*sighs as I realize that the fact that this is technically nonfiction probably confirms my mental instability*
Ice cream and the color purple. Those are melting between the lines, along with the nervous taste of yesterday’s Gatorade and a sky that looks like it was washed with too much bleach, an ocean with waves that are turning the wrong way, defying the moon and rising sideways, following some invisible planet that’s been the real king of the world all along. And then there’s the Golden Gate Bridge. Someone with a red t-shirt climbed over the edge and tied a rope swing to the steel railings, and now they’re kicking hard, feeling like the world’s most perfect trapeze artist as the water spins far below their shoeless feet. The floor of the grocery store reflects the yellow lights of the ceiling, and there’s a lost balloon up there, wishing somebody a happy birthday who will never get to see it. It’s pink, and shaped like a heart, and if you stood on top of the hanging sign advertising sugar-free snacks, you could probably reach the string. You could tie it to the rearview mirror of your car and drive home with it whipping against the open window, and maybe some passing driver would think it was your birthday, which would make you feel strangely guilty.
You glance up from your notebook and realize that your fingers are smudged silver-gray from the rapid motion of the pencil against the page, then look at the dusty ceiling and sigh. You didn’t mean to start writing about yourself again.
There’s a person in your mind, a boy illuminated by nothing but a single flickering spotlight. He slouches lazily in an expensive chair that looks more like a throne, wearing a huge blue blanket around his shoulders like a cape, a right Twix bar in his left hand and a left Twix bar in his right. His impeccably clean Converse high tops are at least three sizes too big, and he’s wearing the paper crown that you got from Burger King when you were seven, balanced at a sideways angle on his head like it’s supposed to be cool or something.
He takes a slow bite of the left Twix bar, looking slowly around your mind with a distantly amused expression. After an uncomfortably long amount of time, his gaze comes to rest on you, sitting nervously on the floor with an overstuffed notebook in your hands.
“Have you considered cleaning this place up?” His smirking voice drips with familiar sarcasm, and something about his tone makes you deeply irritated. You scowl and swallow back the urge to insult him.
“I kinda like the mess,” you answer slowly, somehow afraid of upsetting him despite the fact that he’s shorter than you, and his throne isn’t really a throne. “If I organized it, I wouldn’t be able to find anything.”
He rolls his eyes, tossing the empty Twix wrapper over his shoulder as he slouches even lower, now almost completely hidden in the folds of the blanket. The wrapper lands in an endless sea of marker-stained sticky notes that don’t stick anymore, and he glances back at you, looking disgusted. “Is there at least anything better to eat around here? It’s getting pretty old running this place, kid.”
“No,” you snap, speaking without looking up from the lopsided purple cat you’re drawing in your notebook. Your fear of irritating him is gone. “I don’t know when you decided that you run this place, but you don’t, so get up and do something useful. And stop eating all my snacks.”
He stares at you in silence for a long moment before a wide grin spreads across his face and the sound of sharp laughter echoes in every dark corner. “I’d almost forgotten why I still keep you around,” he gasps after a minute, hardly able to breathe as he wipes his wet eyes. “You provide such beautiful comic relief.”
“I hope that Twix bar was poisoned,” you mutter, pacing to a distant corner and pushing a stack of calendars aside to find a half-empty soda can. You take a long sip to find that it’s bitter and stale, but he’s watching you far too closely, so you drain the rest of the can in a single swallow and feign satisfaction. You can feel his eyes on you as you turn to pace again, and it makes your skin crawl. You toss the can over your shoulder without looking, hoping the resulting dull clunk means it hit him in the head.
After wandering through piles of old stuffed animals for a long few minutes, you glance back. The lights are going strangely dim, and he’s fallen fast asleep, nothing but one of his oversized shoes sticking out from beneath the blanket.
You stand still, watching him sleep, and mutter a curse under your breath as you realize how lonely you’re going to be until he wakes up.
You turn and pick up one of the stuffed animals—a dalmatian with a vacant expression—and tuck him under your arm. He moves, frowning up at you with button-eyed disdain. “I thought you’d forgotten about me.”
“I did,” you mumble, patting his head. “Sorry, buddy.”
He gives you an insulted look before becoming limp in your arms again. You sit down in the pile of useless sticky notes and unwrap a Twix bar, then lay on your back and watch a ceiling fan with only one blade spin in the hazy darkness. You’ll probably scribble messy spirals in the pages of your notebook until you fall asleep here, and the boy on the throne will wake up first and steal more of your snacks while you’re not awake to stop him.
“I’ll keep an eye on that kid,” the dalmatian assures you. You jump—you’d forgotten he was tucked in the crook of your elbow. “Stop reading my mind,” you say tiredly.
“We’re in your mind, idiot.” He sounds far too pleased with himself, but you just sigh and hug him tighter. “Whatever. Let me sleep.”
He protests for a moment before resting his head against your shoulder and going quiet. The ceiling fan stops spinning, and you squint up at it, wondering what made it stop turning, letting your thoughts take its place in an endless spiral of motion until the Twix bar slips between your fingers and the spotlight flickers and your eyes fall suddenly and heavily closed.