The Great Interruption

Rachel Rosenblatt, from Lansdale, PA, is majoring in English at Temple and plans to graduate in 2023.

Image of Short Fiction Contest - 2020
Image of Short Story

Triggers are not absolute. They can be the color red, a sunny day, an indecipherable half-smile. For me, there is no obvious reason why the walls close in. No hidden meaning for the sudden shallow breathing, the unbound hysteria. A mind on fire that has nowhere to go but in, in, in. 

It just happens.

Sometimes it hurts. 

The worst times are when I don’t see it coming. I’m lounging in bed, watching a TV show on my laptop, perfectly at ease. Until I’m not anymore. And I can feel it. My head, calm just a moment ago, is buzzing. It knows what’s about to happen, and it warns me with a gentle voice.  

Sorry, so sorry

That’s the only chance I get to take a good, deep breath, because suddenly I’m staring at the purple wallpaper until my vision blurs, unable to tear my gaze away. It’s a funny thing, keeping your eyes open that long, not sure if you want to blink anymore. Not sure if you are a thing that blinks. 

The Great Interruption has begun. 

If I had been talking out loud to a person, I would be stuttering. There are words in my head, but jumbled, running over and under and desperately through, tripping each other in the effort to reach my mouth. To escape and be free. I don’t understand them, so I cannot say them, and I struggle to communicate the words inside. They are meaningless inside my head, and more so when they slip past my lips.  

But there are no other people. My parents are cooking dinner downstairs, the TV is playing the news, and they cannot hear me. I try to talk to myself, to calm myself, to resume the peace I take for granted every day my brain does not fight back, but even those words come out garbled. 

I am Nonsense. 

I close the laptop. The world goes quiet, but my ears are still working. My head wants order, to go back. It wants to scream. It feels good to scream. Into pillows, out of windows, in greeting, in goodbye, in anguish. It is a release, but I am living in a house and there are people around me and there would be questions. Screaming is not allowed. 

So I count. I count to nine, out loud, each number coming out clear, and then I start over. And over. And over. 

Still counting, I slide off the bed onto the ground. The covers are too much. I could feel them touching me. My clothes are touching too, touching too much, so I strip until I’m in my underwear. I can’t crawl into a ball, because then I would feel my skin touching itself. 

The air is touching my skin. The air is too much, but I cannot control the air, make it stop touching, so I endure. 

I stretch my legs out, sitting now, pushing through the feel of carpet on skin, holding my back up straight so I won’t lean back onto the side of the bed. 

Still counting, I begin to tap along. Give my fingers a job, give them a purpose, keep them distracted. Now, I tap and count and tap and count and there is nothing and I’m not sure what is happening I just want to stop make it stop but it’s not over. Not until I’m empty. 

I don’t think I’m thinking anymore. My head is imploding and I am crying and I can feel the tears. If there are any thoughts left, they are pointless. They are Nonsense. 

At least they’ve stopped running, frantic for release, for me to understand their coded messages. They start to settle, the ones that didn’t run away, nestling up against my brain. They sigh with relief. Whispers of soon and just hold on. They are sorry, but they cannot help themselves.  

There is the sound of my breathing. I can hear it slowing.

My fingers still. I close my hands don’t break the skin to move them to my temples, massaging in tiny circles. I can feel it, but it does not hurt anymore. My skin is not crawling, and I am not too much, I am just enough. 

I wipe the tears away and grab my phone to check the time.  

Forty-five minutes.  

As far as interruptions go, not the longest I’ve ever had. Not the shortest either. I would still be able to salvage the rest of my night, go downstairs and eat a homemade lasagna, smile, hold a conversation, sleep soundly. 

I put on my clothes, slide under the covers, and open the laptop. 

To resume life and wait, always waiting, for the next interruption.