Standing up this morning was a sort of protest. I’d woken resigned to lie still, buried in the soil of my sheets, and let my lungs empty as gradually as the sun had risen over the windowsills and spread lazily across the floorboards.
I did stand, though, after an hour or maybe two of that stillness. It’s a bit frightening, how the time decided to parade through my room without me, knocking picture frames askew and lifting the leaves of my plants to the sun. It was that fright that poked me up and to the book on the table, that tingling fear of missing out on my brief stretch of awareness.
I open the book only a bit after I open my eyes, only a short little while after I‘d come awake preparing to be dead. The book says
Hello! I’m glad you’re here again. I’m glad to see you. I’m smiling at you. We all hope you are well.
I almost laugh at this, can feel my stomach swell up against my ribs against my skin. Another day, and again the book is smiling at me. Again the book hopes I am well. The book says
Today, you will take a walk. Only a short one. You will not tire, as we wish you only the best. You will be happy and you will find some little papers,
and the gutters will fill with rain and lost strands of your hair.
I nod, because I understand. Walks are easy and aimless, especially when it rains and the gutters are full and the air smells indigo and peat and sour. The book’s instructions are always clear, and I’m never bad, always also so good and so prepared and willing to walk in the rain alongside the gutters, litter, dark and shining pavement.
So I dress in linen and cotton and feel very yellow for a moment, then I’m leaving. I lock my little red door and clutch my little black book, imagining the neat small letters nesting in a little-used shelf beside my stomach, where they are my comfort and direction. I can hear the march of my boots under me, feel my legs rippling forward and pulling against the ground, dragging me forward. The sky is still pale-edged with morning, and the sun hangs high behind the thick clouds and I can nearly hear her humming and my hair is damply and warmly matted with rain. There is no wind today.
I walk until I reach the end of the page. I stand in the margin on the quaint cobblestone bridge over the canal. Near the bookstore in town center, one over from Main Street, where you’d never find the book that I traverse now, in my weathered boots and scratchy socks.
On the edge of the bridge, tilting out over the rushing, straggling water is a book, the book. My hand tugs at the seam of my linen and cotton shirt, fingers somehow empty. I know not to wonder how my hand manages to empty like this, how the book seems to sneak under my mind and crawl behind my eyes. It could have been in my hand when I lifted it from my table this morning, but maybe it has always perched on the edge of this bridge over the grey and quick canal. I’m sure it knows for certain, but I do not.
I lift the book. Under it, perfectly arranged on the damp granite, two neat ten thousand dollar stacks. For the first time today, I’m shocked, my lungs wrapping around the new air and tying me to the ground, wet stone sinking into the folds of my pants. I sit for a moment, breathing, sneaking glances at the pile of material riches. Money, on the ground. Money, from the book. Little papers I’ve found, and I brush a strand of dark hair from my shirt, dipping my shoulder. Along the deserted avenue behind me, water rushes and bubbles along with the litter and glimmer of pebbles by the curb.
After a while, I can stand, so I do. Pick up the two stacks, weigh them in the hollow of my palm. The damp is soft on the papery skin between my thumb and forefinger. It feels heavier than can be possible, should be possible, so I consult the book. Water drips from my nose onto the corner of a page, and the book says nothing. My page is blank.
I return to the money, backing down the bridge, shuffling and then stepping over the stone and asphalt, looking at it. Run home, race the sunset across the clearing sky. The rain still taps tentatively at the windows, at the tile roof in all its clattery little ways. I do not wonder where the time went, because the book has never answered that question.
Tonight, I curl into the soil of my sheets, the earth of my bed. The money sits beside the book on my table, and I can hear the rain softly running through the windows and under my floor. I breathe slow and quiet, soft.
When I wake, I do so without hesitation. I lift from the ground, stretch, nod to the sun again.
On the table beside my bed, the money lies, no little black book in sight.
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