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"One Extra, and a lot Less"

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

My head wakes up early.

It has to, we both know what’s coming. SHE, she says we need to learn to use the screamer.

I used to unplug it at night. Sleep was impossible, those bright red numbers. Even if you close your eyes, they’re there.


Thirteen minutes until ten o’clock.

Seven hundred and eighty seconds.

It has to be even, we can’t sleep if it’s not even.

Ten hours and thirteen minutes until it screams. But what if it goes off early. It could, it could right now.


I wait.


I yell to let HER know to come. My mind is mad at me. He didn’t sleep and now it’s loud, hurt-it hurts.

SHE turns it off.

“Good morning, sweetie. Time to get up, we have to get ready for school.”

We can’t go to school, Mind, he’s mad.

“Come on, Thomas.”

SHE pulls off the covers.

It’s cold, it’s so much cold. Nerves are shot. Two down.

SHE grabs my hands and leads me to the inside rain. Clothes off. They’re supposed to protect me. I’m cold.

Hot water, a thousand tiny razors.

Towel off. I shiver, so much cold.

Hairdryer. It burns.

My skin is down for the count. Three.

SHE sits me at the table. A cup and a half of cereal, three cups of milk. I measure everything. If I get too full my stomach cavity and intestines might explode.

BOOM! Goes four.

SPLAT! And five.

“What’s going on at school today?” SHE interrupts my frosted flakes bomb.

Mind starts whirling on his own.

Math. The microwave says 8:27. They’re in order. Twenty-seven is a multiple of nine. Four chairs, square table. Pythagorean Theorem. The freezer is one-third of the fridge, thirty-three percent-

“Hey, hey.” SHE stops Hands as they try to make parallel lines with the silverware.

“We’re going to have a great day today.”

Empty, HER words are empty. There’s nothing I can work with.

They’re the same words my adult tells me at school. I have my own adult. Most kids have to share.

“Thomas, you’re a very bright child. We are going to help you reach your goals here.”

She smiles, but her eyes are flat. I know they want something from me. People talk without saying anything. Mind doesn’t respond. He can’t waste my words, they’re too hard to make.

They want me to play. I don’t understand what “pretend” is.

I get up and stand in the hallway. SHE bustles around, grabbing keys, purse, my backpack.

One arm.

Then the other.

There’s not much left of me.

We go out in the cold. Wait for the Yellow Monster.

I scream. I keep screaming no matter what SHE tells me. It’s too much. I can’t feel anymore, I can’t think.

“It’s JUST school.”

“You’re JUST fine.”

“JUST settle down.”

Mommy, if there were any justice in this world, I would be back in bed.

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