I’m coasting to the end of the night, wobbly whiskey feet pedaling, weaving in and out of puddles reflecting slurpee-blue neon light. The bus behind me easing in to the stop. That moment I turn to look, I topple over the handlebars. Everything is so fuzzy I can’t even feel it, but I can read the horror on the faces of strangers waiting for the bus. It leaks from the wide open Os of their mouths. The bus’s brakes wailing a dirge in my ears.
I don’t die. I don’t think so, anyway; I don’t turn to check. I’m back on the bike, ignoring the blood trailing down my shins, knees pumping up and down, up and down, like misfiring pistons. Damp air brushing the cold sweat beading on my upper lip, the back of my neck. A right. A left. Another right. Heart thudding so hard it creeps out over the edge of my halter top as I glide to a stop. The deafening clamour of keys dropping into the green ceramic bowl by the door. Silence.
Hours later, huddled between wrinkled sheets. Awake, still awake. Scanning the room, wondering, if I’d never made it to my bed, what would there be, to show I was here?
An inside-out pair of jeans, discarded on the floor, underwear still twisted round the legs. The stuffed elephant Mom said was from my dad. A stamped one-way bus ticket stuck in the frame of the mirror. A collection of secrets, like jagged glass that comes up from my throat while I sleep, one shard at a time, dropped from my palm to sit like a shimmering menace on the bedside table.
The clock ticks on into tomorrow, and I am still awake – the barrier between yesterday and today crumbled into dust.
Rachel O’Cleary studied creative writing at UW – Milwaukee. She currently lives in Ireland with her husband and three children, writing mostly very short fiction in between school runs. You can read her work at Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Strands Lit Sphere, Janus Literary, and others. She occasionally tweets @RachelOCleary1