The First Person I Saw Today

My lungs burn. My chest is torn open at jagged, bleeding edges. Every breath provokes reminders of the first time I inhaled a menthol cigarette. I can’t breathe. The fog has settled over my consciousness; now I can’t see, either. I can feel the sweat dripping and settling in the hollow of my neck. My eyes open and I see black. I’m in my bed. I’m safe. Another nightmare. I’ll be alright. I inhale and exhale as slowly as possible. I can’t seem to find reality. I need the mirror.
So, I get up and pad to the bathroom. I don’t recognize the person I see. She looks like a goose has made a nest in her hair. Her eyes are sunken and the lids are swollen. She wipes away the disgusting, crusty sleep from her lashes. It’s only five in the morning. Two hours before she has to get up for the day and already it’s been horrific. “Oh well,” I think, “She’ll get over it.” I plaster a stupid smile on my face—practice for later in the day—and head back to bed. Hopefully, I don’t dream. Hopefully, I go back to sleep. Hopefully, I won’t hear any smells or see any sights that trigger those awful memories. Hopefully, I know the person reflected in the bathroom mirror when I get up again. Hopefully.

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