It starts at night when the light goes off. I roll over in the dark and the lid comes off the glass bottle inside me where all the worst thoughts are. They spill across my chest and although I roll back to stop the flow, it’s too late.
There’s a moment when they’re flowing away, before they rebound off the bedroom wall and come back as a wave that carries me out to sea. I toss and turn and tangle in sheets that wrap tight around my legs and drag me lower in the water. I throw off the duvet to lessen the weight on my chest, but I still can’t breathe.
All this fighting for the surface, but I when I get there it’s to see another wave coming, that’s bigger than the last. I’m swimming towards it as fast as I can to get over the top before it breaks. I’m getting higher and higher, and now I’m afraid of falling as well as drowning.
I can’t duck through it like surfers do, because it’s not really water, it’s a memory. It happened the way it happened and when it happened I didn’t duck, I fell. But not from here, from higher up. The last feet of the climb are silent and lit by the moon, the wave turns white as it crests and breaks.
Then the falling, the feeling of hundreds of hands squeezing my insides and pulling them just above where they’re supposed to be. And if it was in just one place it would be painful enough to wake up, but it’s everywhere, and I’m not asleep. I’m not even in bed.
I’m in A&E again, I’m coughing up blood and wondering where it’s coming from. I’m passing out in my dad’s arms and he’s saying ‘I’ve got you’ and I’m saying ‘I think I’m going to faint’ except they’re not my words, because what I should be saying is ‘I think I’m going to die’.
Except it’s a memory, and it happened the way it happened, and I didn’t die.
The time flashes out of the dark like a lighthouse’s beacon. 02:10… 03:40… 6.00. I’ll pass out in the dark of one of the between times. Or later, when the dawn-blue light seeps round the edges of the curtains and the hum of the heating comes on as somebody gets up to go to work. Then I’ll know I’ve made it to the shore again, pull myself up onto the sand and sleep.