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Portland, Oregon. 1986
A week after moving into the house, my mind snapped. I was standing at the bottom of the front steps when it happened: the eight, slightly crooked wooden steps, leading to the red door of the faded sunshine-yellow boxy house, trimmed with chocolate brown. The house stood across the street and around the corner from James’s apartment, where I had felt safe.
Now I was outdoors. Exposed. Vulnerable.
I stood alone on the sidewalk. The living room glowed behind the white sheer curtains in the bay window in the front of the house. Inside, I knew, was James. Outside, the October air was too chilly for my forest green hooded sweatshirt. Why was I standing there, why was I out there in the dark? I don’t remember. I didn’t know why. I found myself there, with no past, no reason, no memory of what had just happened. I woke up there, and I didn’t know why.
I looked up at the stars, the myriad of swirling stars that even Portland city lights could not overshadow. I was a speck on a speck of a planet in a whirling galaxy swirling along the emptiness of space, one of countless other swirling galaxies. In space: We talk of it as though space were an entity in and of itself; a location. We’re in Portland, in Oregon, in the U.S, on the planet earth, in “space,” where we hang by nothing. But space is not a location; it is the absence of place — the emptiness in-between places.
Daddy said, the human mind cannot fathom these mysteries of the cosmic design. “We get dizzy just trying to think of it,” he said. An indisputable proof of a god-created universe, for him.
Now, as my mind stretched to understand, I felt it reeling. Perhaps it would . . . perhaps it would snap. He was right. Understanding was beyond me. Even reaching for it felt dangerous. Hubris.
Daddy. He did not know where I was. I was getting smaller and dizzier, a speck of nothing in the giant nothing of space and no one knew where I was. My parents did not know where I was. They thought I was across the street, in that apartment. But I had moved without telling them. Why did I feel lost to them, even though I had only moved across the street?
Because they did not know where to find me. And if my parents did not know where I existed, I might as well . . . is it that I might as well not exist?
I was lost: completely lost in this swirling galaxy suspended in emptiness; hanging by nothing in the nothingness of space and my heart was racing. My heart was speeding I could not even count the beats. It was trying to keep up with my mind that was cracking my mind that was contemplating the unfathomable as my personality evaporated, because . . .
Because no one knew where I was.
The fear emptied my core and left me a shadow of myself. I had no substance. I was but a shimmering wave in a shallow pool . . . look! Quick! It is here now. Now it is gone.
I must do something. Anything. Break out of this. It was more instinct than reason.
I could not catch my breath. My heart was going to explode out of my chest, I could feel it. And my mind was caving in on itself; my mind could not catch its breath. Like a cycle of breathing that has lost its rhythm and cannot be caught, my mind was off its tracks as well. I’m here. No, I’m here. I’m the person who says I’m here. No, I’m that person. No, I’m that person. I was derailed. I could not get back into the rhythm of linear time. I was in caught in a circle and I could not catch my breath and I must get someplace safe. I must get indoors. Get inside. It was a feeling more than a thought. An irresistible impulse. My body ran up the front stairs and opened the door. My mind must have followed. I entered a room so warm and bright, it was a planet separate from the cold sidewalk and the infinite stars in the black sky and the gap — the infinite distance between me and my parents.
James was in the dining room. Reading — the paper, was it? He didn’t notice that I had just come in and that I did not know who I was. That I was derailed. I went up the turn-of-the-century wooden stairs that strained even under my light frame, and rushed into my safe bed, with all my clothes on. I might be safer, under the covers, drawn up to my chin. With my knees bent up to my chest. I hugged my knees and closed my eyes. You’re safe. It’s okay. My heart kept beating against my ribs faster than I could count. I went blank. I went somewhere. I don’t remember. I went somewhere.
I don’t know where.
. . . to be continued
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.