Cover Photo: Steepletop by Savannah Lamb
 

Steepletop

All night, I became buried. It was comfortable, rapturous. The room was in the basement floor, so the walls were cold to the touch and the air was moist but I was warm, nearly too warm underneath the thick layers of comforter. Bundled on the tall bed, made with an iron frame. I was trapped there in all the blankets, drifting in and out of sleep. It was too sloth-like, like a barbiturate and I kept meaning to wake up but succumbing again and again to sleep. I finally woke up at noon.

He didn’t punish me. You were tired, he told me. You must have needed it. I must have needed it, I thought, and tried to remember all the nights before this one and the debts of restlessness. An hour here and an hour there, burning the candle at both ends – it really adds up.

I hadn’t looked in the mirror before I went upstairs so I didn’t know what I looked like but I didn’t care if I looked bad. I knew my face was all puffy and my eyes small. Brown curls framed my face like a mop. I had slept in a shirt and long johns but found a robe down in the bathroom there to go greet him, thinking it’d be more appropriate for breakfast. The robe was a soft, slick material – maybe silk, but I wasn’t sure. Green flowers on a pastel blue background. It was detailed in gold brocade and smelled like a pantry. I found it kind of sad for whoever had lived here before to have had their items end up this way – stranded, as is, with no one special like family to use them. It was me, so I appreciated them – the old perfume and the white wicker vanity. But it could have easily not been me. What was this person like? What was their best memory in this robe? What about their worst?

Upstairs, there was a kitchen with terra-cotta tiles and plants hanging in the window. I didn’t care if I looked bad because the light was so soft on this grey day; the whole outside world was compacted with snow. I helped him cook breakfast. I am not a good cook, so I only did little things to start but then I could build up and start learning more. We made a pot of coffee, eggs, bacon and omelets with chives and cheese. It’s good to have a hearty breakfast, he told me, and I thought about it and I knew it was true because I used to get so hungry around eleven o’clock after eating a little breakfast.

The dining room is in front of the kitchen, separate only by countertops. We sat at the corners like kids, the food all spread out on the lace tablecloth. The floor in the dining room was hardwood and creaky and wobbly, it rolled like waves and cried in the night. The table was in front of two glass sliding doors so it was kind of like eating outside, with all the whiteness, the trees, the mountains and the snow. Eating is building in reverse and consumption is a job. I worked on the eggs, the omelet and the bacon bit by bit. I’d tire and get back to it. I was hungry then content. Then I was nibbling and washing it down with cups of coffee, filling up an inside need that sometimes isn’t physical at all. The first meal of vacation is important.

He watched me eat. It made him very happy. He liked to see me enjoy myself. He knew it was good for me. I told him breakfast was my favorite meal of the day. He didn’t believe me. He said I must have eaten terribly in the city. I did, in the mornings. I always felt kind of sick when I first woke up there, couldn’t find anything to eat in the cabinets, wasted an  hour not wanting to leave the house and so it goes…In fact, I felt kind of sick after eating that big breakfast. I had to lie down even after spending all that time in bed. He said it was okay.

It was already two in the afternoon. The days slip by so fast in the country. We had spent an hour at breakfast talking about our memories and laughing. We had talked about years ago when we were just sixteen and the summers were lazy out of necessity: there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. We’d spend hours in the ovaloid pool, which was caked in wildflowers. A rotting fence was like an outline to the rolling hills beyond. The pool was dirty and calm enough to be just like a pond. Deep cerulean water glittered in the sunshine. Hours would drift by – slowly at first, I remembered, because we were so anxious to get on with everything – enjoyment was over-calculated when you’re so smart and so trapped, so we’d get a little drunk off of warm sangria in water bottles until time had less weight. How strange that life was that small back then but it sounded really nice right now. The memory was suddenly no longer pleasant because it had meant so much more than what we had thought it would then.

The days passed on. The first was the longest, the second became shorter until they passed without me even knowing. Was I getting better? He assure me I was getting better. I wondered how long we’d be here. The winter was a trap because the outside was so unattainable. It was something you needed to prepare to enter. Something so harsh.

I didn’t miss the drug. I took it when I felt that everything was too much, so I never wanted to take it here. Every thing was too little here: slow, no stimuli. He thinks it’s it or him. He thinks I’m that simple. He thinks I can be addicted to him, when I can’t be addicted to anything. Reliant, maybe. He thinks the drug is my worst enemy, my only battle. But it’s always been myself.

I see the way the snow moves outside. I can see nature move and change. I’ll see the seasons change from here, too. Remember, he says, remember  a blizzard and a car crash. No one was hurt, but it was so dramatic.

No, I said, Stop, I don’t want to remember anything anymore.