Sitting down on the floor and looking at the bottom of the reddish-brown door frame, I see faces begin to emerge. The sensation of seeing my own visage bleeding through the grain, coming out of the door one slow inch at a time until what’s standing before me is an inverse copy of my own self is a disconcerting, surreal experience. Reaching for the frame, I embark upon popping the pin from the hinges, laying the door over me like a stiff, splintery blanket, using it as a shield to protect my real self from the doppelganger, when the light snaps off leaving me in the cold darkness.
Cold! Where are my slippers? Upstairs. Taking my own hand, I lead the way back to the bedroom, carefully removing the pins from the hinges as quietly as possible before we enter to avoid waking bundle under the covers. The heat blasts like a furnace, and I am tripping over slippers and falling onto an unoccupied bed, hands are empty; I’m alone. Wrapping the covers over me like a shroud, sleep approaches rapidly, eyelids droop, fading to black; gently stroking the cat, rest arrives.
4:17 a.m. “Would you like some coffee?” my wife peeks her head through the door, smiling. Nodding in agreement, brushing the cobwebs from my eyes, grasping the porcelain cup with both hands being careful not to spill a single drop.
“Care for a sip?” I offer to an abandoned doorway.
4:54 am. I leave out a soft groan as I place the phone back onto the nightstand. There’s no hope for slumber anew, might as well begin the day. Reaching for the bottle of medication only to stop short of grasping it, no, better to wait until later. There will be plenty of time today to swallow pills, don’t be hasty. Stealing a quiet glance at my wife, blissfully unaware of my awakening, I slowly crawl out from under the covers, being careful not to disturb her. Groping blindly in the dark for my pajamas, I trip over my slippers. Strange; last night I came upstairs without them, I had left them downstairs. Confused, reaching back to the nightstand to locate the mobile phone, knocking over the pill bottle, not being able to catch it before it hits the hardwood floor, echoing like a gunshot throughout the room, whipping around to face the bed; no movement, still asleep.
Collecting my belongings, I approach the bedroom door, being careful to turn the handle gently, making a soft click behind me as I close it once more. There on the landing the chill of the dawn air reminds me to put the pajamas on that are in my hands. Better, warmer, I tread slowly down the steps, mindful of the creaking of the wood as it bears my weight. Feet starting to feel numb from the cold, I let out a sigh of relief as I pull the warm, cotton slippers over them. Have to remember to check the bedroom floor after she arises, it couldn’t have been my slippers that I tripped over.
Turning on the light by my favorite (and only) chair, I was greeted by two sleeping felines, arrogantly taking up all the space to sit. Cursing silently but not yet admitting defeat, only prolonging it, I approach the kitchen to lure them away with the sound of fresh food hitting their bowl. Remembering as soon as I turned the light on, bathing me in a harsh, yellow, too-bright gleam that we no longer had pets; the last of our cats had died just last year.