5:00am. Alarm. Reset alarm for fifteen minutes.
5:15am. Alarm #2. Reset alarm for six minutes.
5:21am. Alarm #3. Do not reset alarm.
6:00am. Backup alarm. Reset alarm for five minutes.
6:05am. Alarm #5. Reset alarm for two minutes.
6:07am. Alarm #6. Reset alarm for eighteen minutes.
6:25am. Alarm #7. You have grown to hate the sound of your alarm. Reset alarm for twenty-three minutes.
6:48am. Alarm #8. Curse yourself for not waking up. Rue the one-hour-and-forty-eight minutes of lost time. Reset alarm for 12 minutes.
7:00am. Alarm #9. Sit up. Decide you will not go to the gym this morning because you’ve wasted too much time. You will go to the gym later. You have to make up for not going to the gym all this week.
7:03am. Coffee. Contemplate breakfast. Decide against breakfast.
7:05am. Decide in favor of breakfast.
7:31am. Regret eating breakfast. Regret not going to the gym. Scrutinize appearance in the mirror. Weigh yourself. Regret not going to the gym. Regret eating breakfast.
7:38am. Sit down with your textbook. Flip to chapter 5. Begin to read.
7:39am. Check time.
7:41am. Check emails.
7:57am. Close Twitter, look back at your book.
8:22am. Realize you haven’t made it through the first paragraph. Check the time. Check Snapchat. Check Instagram. Check Facebook. Check Twitter. Check emails.
8:50am. Return to textbook.
8:56am. Make more coffee.
9:02am. Return to textbook. Do not read beyond the first paragraph.
9:15am. Close textbook. Lay down on couch. Set alarm for fifteen minutes.
9:30am. Alarm #10. Reset alarm for fifteen minutes.
9:45am. Alarm #11. Reset alarm for five minutes.
9:50am. Alarm #12. Reset alarm for 10 minutes.
10:00am. Alarm #13. Sit up. Regret nap. Regret eating breakfast. Regret not going to the gym. Regret not getting work done.
10:01am. Inspect appearance in the mirror. Frown at appearance in mirror. Make a mental list of the things wrong with the appearance in mirror. Regret not going to the gym.
10:05am. Return to bed. Set alarm for fifteen minutes.
Repeat as needed.
You did not wear shorts for six years as your body mended itself. Skin smoothed over. Ointments and creams applied painstakingly every day evened out the thin silhouettes of the late nights you spent at a loss for a different outlet, turning the tops of your thighs into the topography of a frontier no one dared explore after first glimpse of the map. You preferred quantity over quality. Soon, the sun melted away the most obvious traces of abandoned acrimony. You could wear shorts again.
Still, though – when the light is just right, when you probe hard enough, when you want a reminder of how far you have come – there, on the swatch of flesh just above your knee, you can still find a contour a shade or two lighter than the skin around it. An easy miss for anyone not looking for it.
But you. You know. And you remember.
You waited on the tracks. Hours passed. Tears dried. Sunlight faded. Temperatures dropped.
The train never came.
The queen size bed was too big for two, the space between your bodies a chasm too great to be breached. Nerves on edge, tensed muscles trembling. Desperation to vocalize a coherent concept and speak through actions builds dams in your throat, seizes your joints, spills paint on the canvas of your thoughts to make them illegible.
Seconds stumble into minutes stagger into hours shuffle closer to morning and the deep breaths of his dreams beside you. Only then does the clock slow down, unfolding an infinity before you in which to contemplate all the combinations and permutations of events that led him not to touch you.
Your first was someone else’s dare just after your eighteenth birthday. By the time the sensation of her lips faded from yours, you had moved a country away from the marina clubhouse in which it had happened. You would not have a chance to kiss her again.
Your second, unromantic in the rain, was a reward to a man you had just met as a reward for a bet. You kissed him many times that weekend. When he went home to Oklahoma, you never spoke to him again.
Your third was stolen from your lips as compensation for the drinks he had placed in your hands all night. Hands on your hips held your body between his and the wall, insistent appeals drowned out your negation. You never spoke to him again.
Your fourth lies tucked away in the shadows of a mountain, saturated in foreign drinks with names you can’t pronounce. You do not remember his name. Perhaps quite naturally, you never spoke to him again.
Your fifth was encouraged by wine and Shakespeare and the mid-May stars twinkling over your birthday, all long forgotten by the time his lips met yours on your couch. He asked you never to speak of the night again.
Your sixth felt like a light-headed fever dream scorching under the late August North Texas sun. The one you wanted most because you thought you could never have it, the one that you’d emulate like a car crash on repeat. Perhaps against your better judgement, you spoke to him again.
Your seventh glittered like a Christmas miracle under a moonlight tower. Dizzy from the lights, you can’t distinguish his lips from the warnings offered by the others who were not so foolish to fall under his spell. You wish you wouldn’t have to talk to him again.
Black Beauty strolled into your life as if she owned it, asserting her feline presence into the bowls of semi-soft cat food left out for Petty, Gibby, Ernest, Whisper, Bashful, Shoes, Socks, Slo, and Mo to share. With her engine-rumble purr, her black spine fading into a coca-cola belly, she became your favorite.
As the chill of fall grew in the air, so did her coca-cola belly. In the best scrawl your six-year-old hand could muster, you brainstormed names for her kittens and drew pictures of how you imagined they would look. You hoped that you have one who looked just like Black Beauty, only much smaller, and with soft squeaks instead of happy purring.
You came home from school to find her in a box in the living room, half-alive, tended with love by both your mother and your father, who tried to explain that she had gotten underfoot of a meter reader. Teary-eyed, bleary-eyed, it was the first time you stayed up all night.
As dawn broke and the up-and-down motions of the coca-cola belly began to recede, you watched death try her hardest to fill a soon-to-be void with life. Your father tried to convince you to look away. Your mother explained she wasn’t ready, the babies just hadn’t had enough time.
Black Beauty’s kitten looked just like its mother: a black spine fading into the faintest hints of a coca-cola belly, and both without a heartbeat.
You do not remember when your mistakes stopped being punished and started being cause to laugh.
You do not mind the change.