I wake up sweating, as usual. The blankets are layered three thick and tucked under my legs and arms, creating a space I can cocoon into, no matter what might be pressed across me. I can still smell the ocean mist from my dream. She was about to turn around when I woke up.
My alarm says that it’s 6:04 in the morning. I can hear my mother snoring down the hall. I kick myself free and lift the blankets to create a wave of air over my body. A sudden chill grounds me to my room.
Maybe it’s me from a past life. My mom’s best friend reads people’s past lives, and she said that I was a king once before. It’s not weird to be a different gender in a past life, because lots of people are different genders or races or classes or whatever in past lives.
The girl in my dream has hair that I wish I had, and is standing outside by a cliff, over the ocean. The cliff is at the top of this sweeping hill, and a castle stands just behind her. I wonder if she lives there. She’s looking out at the ocean, her perfect, Disney-princess hair cascading gently in the wind, and she’s about to turn around when I wake up.
Sleep is now impossible. I roll out of bed and grab my bike shorts and whatever shirt is within arm’s reach. I grab a pair of my sister’s socks and I head down the stairs. I’m in the garage, lacing up my shoes when I think that maybe she’s a character of some great future novel I’ll write. I saw this movie once about a black kid in a bad area who meets an old white neighbor with an attitude problem and they become unlikely besties. The old guy was a writer and he said that characters that are well-written come alive inside the writer’s mind. Maybe she’s just a character and she’s alive in my dreams.
The wooded trail calls to me from across the street. It’s nearly sunrise. The only sound is my feet hitting the pavement and the occasional car, muffled by the sound of the woods in my subdivision. My mind turns over another possibility. I try to sprint away from the thoughts in my head. It doesn’t work.
It could be that I’m crazy. Maybe I see another person all the time, other people all the time, because I’m crazy.
My mom is crazy. I know a lot of kids say that, but most kids are trying to make sure everyone knows how crazy their parents are. That’s how you can tell that the parent is probably pretty normal. Yeah, they might be strict about curfew or not allow friends over on school nights, but everyone has food and lights on the regular. My mom is the type of crazy where turning on the light switch and expecting illumination is a gamble.
One day I was home sick and I saw an episode of Riki Lake and a doctor came on to explain how people have mental illnesses in their families, and it can go on for generations and sometimes they don’t even know that it is happening.
I turn away from the path that leads to my aunt’s house, and go deeper into the hills.
When I see my dad this summer, I can ask him about my family medical history. According to my mom, my family medical history is that we have shit teeth, crappy eyesight, and are lucky we don’t look like our father. I know my dad was an alcoholic, so I’m 75% more likely to become an alcoholic myself one day. I am hoping that if I never ever drink anything with alcohol, I won’t end up crazy, either. Though no one has told me it would work that way.
The sun is starting to come up behind me, and I feel it rising over my legs. I stop running, double over with my hands on my thighs, and catch my breath.
I can’t be crazy. I wouldn’t known by now, right? I guess I am still a kid, but once I have my birthday and turn twelve, I bet things will make more sense.