The snow had stopped sometime in the middle of the night and as I sat in the chilly, early morning air, the clouds had taken on an opaque and seamless white color the texture of butter cream making it difficult to tell where the rooftops ended and the sky began. Since sleep had become elusive of late, rare like the sighting of a mystical creature, I mashed my third cigarette into the side of the smoke pail and thought about faces.
Well, rather I thought about one face. A face I had grown very fond of especially with the rarity of dreams and persistent white noise, visible, palpable on the backs of my eyelids. No sleep, only whispers and waterfalls of wide awake thoughts uncontrollably moving outward from my mind like a Fibonacci spiral. So many mornings I chose to drown the cerebral circus by finding things I liked about that face. It soothed my anxiety and gave me one focus rather than 54 million.
I crawled back into bed hoping that without my shirt or hat I didn’t smell too much like tobacco. His untamed hair lay across the far side of his face but I could still see the gentle crows feet by his close eye. And those eyelashes, two-tone bronze and blonde, not quite glinting in the unusual grayish hues of winter light peeking through his second story loft windows. Time almost seemed to stand still while I stared, he asleep so peacefully as if the universe was inside him and I nor nothing else around us existed. I decided to count the lashes but didn’t get very far before he stirred and turned into me, his face in my neck, breathing deeply and calm. The momentary quiet of my mind interrupted by his comfort adjustment.
Without any features of his face to fixate on, the whirlwind within began to hum back to life. What in the world makes a brain so active during normal lulling times remains a mystery to me. I pondered life, death, the whys, the hows, the what ifs, the beginning of time, the infinity of space, the nature of the beast that will become my future, and so on down a stream of consciousness I can’t seem to control. At this point I’m tense and too warm from his body heat so I push away swinging one leg out of the covers to cool down. Also, counting backwards from 100 seems like a good way to refocus and maybe even fall asleep for a little while.
99…98…97…96…82…81…80…75…74…73… and the thoughts fly out of nowhere rushing me like a wave. Imagine an atom with all its electrons whizzing around unimaginably fast, chaotic, constant. This is my mental state for hours at a time. Upon realizing I was side tracked from counting back I tried to start again but by 70 I was back to the abyss, the bottomless chasm of useless and worrisome thoughts.
Then I remembered my affinity for faces. Like a raven, which can recognize and remember human emotion and faces that have been kind or cruel, I have a storage vault of compiled faces that make up the things I admire the most in a person. And this man beside me embodies many of those traits. I am rapt thinking about the likeness of his face to so many invaluable passers by in my life. Each reminiscence when he smiles or frowns or laughs or grimaces reminds me of a time and place I once loved before and stored away for safe keeping.
The happiness brought on by recalling good people, places, and faces began to numb the tornado-like malice of my mind. My eyes finally fluttered to a close and my pace of breathing began to slow and align with his. A train rumbled by, steady and rhythmic rather than the usual upheaval into restlessness. And I drifted down into the watery chasm of a quasi-waking sleep.