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This is a routine.
The alarm clock all but screaming into my ear is both abrupt and unwelcome - but also expected. Then, after that, there’s my boneless attempt to elicit some feeling of annoyance or anger, straining that unused muscle until I give up and just let it go, as usual. By now, it’s like trying to turn the light on in a room with no electricity running to it, making those things work - emotions - they don’t respond, so I just let them go.
Instead, I reach over and turn it off, then force my unwilling body to get up from the heat of the blankets and the mattress. The dog laying near the foot of the bed looks at me, the ears perched atop his head twitch as I flick the room into life with the glow of my computer screen.
I dress within the haze of sleep, pulling on the shirt and pants, my usual hooded jacket, white and left unzipped. Breakfast is in my mouth, food is set out for Luke, money from the table is quickly pocketed in my jeans, and then I leave the house.
The backpack by the door where it lays, untouched from the day before, gets carelessly slung over my shoulder. The key sits in it’s usual spot under the welcome mat, so I lock up the house and hide it away again in it’s proper place.
I walk the block to college without a look back and enter my first class of the day early; as usual.
I stare at the large green chalk board at the front of the room the entire time and I’m vaguely aware of the person beside me, guiding me, talking me through things some times. I don’t pay them close attention, but that doesn’t stop a warmth from their expected, anticipated presence, and company. I’m use to them, and I enjoy them.
But I celebrate them in my silence.
This class ends after some indiscernible amount of time and I can’t remember what happens between this one and the next, but that same person follows me around until we’re seated in another classroom.
I stare on at the over-head projector and my teacher’s horn-rimmed glasses as they cast odd shadows on his face. And the same person, still by my side, helps me with my work.
Lunch is with that shadow person and they talk through it. I’m not sure, but I think they laugh and smile; they keep me company. They also pay for both our lunches, and I think it’s an everyday thing. It’s a simple, easy routine, but I don’t care to look back on previous outings. Maybe the place we go to is also a part of the route, I’m not sure.
I can’t bring myself to talk back to the person, to engage in casual conversation and let them know I’m even listening. It’s not worth the effort. And they don’t seem to mind it anyways. Something tells me that they’re use to me being quiet.
In the next class, I’m without the shadow friend and, instead of using them as the easy course of action when needing an excuse to look somewhere besides for the front of the room, I struggle to find comfort in staring at the teacher’s pile of books, something that’s not my own desk. Or I try to look at the only person in a desk around me, the boy with his tongue bitten between his teeth, eyebrows narrowed as he busies himself by doodling a sort of Leviathan on the top of his notebook, fingers working on a smaller tentacle reaching out from the water with a moose clutched tight in it’s grasp.
I’m clearly not as preoccupied in this class as I want to be and the distractions aren’t nearly strong enough. I don’t have shadow friend to talk to me and drone on.
And as much as I’ve been struggling to avoid it, have been trying for I don’t know how long to keep my eyes away, I end up staring at my hands without my own consent. I don’t even mean to, my head just gets heavy, and I don’t know where else to look. This is a mistake on my part, a big, careless, painful mistake. I would’ve done better to close my eyes instead.
I don’t do good to look at myself, and have never been one to go into the bathrooms at the college for this very reason–well, before.
In the beginning, I couldn’t do it at all. I just couldn’t see any part of myself. I’d break down, and I didn’t like doing that in public places. So I don’t look at my hands. Every time I did before, I’d panic. Best to just avoid it entirely, just in case.
When I look at my hands now, I start thinking different thoughts though. Thoughts about how weird they look, like they don’t look like they’re mine.
Why does the skin look darker than I remember? How long have I been biting my nails? Did I bite my nails before?
Before what? Before the relapse.
And then my breathing starts to hitch, afraid of remembering, because this is where those darker thoughts always stem from, they grow from this one. I can feel the preparation and surge of adrenaline, getting ready for the pain, the break down. I wait for it. It could happen any moment now. Any moment I’ll go off the end, I’ll go into a fit again.
But I actually calm down despite the negative thinking, and I’m able to close off once more. That’s a first, but it was also close, best to avoid that happening a second time.
Let’s look at the wall, it can’t harm anyone.
Class is over and the shadow person greets me just outside of the door, walks with me from there and separates once we reach the end of college property. They leave then and allow me to get home on my own. They’ll be back here tomorrow, I expect, keeping me company in my classes as usual.
Home at last, homework ignored, I crawl into my bed and go to sleep... For the rest of the day.
An eventful life I tell you. I’ll never know where I find the time to do it all.
Tomorrow, now today, starts the same.
I’ve got my money, I’ve got the dog fed, I’ve even got breakfast and the door is locked. Everything is an exact replica of yesterday.
I’m in class, but here is where similarities stop - because shadow person isn’t here today. Where is my distraction? It’s the same class, but they’re no where to be found.
It’s some time, ten or so minutes later, and they’re still not here. And it’s now when the fog clears...
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PS: Also, in case yer interested, these are a thing. Now maybe you understand why the Shadow Friend shirts.