Ronald took a great gasp like a man drowning and heaved over onto his side. The element in the space heater glowed. Forms of tennis shoes and piled books intruded on the faint line of orange light. Ronald breathed deep again: in then out, in then out. God help me. God let me get some sleep. I have to sleep. He’d had nightmares for months after what had happened last December. Now, they only came intermittently. He’d been afraid, so afraid, that he’d wake up one night screaming and be unable to stop. He could scream now –scream and scream- and no one would hear. Ronald swallowed hard. He wasn’t going to scream. He didn’t want to. It was over. Deliberately turning away from the light, Ronald pulled the covers over his head and shut his eyes. Think of something pleasant. Go to sleep. He tried to think of something funny, Jack making his strange little finger puppet, Jack pretending to be Goonter, Matt laughing fit to burst, rolling on the floor with hands clenched on his belly and mouth spread wide enough to crack his face, Dan explaining to Mr. Manski that he couldn’t do his geography report on Peru because he found Llama pelts erotically stimulating under certain academic circumstances and his parents had flatly refused to pay for the psychotherapy necessary to remove this deeply entrenched neurosis.
He tried to laugh, but found himself unable. There was mom in the hospital bed, Dad with that odd look on his face that made Ronald feel embarrassed –like he was intruding. The books were good. Books didn’t leave you time to think. Don’t think. Don’t think. Just don’t think. Sleep is here somewhere. Why did they have to move? What was California going to be like? There was a small apartment and palm trees, lots of palm trees, and that Chinese Theater. Isn’t there supposed to be a walk or something with handprints? Karen Sullivan was sitting next to him in the theater, but it was someone else. The hair was all wrong. Water was streaming down her face and her eyes were grey. Go away, just go away. Cut off shorts and tie-dye and sandy blonde hair. Not there, not there. Turn left. I miss you, I miss you so much. Anatomy and Physiology would be lab tomorrow. Test? No test. New book in English class and the War of 1812 in History? Current Events write-up due on Thursday –pick an article.
Something was opening on the edges of his mind that had the shape of sleep. If only he could sleep. Who squats on the threshold of sleep and guards the gates of ivory and of horn? A terror seized him and he jerked awake.