My eyes fly open. Just as they always do when I have the bad dream.
It's gotten better over the past 3 years. But when the nightmares first started I'll wake up in a frenzy: my upperbody shot right up from laying down, breathing heavily, and looking around as if I'm reliving the incident. It only makes sense to get use to it. It's the only dream I've been having since that fateful night, 3 years ago.
I wearily rub my eyes and face with both hands, as I begin to fully wake up. Removing the covers from over my legs, I see a watermark of sweat surrounding my body.
Completely numb to the sight, I think, ‘I have to wash the sheets anyway.'
The cold sweat has also been a result of my recurring nightmare. It's no longer surprising, but the difference between my nightmares, and that day, is that I know at some point I’ll wake up.
Most days, I don't even think about falling asleep. The fresh feeling of fear when I wake up, like I'm having the dream for the first time, doesn't only get old but it's become very tiresome. Unfortunately the human brain will slowly succumb to insanity without sleep, so I'll sleep for at least 3 hours every other day.
I read a book on sleep deprivation while in the rehab facility and I learned there's 5 stages to the process. Stage 1, is 24 hours after no sleep, won't cause any major issues. Mainly just drowsiness and fatigue. Stage 2, which is 36 hours, with no sleep is when the major effects will start to occur, such as memory impairment and mood swings. Stages 3-6 are 48 hours and more, where one will start to experience hallucinations, depersonalization begins, and the symptoms will get worse the longer you go without sleeping. This is why I make sure to get some kind of sleep before hitting the 36 hour mark.
After looking at my teak colored wooden digital clock, on my shedea shaded wooden dresser, the time read 5:00 am. Seeing that it’s fifteen minutes before my alarm would’ve gone off, I slide to the edge of the bed to prepare to start my day. My spacious room is still dark, but with my maroon curtains fluttering from the spring morning breeze of April, the rising sunlight shines through to make just one object visible: a black violin case, sized for a preteen, leaning against my bedroom wall, directly across from my queen sized bed. As I face it, I get the sense that it’s mocking me.
“Good morning to you too.”
I don’t know if it’s because I ended up waking up before my alarm, or because I have to go to school, but the more I stare at the case, the more pissed off it makes me that it’s there at all.
I tiredly rub my forehead with my fingertips and think, ‘Why did I place it right infront of my bed again?’
It has been 3 years since I brought it home with me from that night, and I never really questioned its presence before, until now. It's always been tucked in the background, like it's waiting patiently for its owner to come for it.
To the left of the violin case is my full-length rectangular mirror. I rise from the bed, slowly trudge my way in front of the mirror, and start to examine myself. It has also been 3 years since I was able to look into a mirror, and it’s kind of weird to think this but…’I hardly even recognize myself.’ My jet black hair has grown down to my shoulders and I definitely have gotten a lot more muscular—maybe even a little too muscular for just a senior in high school.
Rehab facilities take a lot of precautions with their patients. For example, in case someone attempts to hurt themselves or others, anything that could be used as a weapon isn’t allowed on the grounds—including mirrors. Since the facilities are strict on our possessions, passing time in those places is difficult to say the least. Not even masturbating is possible without someone catching you. As a result, working out and reading have been pretty much my go-to activities.
Now, despite everything about my body that is unrecognizable, the one thing that continues to be visible and relevant is the scar on my braid left shoulder. The scar isn’t too bad; it’s 5 inches wide, starting a few inches below my collarbone, and stretching all the way over my shoulder but not going past my scapula. And just like the violin case, I can’t help but feel that the scar is also mocking me through the smudge free mirror.
Looking down at the case again, beside the mirror, I ask myself, ‘Do I really need two reminders? Is the one imprinted on my body not enough?’
The violin case is something that had belonged to the girl I saved, back then. I held onto it, thinking I’d be able to return it one day, but as anyone could see, that hadn't happened yet. I also noticed the violin never presents itself in my nightmares. The doctors say it might be because the violin is the one thing that actually gives me hope in the event I ever see her again. Returning the violin to its owner could be a way of "setting me free” from my guilt. But I highly doubt that. Their words, not mine. I‘ve kept it all this time, to return it, but what would be the real possibility of that happening? I’m just torturing myself more by keeping it at this point.
I snatch the case off the ground and leave my room wearing everything but my shirt. As I march towards the staircase that leads downstairs, I don’t realize that my sister Kikyo is already in the kitchen. I put on my shoes and storm out the door without telling her, “Good morning.”
Stomping straight to the bin, I toss the case in, closing the lid with finality. I pause, my hand on the lid. Supposedly, getting rid of the case is a big step, but why does placing it in the trash make me feel worse than I thought it would? Throwing it away is what I need to do. Right? That's what those doctors at the facility kept telling me, at least.
So, I drop my hand from the lid and go back inside, with my sister still in the kitchen. I can tell she had been waiting for me to come back.
“Good morning. Sorry, if I startled you, going outside like that,” I tell her, hoping she doesn’t think that I’m ignoring her.
“Like what, exactly? This is your home too, remember? You’re able to come and go as you please.” I silently stand there in the doorway, and she continues. “Would you like some breakfast? I have some time before I have to leave. Come, sit down.”
“Why so early? School doesn’t start for another 3 hours.” I sit down at the kitchen island.
Kikyo Takahashi. My younger twin sister. And even though we're identical twins, and have a lot of obvious similarities, there's very distinct differences about us. I'm older by a few minutes, but Kikyo's very respectful towards others and people find her more dependable. Not that I don't agree with them, of course. But if she's still the same, from how I remember, she's very competitive, smart, sophisticated, clever, and has a little bit of a temper. Those aspects, is what we have in common.
Watching her now, her silky-straight jet black hair has grown halfway down her back. She's still very petite, but developing more into a woman. She's more curvier and her skin is now one shade of tan darker than being fair, from what I remember. And now that she's 5'10" in height, her looks can easily be compared to a model. My and Kikyo's looks take after our grandfather's. It's kinda of a family trait for us to be beautiful.
“Since it’s the first day,” Kikyo says. "The student council decided to assist in setting up for the club fair in front of the school today. It makes it easier for new recruits to sign up that way.”
I’m really impressed by my little sister, so I have to acknowledge it. “I take it you came up with that idea, right?”
“It was a group decision. I only made a suggestion.”
“I see someone’s still modest.” Kikyo turns away from me, but I can tell what I said makes her happy. I appreciate Kikyo for not pressuring me about why I rushed outside. She’s always been pretty good at minding her own business. But being twins, we kind of know deep down what the other one is going through. We understand each other better than anyone.
Kikyo places a plate with a freshly made omelet in front of me and says, “By the way. I have some news about your uniforms. Their shipment is running a little late, so you can dress down for today. They should be here by tomorrow.”
Glancing over Kikyo's neatly pressed high school uniform. It's jet black, just like our hair. The high waisted skirt went down mid thigh, has creases like a hand-held fan, and the fabrics looks of cotton. The shirt, same color and material as the skirt, is buttoned up just enough to not see her cleavage.
Kikyo looks like she came straight from a magazine. And that's just like her, to be a model student. She always has been. But of course, my sister has to add some of her personality to the look: she has a couple of silver rings on each index finger, a black choker necklace, and two tiny silver hoop earrings on each ear lobe.
“Is that so? And you’re sure the school will be okay with me, of all people, being dressed down?” Giving my sister a teasing smile, I can see her drifting off in thought. I’ve probably brought back an unpleasant memory. I sigh and say, “I was only joking. Thanks for putting in a good word for me, Sis. And thank you for the breakfast. Your cooking skills have definitely improved from what I remember.”
“Yeah, well, 3 years is a long time, Kaname. It’s only natural for things to change, right?” Her light tone doesn’t quite cover the tenseness in her words.
An awkward silence falls between us, making it clear that I struck a nerve. 'Looks like I was right." I think to myself. 'She does still have a short temper.'
“I’m going to head out now.” Kikyo heads for the door.
Feeling guilty, I say, “Are you sure you’re okay with going by yourself? I can go with you.”
“Who said I was going by myself?” she replies. Another wave of silence falls over us. I’m never good at this kind of thing: caring.
“Don’t worry too much about me, okay,” she continues in a slightly softer tone. “Just make sure you make it to school on time. I’ll be looking for you to be sure.”
Kikyo sounds like a mom. I try to hold back my laughter and tell her, “Okay.” But she’s right. I should take things a little more seriously. I’m basically getting a second chance at life. Kikyo knows that more than anyone, so it’s only natural for her to want to look out for me.
“By the way,” Kikyo comments, bringing me out of my thoughts. I saw her staring at me intently. “I wanna be the first to tell you, because I’m sure you’re going to hear it a lot today.”
“Tell me what?”
“Welcome back. And you should think about getting a haircut. People might actually confuse us even though you’re my brother.” This time, her smile isn’t shadowed.
After I see Kikyo’s genuine smile, she turns and heads out for school, which leaves me alone with my thoughts again. ‘Am I really ready to be a part of regular society again?’ Now that I think about it. All I’ve been doing is thinking. Before I know it, I run outside.
Kikyo isn’t far, so I yell for her while she’s still able to hear me, “Kikyo! Wait for me! I’ll be ready in 10 minutes!”
‘Am I ready for society? Maybe the right question is, is society ready for me?’