I could tell it was storming, but not for the sound of thunder or rain. The window frame was plastered so well that I could hear no sounds from the outside, but I could see the drops falling and the trees whipping in the wind. Flashes of light struck the dark room and made Caroline visible. She seemed so much smaller underneath all those covers. I didn’t think there was anything that could make her petite frame look any frailer than it already did. When insomnia took me, and it so often did, I sat on the end of Caroline’s bed and rubbed her legs. So far, she hadn’t been woken by this, but I swear I could hear her sigh when I started massaging. When the snoring came, I knew she had drifted off properly and I could stop rubbing her little legs. Caroline would fight with anyone who mentioned the fact that she snored. No way did she snore. Snoring was for boys and old grandpas with bad breath and white hair.
Sometimes I imagined what it would be like if Caroline and I lived in the country. The grass would be lush and green wherever we could see it, and the wheat fields would be golden like the stars that hung above them at night. I pictured the two of us lying in the grass with the moon over our heads and fireflies dancing around like fairies. We would probably swap stories and rhymes and point out the Milky Way. Maybe we would lie like this forever.
I moved to the window, my bare feet patting against the cold grey floor, and saw that the rain had stopped; something to look forward to, a clear day, made it easier to rest when I returned to my bed. I kept my hands on the bed, trying not to touch myself, as the hours drifted away and the sun finally came up. By eight o’clock the entire room had been filled with the morning light.
I left the hospital that morning having not slept more than three hours. I couldn’t help but think about the look Caroline gave me as I bent over to kiss her sweet little forehead. Her eyes were wide, black and piercing, like eagle eyes that began to well up with tears. She smelled of jasmine and roses and cool summer nights, a mixture of scents that seemed to stick on her body and never leave.
I was glad to be home, certainly for the freedom of having windows that could open and the busy city as background noise instead of beeping machines and “paging doctor what’s his name.” I opened the window that faced Queen’s Park, and stood in front of it so that I could examine the trees. Most of the leaves had fallen, but those that remained on the branches were rusty coloured, red, orange and yellow. The breeze felt nice on my face, familiar and cozy like an old sweater. The air was frosty on the tip of my nose reminding me that the winter winds would soon be here to greet the city, as they always did.
That night I dreamt I was on a boat, rolling and bouncing along with the tide. I drifted farther and farther away from the coast, until the shore was no longer visible. The gulls in the sky were screeching so loudly that I covered my ears, and when I did, I lost control of the helm. The boat turned round and round, spinning faster with every turn, until the sea beneath me opened up into a whirlpool and swallowed my boat and I whole. And suddenly, it had stopped. The whirlpool turned into calm salt water, and I floated down down to the bottom, until I hit the ocean floor. I was not short of breath but instead fully capable of breathing under water. On the sides of my neck were slits that flapped with every breath I drew. In an instant, I had gills, scales and fins. I was a fish, and not one of those exotic, colourful fish either. I was a tuna.
I woke up in a sweat. I was very angry at my subconscious for turning me into a fish, and a tuna at that. I knew I was plain, but that was a little too modest, even for me.