Disappear Here

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Since I was brought to this room two days ago, the world has grown very quiet. Only slow voices and the scratch of pen on paper. Today as yesterday, a doctor with one enlarged left nostril sits by my bed and chain-sucks mints, writes down each word I say before weighing me.

'And what about dreams?' she says.

'What about dreams?'

'Are there any particular dreams you have that bother you? Any that stand out? Do you have any recurring dreams?'

'Yeah,' I smile, 'I have a recurring dream.'

'Do you want to tell me about it?'

'In my dream I'm all that exists, and the universe is expanding, every time I take a breath I expand until I can't expand any more, then I start to shrink into myself, until I disappear. Into my own black hole or something. The I explode and expand again. Endlessly, over and over, on and on with every breath. What do you think of that?'

'And how long have you been having that particular dream?'

'I don't remember.'

'Have you had it since you came here?'


'I see you had some post this morning,' she says.

She lifts an envelope of papers from the table by the bed, fingers the first few sheets.

'Excuse me, that's private,' I say, and she puts it down. 'Was there anything else you wanted?'

'The nurse will becoming in shortly to take a blood sample. Please, try to co-operate with her this time.'

'You want my blood? Again? And you wonder why I look so pale.'

'It wouldn't kill you to at least try to eat something, either,' she smiles.

'You know what the problem is here?' I say. 'The problem is that you think there's something wrong with me. There isn't. I know exactly what I want. Now please, leave me alone so I can reach it.'

'So what do you want?'

'For now, or for the future?'

'For now?'

'For now... I want to move without making a sound. I want to live on nothing but air. I want to become my breath.'

'And for the future?'

'Another time. Work it out.'

By night I lie in the dark, spread myself as flat as I can be on the bed and listen to the sounds my body makes, a primeval hum accentuated by the rasp of air conditioning through a grate in the wall. Nine days ago my skin was itchy-red and scaly but now it's retreating, bluing out, nearing translucent, bones shining through like the columns of a submerged temple.

Eyes hovering at a locus between my head and the ceiling, I place my palms flat on my chest, count ribs beneath my fingers. Sometimes I can reach sleep like this, counting backwards bone by bone until I disappear down the rabbit hole of my navel.

Whoever thought that putting minds inside bodies was a good idea? All that eating and drinking and excreting and farting and belching and sex and bleeding and sleeping and dying.

My parents were here yesterday. When the nurse led them in I was sitting up in bed, pillows behind me underpinning my spine, wearing white hospital-issue clothes with the name printed on the back in watery blue.

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