Too Much Everything

Illustration by Minerva Freire

Hailey awoke one morning, as you’re liable to following a period of sleep. Her first thought was about whether, in the context of her being just an organism on a fortuitously temperate rock, the things she derives satisfaction and meaning from are not just more complicated versions of basic biological and evolutionary impulses, and therefore difficult to really get behind. Her second thought regarded the status of her washing, her third, the dream she had just had about a body of water circled off in the middle of the ocean for recreation. Her fourth thought reflected on having had three thoughts within the first 30 seconds of being awake.

Her bed sat squarely like a chess rook in the corner of her room, which was basic and tidy, except for a few belongings the ravages of the week had sighed onto it. At least four hair bands were immediately visible on the floor. A packet of Camels sat on a dresser which was seasoned with mostly copper coins. The corner of a vaguely eastern rug flapped back on itself as though panting, a leather jacket quickly shed the night before splayed out on it at a weird angle like the outline of a dead guy in a film noir.

Hailey rolled onto her side and looked out the window. Not out it precisely, nor at it, but rather into it, regarding the outside world like a very elaborate and spacious vivarium. The third alarm on her phone sounded (the first two were always abortive but necessary in imbuing the final one with a sense of urgency), making the noise of a traditional alarm clock so as to briefly provide owners with the sensation of living in a simpler time. Thumbing it silent, she figured she probably ought to go shower, but, aware that even the warmest water feels strangely, illogically cold on your skin for the first couple of seconds, she decided against it. Fuck it, she would lie here and enjoy a few extra minutes. Time takes on such a tactile and downy quality early in the morning after all.

Stripes of light entered her room through the blinds, creeping across her bed like angels’ fingers, as the Sun slowly surmounted the roof of the house opposite.

By 8.35am it became clear to Hailey she was not going to have the combined preparation and travel time to make it to work by nine, or even during the unofficial ‘running late’ period thereafter that was believable to colleagues if you lunged apoplectic at your desk upon arrival. She appeared to have just taken the day off.

Why, she was unsure. She was not ill, she had gone to bed unremarkably the night before and the day ahead posed no obvious spines that might make one want to avoid it. Bed was always addictive velvet quicksand when tired or a refuge when gloomy, but on this day, Hailey felt neither. At least no more than usual.

With getting on a train and going to work off the agenda for the day, she instead embarked upon a new set of sensory activities that could be enjoyed from within the simple boxed confines of her mattress. These included: rolling herself up in her duvet like a burrito, napping very formally on her back like a late mafioso at an open casket funeral, masturbating on all fours, and lying face down in a starfish shape so very still that she started to feel unaware of her body.

The bed offered tremendous clarity that could not be found in the maelstrom of the outside world. From here she could weigh up thoughts like a judge in a squishy courtroom. Thought had proven a total nuisance ever since Hailey’s late teens, when the suspicion started to dawn on her that no amount of thinking would lead a thought to be successfully thought, as it were. She wondered whether, vast though it is, the English language might not be broad enough to assemble a feeling of meaning and purpose no matter in what order you arranged its words. At least in bed she could examine her thoughts properly however, unpacking them from her skull one by one and dusting them down before replacing them in a more ordered fashion, so they might not rattle so violently in her head the next time she was on the move.

Hailey was not averse to spending time on her own, despite the cacophony in her head, and found it not lonely and passive but invigorating, as though catching up with herself was as complete an activity as catching up with a friend. She wasn’t sure whether this was a victory for the self in an age of patchwork identities or hopeless solipsism, but suspected either way it had something to do with her decision to quit school, move to London alone, take the attic bedroom of a Spanish family’s home as her domicile and avoid love and its off-the-shelf ephemera where possible.

Her phone vibrated twice, making the sound a bee would if it had to knock on flowers for entry.

‘Are u supposed to be in today?’ It was a text from her boss.

‘Yes’ she replied, accurate, if not particularly elucidating.

Hailey felt certain that the feeling of composure she was experiencing this Tuesday morning, time now approaching 11:30am, could be attributed specifically to her bed, where she had now resolved to reside for the time being, and not be broadened out to her room or the house. These spaces had felt alien to her from the moment her parents first let her exercise some creative control on her immediate surroundings. How do you know what nightstand is the right nightstand for you? What pleasure is supposed to be gained from perching an ornament on a shelf? How many pockmarked posters must a wall be clad in to stop it looking naked? She could not think of a single home she had visited where she had not been immediately met with the feeling there had been some sort of mix-up, that the occupant was an imposter living someone else’s life. She wasn’t sure what the correct dressing of a home should be, but there was always a pang of sadness in seeing what uneven selections of items her friends and loved ones had gathered and deemed an accurate extension or reflection of themselves.

Her rented room was austere in avoidance of this issue and looked as though it was in the process of being moved into or a week from being vacated. Hailey peered over the edge of the bed frame at the cool lava of the floor it stood on. Recoiling at the prospect of stepping down onto it and initiating the day, she reached over and hauled open the window, looking into the busy street scene it framed.

How many sounds you can hear when you actually listen! Hailey closed her eyes and leant backwards over the windowsill, hair rappelling toward the ground. The nearby overpass fizzed like a wave permanently cresting. Wind ruffled the scant trees on the street as though short of foliage to bother. The doors of the closest mini-supermarket, which, at her last count, sold 27 different kinds of toothpaste, shuddered opened and closed and buses slowed before shrugging next to pavements, as two Indian boys kicked a football along one, the ball making an unapologetic ‘cunk’ as it struck wing mirrors and car doors. The pigeons on the street remained silent, ever-perplexed as to which bastard’s idea it was to move to this metropolis.

A knock at the bedroom door suddenly added itself to this urban score and, supine and partially defenestrated, Hailey sat up so fast she was dealt a glancing blow by the window frame.

“Hello?” it was Tomas, the father of the family whose home she was lodging in.

“Yep…in here,” she replied sheepishly. Why are people always embarrassed about being in bed?

“I saw your window open, you are not in work today?” Tomas was a good man who could be described as having kind eyes did this not imply a dopeyness; he had always struck Hailey as sage in a sort of muted way.

“I’m in bed today.”

He frowned in a concerned but consciously not too judgemental way and, noticing her bare shoulders behind the duvet and not wanting to appear inappropriate, busied himself arbitrarily moving the items scattered on a nearby chest back and forth like toy armies. Hailey could tell all of these intentions because she had become a scholar in other people’s behaviours. She had figured out that conversation was pursuant to drafted versions of it in each participant’s head, and felt she could usually sense what the rehearsals and early edits looked like.

“Why haven’t you opened all this?” Tomas’ hand rested on the growing stack of mail on the chest.

“I don’t know. I worry that opened envelopes feel gutted.”

He laughed a little and moved over to the window.

“And how long do you imagine this bed protest will last?”

“For the foreseeable future,” she replied, pulling a top over her head, “and it’s not a protest, I’m just happier here.”

“There’s a surplus of all out there. A burden of choice. Too much everything.”

“Today I am not striving. Today my life isn’t a work in progress. Today isn’t just a precursor to tomorrow. Today there is no salted caramel or chai blend. Today comes in only one flavour, and that’s just fine.”

“I see.” Tomas remained wonderfully still.

“For once I’m in no rush.” She paused. “Have you noticed how old people are the only ones left who still stay until the end of the credits?”

Tomas turned and started.

“Before you say it, I know you think wallowing will do me no good and that fresh air will-” Hailey said.

“No..I-”

“And I know that rent is coming up, but work are still going to pay me for today so it’s-”

“No, no I just-”

“But really, I feel certain this is where I belong right now, here in this bed, and I know that might some weird but..”

“I understand I understand!” he pleaded, raising both hands as if at headlights. “I only wondered if I might join you?”

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