This Room of Mine Own These days I find the old adage to be true, you never know what you have until it’s gone. I have never wanted to go outside so much in my life.
I want to break through the walls and embrace the air and sunshine on my liberated skin. Free. Free at last. But from what? I turn and see the open door. In the place of a room, a gaping vast vacuum of black. I’ll say it again, I have never wanted to go outside more in my life.
The quarantine situation has forced me to leave my college campus and return home to my family. The same old sleepy street in a town with not much to do. Each street and memory is etched into the back of my mind. I know the curves in the road like the worn grooves of my bedroom door. I hate being home.
There was a time when I dreaded the outside world. When I had my own self-quarantine. In my head. A room of my own. I spoke less in those days. It felt redundant and inefficient. No one could understand me anyway. I would think and write instead.
I don’t think much nowadays since I went to college. I run. I run to my classes, to the dining halls, to my friends, and to do last-minute homework. I even run in my sleep. But there’s nowhere to run now.
Virginia Woolf wrote “A Room of One’s Own” about female financial independence. That the only way we could be truly free to write and able to think was if we had a room of our own. I step into my room and it is almost as if I have stepped through time. Nothing has changed. And at once, like a rebooted computer, all the thoughts, emotions, and ideations overload my head. I see them in waves of images and words, swimming about my head in disregard of the tsunami about them. This is my room. The dreaded vacuum black I yearn to escape.
I thought therefore I was. But my own existence was a painful one. Therefore, if I didn’t think, I could save myself from the pain of awareness. But now there is nothing to do but think. This room is an empty chamber. Each thought bounces off the walls like an echo: amplified. I can’t fight or drown it out, so I submit. I turn my back to the sun and dive headfirst into the black unknown.
But of course, I have always known who it would be sitting there waiting. No one but her of course. A cliché as it is, I was only running from myself.
She, this other me, sits in a chair by a lamp patiently. She smiles when she sees me. Rising from her chair to give me a hug. It’s suffocating but I don’t choke. It’s inescapable but my bones don’t crack. Instead, I am absorbed. I dissolve into tiny particles in this entity and float down the abyss of consciousness. The tsunami of thoughts and memories from before now flow beneath me like the river Styx. This is a Homecoming.
I float on my back, looking up at the ceiling on which hands a clock. Its hands spin rapidly, too fast for me to see in which direction. Like a fan. I focus my eyes on one hand. Blinking rapidly so I can get its still image in time in space in my head. Got it. I follow it with my eyes until the perception of motion is changed. I can bend it to my will. I imagine the hand turning slower and I stop time still.
That’s where I find myself. In my room floating in some out of time realm. It might as well be the Twilight Zone because I am a character in need of an exit. Like space, in your head no one can hear you scream. Unless you are a psychic, then I’m sorry for the noise.
But that’s a deflection. It’s what I do. I deflect with smart comments and arcane references to obscure my own state, even from myself. But in this room of mine, they only bounce off the walls. They defy physics, so instead of gaining kinetic energy, they fade away slowly till it’s just me again. ALONE.
There was a time when I let myself know, what’s real and going on below. But now… well, you know how the song goes. More deflection! Why can’t I just get to the center of the tootsie pop! The world may never – STOP! STOP!! STOP!!!
You’re a coward, shivering behind those witty jests and pop culture references. You’re just a child. You always were. You never left!
In my room, there are shadows in the closet. I watch them from behind my bed sheet covers. I’m afraid of the dark, so I turn on the light and grab my book. I’m afraid of the shadows in the closet, so I move my bookcase in front of it. I’m afraid of…myself. So, I boarded the room up.
The truth comes out at last. It was the Butler! The meaning of Christmas was inside of us all along! The only thing to fear was fear itself. I am my own worst enemy (Please tell me why…).
I was at my most alone in middle school. It only makes sense that was when I quarantined myself the most. I thought and wrote angst poetry. I hardly slept at night. I explored the shadows with a notebook and a pen. I studied them. Taking detailed notes. Night after night, took on a more discernable form. Until at last, the shadows revealed themselves in the image of their creator: me. And I went off the deep end. I nearly drowned.
So, I closed off the pool. Turned on all the lights. Put my notebook on the shelf. Shielded all the mirrors. And I instead picked up a pair of running sneakers.
I hate myself. I hate not understanding. I hate it. I feel dissected, half-open lying on the cold table. A surgery only half completed. Un-whole. I got too hot so I shut down the kitchen. But now I am locked inside the restaurant. I am exhausted of running. My legs are sore and my lungs burn. I collapse on the floor depleted and in tears.
She appears before me with her arms open once again. I tackle her. Clawing and gnawing at her face like a feral child. I swing and take my punches at her. Hysterical, I holler and yell like an animal. I sob and wail like a widow. All through it, she just takes it with a smile. Why won’t she fight? Hit me back! I abandoned her! Why isn’t she mad!
She raises her arms and wraps them around me like the tail of a snake crushing their food. Here it is at last. I prepare for a reckoning. My soul is at peace, accepting my fate. But the reckoning does not come. Her arms are not that of a snake’s tail, crushing its dinner but that of just two human arms. Warm and protective. She hugs me closer, stroking my back like my mother did when I couldn’t find sleep.
I relax, but cautiously. I don’t dissolve into her. I don’t drown in a tsunami of thoughts and emotions. I just lay there on top of her, resting my head on her bosom. And I cry. I become a child again. Holding onto this shadow like I would my mother. I shrink into her lap. She just holds me and shushes. I fall asleep that way.
When I wake up, I’m in my bed. I’m no longer a child. I feel at peace like the dawn after a rainstorm. I can even smell mist. It’s dark. There are shadows leaking from my closet door. I shudder but calm myself. I go to the shelf and blow the dust off my notebook. I age through my anatomical drawings and scribbled analyses. I approach the closet door, slowly cracking it open until I see her. Waiting with her reading book on her knee. She smiles up at me. I smile back.
I interview her as she sits at the edge of my bed, legs folded. I scribble her responses in my notebook. I hear the birds chirping outside. We still can’t go outside. I miss it. But, outside can wait.
Sophia Raines is a rising junior at the University of Michigan where she is majoring in Film, Television and Media with a concentration in screenwriting. She is also a producer for the school station WOLV TV. Her short story "Overdue" was an honorable mention at the 2017 Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards and her script "When It's Over" was a gold winner at the 2019 Summer International Independent Film Awards in the short scripts category. When she is not writing and watching movies, she enjoys roller skating and loudly singing the wrong words to songs with total misplaced confidence.