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Tuesdays After Midnight

by Corrine De Winter


You know sometimes Charlie I go all limp just thinkin' about it. It feels like even the bones in my body have softened. I become the most beautiful girl in the entire world. And then I feel like I can do anything, like I'm pumped with immortality. My arms grow lighter, transparent and heart-shaped like the clear wings of the glasswing butterfly. Charlie, if only you could know my ecstasy in those moments. It’s nearly impossible not to believe you’re in league with Gods and Goddesses and the holiest of blessed saints.

One time when I was feeling like that I got to thinking about when I was a little girl. I remembered things I hadn’t thought of since then. Like being in Grandma’s garden where the tiger-lilies were as tall as me, and the ferns tickled my arms and legs. I remembered the scent of my Mama’s perfume when she leaned close to me for a goodnight kiss. It smelled like cloves and cinnamon, a warm smell. And I remembered Christmas morning when I opened the gift of a brand new doll. The clean rubber smell of its skin. I felt the soft brilliant hair, and the smooth little body cradled in my arms. I breathed, tasted, saw what it was to be that little girl again. When the feeling unraveled I cried like a baby.

I can even, at times, feel what it is to be another person. One time I was seeing the world through my Daddy’s eyes. I felt the warm silence of a July afternoon, standing with hands on hips looking at the fields packed with seed and moistened against the sun. I felt the sweat beneath the brim of the worn straw hat. And I thought: There was never a man who worked as hard as my Daddy.

You'd think these revelations came from a pretty little hot pink pill with a majestic name, but no sir Charlie. This doesn’t come from a pill or powder or liquid. It comes from somewhere way beyond those things. And I want you to know it too Charlie. I want you to feel it right along with me. Maybe you'd remember back 20 years to when you were just a boy looking forward to fried chicken on Saturday nights. You want to feel that simple joy again, don’t you? You used to talk about those days, how they were as easy as a feather being carried downstream.

But there’s something else that happens every so often when I'm in that state. I think it’s only fair to tell you.

One of those times started out with the usual euphoria. I was looking at a book of Arizona’s Ghost Towns. The desolation in those photographs was soothing, the people all cleared away, the wooden shacks bleached white from the sun. No sound. Not even birdsong.

I guess I was imagining what it was like to be a wildflower sprouting through the remains, swaying my bright head in tune with the wind. And then something in the picture changed. A single spider the size of a pea was making its way up my leg. It startled me but I brushed it away easily. Another tickle on my leg made me look again. It was another spider. I tried to brush it off but my reflexes were awfully slow. Those 8-legged creatures I’ve dreaded my whole life came from everywhere. Tiny white ones, Daddy Long Legs, thick, fuzzy ones. They trailed over my belly, across my mouth that was open in terror. They scaled my scalp and crept into my eyes. My body tingled with their endless legs. I heard them crowd into my ears, muffling all sound. I felt them move down my throat and slowly, methodically envelop my heart.

The world was inky and tight. I had stopped breathing.

At about four that morning I awoke on the cold kitchen floor. I got up, went to the bedroom, pulled the covers over me and slept straight through the next two days. The spiders did not return, but even my fear of them could not stop me from my exploration. I was at it again the very next day.

It’s really simple Charlie. See the trick is to ignore that small internal clock that tells you to get rest. After the third and fourth night without sleep you don’t miss it anymore.

The first time I experienced one of those soft episodes where everything was jewel-colored and blurry at the edges I'd been awake for three and a half days. It gets easier every time to stay awake longer. You start to view sleep as a killer of creation. You see it as your enemy, because really that’s what it is. It closes the door to curiosities. It numbs you & hides from you all the beautiful details and ideas that wait patiently in the folds of your subconscious.

You know those butterflies you feel in your belly when you’re real anxious about something? It’s not just an expression. I made them come out one day. They were exquisite, like none I'd ever seen on the outside.

And do you know what else Charlie? When you pick a flower it can feel it. It gives a little scream. If it’s real quiet you can hear it. And did you know that all morticians belong to a secret magic society? They meet on Tuesdays after midnight. A little finch came through my window last night and told me this. Don’t you want to know these secrets too Charlie?



Corrine De Winter - Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Corrine De Winter has published worldwide in over 600 magazines & journals including The New York Quarterly, Space & Time, Ellipsis, Fate, The Other Side, Chrysalis Reader and MUDFISH. She is the author of 7 collections of poetry & prose including The Half Moon Hotel, Like Eve and Touching the Wound. She is presently working on a collection of short stories tentatively titled “And Desire.” Visit her online at www.corrinedewinter.com.


July 1999