I’m awake before my eyes are open. There’s an echo of banging in my mind. A sound memory. I didn’t hear it as it happened, but now I’m aware how badly I need to piss. Or maybe that’s what woke me up and the first place? My windows whistle, the pressure outside sucks my closed bedroom door tight against the jamb. It’s a soft pressing, like when the cat paws my door, wanting in, and I don’t let it in. Never do.
Getting to the bathroom is a challenge. My brain is still partially asleep and I am aware of it. I hope the cold floor on my bare feet will wake me, it doesn’t. There’s no ambient moonlight through the drapes, and though I know where the bathroom is I can’t find it. I grope walls, feel bedstands that seem familiar, and nearly knock keys and a water bottle off the dresser. I’m awake and asleep. Both at the same time. I take short steps so I don’t stub a toe. And then there are fences. They disappear just as I reach them. I see chained gates, double-propped locks, and behind them, clusters of red star chickens, some leghorns and turkeys that chirp in want of food. I step over the cocksure rooster like I do every day, it postures like it’s going to attack. I try not to let my weight get ahead of me. Don’t want to lose my balance and accidentally crush him. No. I just want to pee.
I’m more tired than I thought. Than I felt. I always am when I do this. And now there’s anxious pigs, aggressive ones. They’re hungry and making sounds like dogs. Chewing the metal rail. Their mouths frothing a white foam. I say out loud, hang on, OK, hang on. I hear my own voice and it pulls me closer to the surface. The animals disappear, but still I can’t wake up completely.
I see furniture, wonder if I am at my brother’s house or a hotel room. A business trip, maybe? I’m confused and about to wet myself. I consider taking a leak right here, right now. On the floor. Then the wind again, the whistle through the panes like tuneless music. The drapes blow open a little bit. I see the white propane tank outside. It glows. And suddenly I know where I am. At the farm. Yes. The farm. My phone’s on the floor. I hit the button and the room lights up. I use it to shine my way to the toilet no more than twenty feet away. I sit down to piss. Exhale, and lean my back on the cold seat.
Moonless night. Window above my head. Cool draft from a crack in the curtains. Even without my glasses I can make out the geometry of constellations. Super bright stars. They seem to move with each howling gust, with the scraping apple branch on the house siding. I sit longer than I need to, long after my bladder is empty. Because these million lights make me want to wake up more. Wake up and write about how I feel. But no. Because I want more sleep. And I know that once I lay down, I’ll be out until the alarm in three hours. Stars will still be out, the sky still colorless, lightless. And I’ll do what I do every day: Get up, brew coffee in my french press, make oatmeal, do some yoga, put on my dirty clothes and go to work feeding the four hundred animals. Before the stars disappear I’ll be heading out from the hospital to the turkey barn. The sleeping birds will hear me banging around with the feed cans, they’ll wake up like they always do. Crow at the morning. Just another day. They all know exactly what to expect from me.