 

 

*

 

In a room that has something to do with my mother. Peter tells me he’s having a baby, but not with whom, until I ask.

 

*

 

Climbing into a dusty duct-like tunnel with Cait. I let her go in first, getting the majority of the dust on her nice clothes, even though I know mine are shielded by my allergy medication.

 

*

 

On the phone with Tim, who sounds down. I ask if he’s okay and he responds, in a quivering voice, “I just found out why my family really needs me.”

 

*

 

Aidan and I elope. I post a photo on Instagram that gets 251 likes.

 

*

 

There is a dress code (something about sweaters) that I’d missed and am stressed about.

 

*

 

At a bookstore, where I find some Charles Olson letters tucked inside a used book. The script is small, curly, and black. I believe they are rare and worth a lot of money. I try to steal the book, get caught, and own up to it, which the shopkeeper respects. I decide to try stealing the book again, believing I won’t get caught a second time because now the shopkeeper trusts me—we have established a kind of rapport. When I am sure I am getting away with it, it hits me that I’ll feel guilty about this for the rest of my life. I decide to tell Aidan about what I’ve done, and when I tell him he already knows.

 

*

 

It is the beginning of the semester and I don’t know my way around campus.

 

*

 

Aidan sends me a dick pic. I respond omw don’t move and head home on very short skis, which I keep losing in all the snow.

 

*

 

A heated debate over the difference between crosswalks in New York and Los Angeles.

 

*

 

A friend from high school tries to manipulate me into buying her a new iPhone. I realize her name rhymes with Anne Carson. [It really does.]

 

*

 

I walk around in either a very short dress or a very long t-shirt. 

 

*

 

I sleep on a couch in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom.

 

*

 

Looking at a few annotated manuscripts I have stolen from a literary agent. We are at her apartment, which is historic for some reason. White and light blue.

 

*

 

At a poetry reading with Patrick. He reads a cover of Charles Olson’s “Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld],” emphasizing the pronunciation of “buzzed” and “plus this” in Olson’s way.

 

*

 

Back in Madrid. I still know my way around. I’ve forgotten why I’ve returned to Spain, but have the feeling I will figure it out. Alex is back too. I’m wearing Louboutins, which are difficult to walk in, so I take his arm, which strikes me as particularly muscular.

 

*

 

At the mall, where I work. The stalker shows up. We have a friendly interaction—I don’t recognize him at first. He is about three feet tall.

 

*

 

A man and woman (son and daughter?) are lying down, dying slowly in a pool of their own blood. The woman is dying more quickly, as her throat has been “split.” The blood is plum purple. [When I wake up, I have a physical sensation all over my body—what I imagine it feels like to die by being drained of blood.] [Months later, I can still feel it.]

 

*

 

I arrive in France to do a teaching program. I am staying in a hotel room (more of a dorm), which I share with two women, also American. One is a blonde and the daughter of whomever owns the hotel, and the other is a brunette who appears to be her assistant. They work for a literary journal, which I also now work for. I am very concerned that I won’t last the whole year in this living situation; they are very annoying, but as the new girl, I feel obligated to be submissive. We have a conversation about money (I am curious how I’ll be getting paid, how this journal makes money) and they repeat many times that “there is a lot of support for the arts in France.” Indeed, it is a livable salary.

 

*

 

I am doing a reading for b l u s h and decide at the last minute to sit it out, then decide not to, though there is now a concern for time. I promise that my poems are short, which is true, so they agree to let me read. When I get up there I start talking about the history of my project and my reading ends up lasting thirty minutes. After, I forget everyone’s names.

 

*

 

Cait is doing my nails but won’t let me watch. They end up beige and coffin-shaped. I dislike them and feel resentful, realizing they’re how she would have wanted them.

 

*

 

I need to head to CVS for a vaccine. Some kind of magical transportation to get there—flying? Overhead, I witness a wand fight.

 

*

 

A weekend where Steve, my family, and Julie and Shelagh are visiting. Steve makes a mess in his room. I show his mess to Aidan to be like, I told you so.

 

*

 

Robin is telling me about a situation with her boss that got her fired. To make up for the loss of work she’s been selling “sex toy pics”—not sexy pics, but pics of sex toys staged in fictional scenes like dolls. She had discovered a niche kink on Reddit and has been making a killing. I go along with it like it’s something I’m already familiar with. She asks about my username. I tell her it’s a Sims cheat code (rosebud!;!;!;!) and that I use it “for all stuff like that.” Slugs everywhere for some reason. [Moments after waking up, I learn on Facebook that it’s her birthday.]

 

*

 

New apartment in Buffalo going wrong. Something about too much furniture.

 

*

 

In some kind of junk yard in another country. With Spencer, who is trying to “clear the air” about some beef between Mathilda and Aidan. I keep saying “I’m glad we’re clearing this up.” Spencer seems unsurprised it’s all a misunderstanding.

 

*

 

Leading a “self-care workshop” and separating students into groups by routines like skin, hair, exercise, and sleep. One boy is excited to be in the hair group because he “has a lot to say.”

 

*

 

A famous poet has just committed suicide. Aidan and I go to an outdoor beach bar where friends are gathering to be together. We feel awkward, realizing we didn’t know the poet very well. Aidan keeps chewing on my ear sexually, which I hate, given the context. I overhear a woman say “It had been lonely” and a man respond “You’re right about that, it sure had.” Caroline, also feeling awkward, hands me a bag of glow-in-the-dark erasers in case we are “planning to do any rituals on the mountain later.”

 

*

 

Bees.

 

*

 

At a house party hosted by a St. Mark’s parent, where I give Gabe the idea for his next novel. Later, I argue with a woman about the origin of my favorite Norse myth. During the argument, to prove my point, I loudly recall the names of all the Scandinavian countries but forget Norway, losing the argument.

 

*

 

I spot a gray hair on Aidan’s head from across the room. He steps into the light and I see that there are many, in all different shades of silver and gray. I find it extraordinarily beautiful.

 

*

 

I take my Hitachi magic wand to the repairman.

 

*

 

Matthew tells me he is moving to New York. He’s been living in a haunted house for some time and feels ready to try something new. As a parting gift, I make him a cutout collage of his house with yellow construction paper for the windows.

 

*

 

I write the word feelosophy in cursive in my journal.

 

*

 

I am going for a run in platform sandals down Delaware Avenue, where I run into Noah. He tells me about his dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachelle Toarmino wrote That Ex (Big Lucks, 2020)

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