I lie on my back, knees pulled into my chest, eyes closed, slowly rocking back and forth. On the backward swing I roll into sunlight. The inside of my eyelids light up neon bright, little floaties swim by, swirling around as I squeeze and relax my eyelids. I gaze into a red-orange snow globe. I am six years old, supposedly taking a nap, but it’s way too hot to sleep. The swamp cooler drones in the hallway, its humidified cool circle of influence extending to within a few feet of our bedroom door.
My sister Linda, older by three years and past the age of required naps, is supposed to be reading or studying or something. Her first name is really Laura. I find out much later that someone in the family could not pronounce Laura correctly. This person called her Hoar-a, which was just too close to a bad word. So we moved on to her second name, Linda. For as long as I can remember, Linda and I have always shared a room, we have always had chores, and because she is older, she has always gotten the harder ones. Everyone has a set place in the world – mine is middle child.
“Hey Linda, you know that feeling when you don’t feel anything, like your whole body is rubber?”
She is sitting at her desk, identical to mine, with her back to me. The room has twin beds, parked head-in against the same wall, separated by a chest of drawers, left side hers, right side mine. Both beds have matching ribbed bedspreads, the thin kind that draws attention to every wrinkle underneath and leaves parallel indent lines on your skin if you lie on top too long.
“No.” She doesn’t even turn around.
I know she knows what I mean. What is she doing over there? Nothing – just looking out the window. This is so irritating, because I really want to talk about the feeling. The one that happens when I first wake up from a real nap, but only sometimes. It never lasts very long. Last time I had it, I quietly rolled out of bed and headed down the hallway, using stealth mode to protect the feeling. Even the dust brigade, backs against the walls, hardly noticed me. Carefully sliding each foot down its assigned lane of linoleum tile, I almost made it to the front door before regular senses took over.
“You do know. Your body feels like rubber and your brain only works in the very middle.”
“No.” She continues to stare out the window.
Her window faces west, shaded by a cottonwood in an otherwise barren side yard. I look out my window onto the backyard. Sprinklers spray the grass under a weeping willow.
A gentle light diffuses through my mind. Maybe she really doesn’t know about the feeling. I start to wonder, could she have feelings that I don’t know about? No way. If she thinks and feels things I don’t know, that means I don’t really know everything about her. The light sweeps each thought forward to make room for the next.
Maybe she is more than someone in my world, here to help me grow up. Maybe she has her own world, and she thinks I am part of her world. My reflection looks at me from the mirror.
So, it’s like TV. There is my show, of course, with all its people. But all the people in my show also have their own show? That’s too many shows. I wait for a new thought.
That must be it. Everyone I know has their own show, just like I do. Bigger than that, every person in the whole world has their own show. Every person can have thoughts and feelings no one knows about. They can do things no one expects. Every. Single. Person.
The complexity stuns me. As I scowl at my feet, my brain grows numb, even in the middle. Linda is writing or drawing something, her face a few inches from the paper. I curl up and pull the bedspread all the way over my head. I take a deep breath and close my eyes, floating into the black snow globe. The light trails off, then disappears.