It’s four o’clock in the morning and it is the fourth time you've woken from this fitful sleep. This isn’t out of the ordinary for you, in fact, you can’t remember the last time you slept through the night, if ever. It’s ironic that sleep is your saviour -- your escape -- and yet it is just another thing you cannot have. You roll over and feel a painful spasm course through your neck. Perfect, a pulled muscle is just what you need. Gingerly you raise your head and lock eyes with one of your two kittens who are devoted to you and never leave your side. He purrs and mews softly and you blow him a kiss before turning over and grabbing your eReader off the floor. If you can’t sleep, you might as well read.
You do eventually fall back to sleep and when you jerk away again it is light out. You stretch leisurely and pet the cats whose love for your makes it impossible for them to stay asleep while you’re awake. You allow yourself to be enveloped in purrs, sandpaper kisses and kitty cuddles until the kittens decide to wrestle among themselves and you decide to haul yourself out of bed. The previous night you got drunk and by the time you got home your mood had inexplicably started to dip. You tried not to obsess over what was causing this change and decided to take the long touted advice of a close friend and just ride the wave. This morning the hints of sadness remained like an aftertaste on your heart and you gently push yourself to wash up and get dressed.
You were on edge already and anything could have tipped you over. It was inevitable, but you hadn't realized that you hadn’t so much been riding the wave of sadness as mistaking a different emotion for sadness. You realized that you weren’t so much depressed lately as you were trapped. There was no other way to describe the pain you felt and the helplessness to alleviate it. It had constantly been feeling like your life was a padded cell and you were prescribed a life sentence in that stuffy, smelly little room. Once upon a time all it took was leaving the house and being in the fresh air, in the city’s core, to balm this fear, but lately the city felt like it was a part of that same prison.
Everywhere you go you see reminders of your past and they are all bad or bittersweet. The only thing you still like about the city anymore is your familiarity with it. You’ve spent so many years wandering up and down these streets that you can walk the city blindfolded. There is comfort in that familiarity, but the streets you walk no longer inspire happy memories. Even memories you once believed were cheerful now inspire a sense of embarrassment, dread, regret. Everything sickens you and nothing pleases you. This is worse than apathy, this is the beginning of pure hatred.
Travelling was one of the best things you did because it proved that you craved freedom. It was also the worst thing you ever did because it proved that the city stifled you. The people who paraded around, wrapped up in their own self, the difficulty you’d been having trying to find friends or lovers on the same caliber as the ones you’d encountered on your travels, the constant reminder that the bulk of your life and experiences were tied to this one city every time you bumped into someone with whom you went to elementary, middle or high school. The lack of employment, the lack of adequate summer weather, the lack of compassion, empathy or love in this city. And then you felt guilty because there were actually very few cities in the world that were as safe, happy and gentle as the one you called home, but that was an even more upsetting thought because it basically proved the hypothesis that you would never achieve contentment.
You used to joke that you suffered from chronic dissatisfaction, but as you get older the more true it becomes. Suddenly being nice, polite and gentle isn’t enough. You want adventure, a change. And you are terrified of saying this out loud because you know what you’ll be told: “Well, then leave!” As if it were that easy. You’ve never been the sort to make impulsive decisions and you’re not about to start now. You believe in organisation and that takes time. You’re working on it, you know this, but you cannot share this knowledge with anyone. And when you fall into that new sort of sadness that derives from the fact that you feel imprisoned in your own life, you are unable to do anything but reach for that flask of whisky or the broken knife blade you hide in your dresser.
You lament the irony that, save for one, all the people who seem to always help you the most are spread out over the world and can never give you what you sometimes need: a silent, comforting hug. They send their love through wireless words and those words soothe your being and you are eternally grateful that they take the time to care for you even from oceans away. They are lifelines you have and the idea of running away to one of their cities and knowing that they will accept you, help you and be there for you should you decide to escape is like a tiny doggy door in the bolted steel door of your padded cell. While you sometimes are tricked into forgetting that these people exist, when you are reminded again you realize that they are your hope and, therefore, comfort.