It’s the itching.
It usually starts like a flutter. I think I might have imagined it. I brush it away like a stray piece of hair may be dangling off my arm. Sometimes it is exactly that.
Sometimes, I feel the bump, more of a welt, and I know my skin will start puckering soon. The bumps will multiply. They’ll press under my eyes and along my wrists, and on the back of my arm. They’re just stress hives, nothing to worry about, the doctor says, since worry caused them in the first place.
It’s the itching that keeps me up at night.
It’s also the aching. I don’t know if it’s the drop of temperature, or the laying down, but nighttime tightens my joints. This is bearable in my ankles– I sneak my feet out of my weighted blankets, and slowly stretch small circles into the air.
But when my hip tightens, I can feel my injury. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can taste it, and even though that doesn’t even make sense to me, it’s a real thing.
It’s maybe the aching that keeps me up at night.
In the daylight, I wonder if that’s all it is. I wonder if I could sleep past my running thoughts, if I could trust myself to not fall into my nightmares.
I don’t suppose there’s any way to tell for sure.
This is another morning that might be night still. A today I pressed into yesterday, like the days are clay, and if I combine them all together without rest, I might have enough day to do something with it.
I could make something beautiful, maybe.
As a child, it was always roses. Do you know how to make a clay rose? You start by rolling small pieces into perfectly round clay marbles. Maybe five of the smallest size. Then four of a larger size. Then three big ones.
You press your thumb against it, flatten the sphere. There. A petal. Then again and again.
This next stage is delicate. You must lift each piece up, starting with the tiniest and moving to the largest. They don’t always want to come. Sometimes, they don’t know they are petals. They think you crushed the something out of them. Turned them back to the nothing of the blob of clay. Sometimes you pressed too hard. A petal knows the heft it will need to see to the rose. It will not settle.
Smallest piece first. Bend the edges together slightly so it curves like a palm resting against a waist in a fancy waltz. Next piece, same thing. Then nest it, pinching your petals together slightly at the bottom. And then continue.
You may not need every one you made. A rose knows how many petals it needs, and you won’t know till you can see the rose.
I know this feels like a metaphor but it isn’t. I just wanted to talk about something that brought me comfort as a child. I can see it so clearly.
Chaos, always, around me. Chaos, sometimes, within me. A long table that I had seen laden with food, and covered in papers, and surrounded by so many people that the impossible reach of it was almost too small.
A lump of clay in front of me, as I pressed and rolled ever-smaller spheres between the base of my palms, where they would get the most even shaping.
I don’t remember if it was daytime or nighttime. I remember the rows of roses. My slow and careful critique of each one. And then I remember taking them together by the handful– a small, heavy bouquet of something from nothing– and crushing them together.
The clay went back in the container, and the table had to be cleaned, and the noise turned back on in my memories like the rolling motion was some kind of cosmic chaos dimmer.
I wasn’t a quiet kid, but I needed those moments, and I wonder if my need for that sort of silence is what actually keeps me awake. It is certainly one reason I’ve always loved the night. I wonder, if I let myself be unworried about sleep patterns, if the peace of petals would find me, or if maybe I just haven’t made enough space for myself to do the work, or if maybe this constant stream of questions and curiosities is the real reason I never really rest anymore.
Do you know, back then… I thought the clay smelled like roses when I pressed it away.
I wonder what that means.