Light filtered in through the slats on the wooden shutters in white stripes over the dark green painted walls. The sounds of my roommates echoed through the hallways from downstairs. The echo of their voices was thin like a string wrapped from an old sock and stretched throughout the whole house until it was strained and about to tear. The sound of jovial conversation emanated from far away but intermingled into it was laughter, mixed gently. The sea of adjacent but disconnected human interaction soaked the evening. It seeped under the doorway and lapped at my bare feet.
Leaning against the wall, I tried to catch my breath, but realized I wasn't out of it to begin with. The tension in my chest area only tightened with this realization, a dark cloud inside my torso, rising from my stomach. I felt like a dark tornado was spinning in a tight spiral beneath my rib cage, winding tighter into itself. Utter chaos and mayhem swirled deep in the pit, and yet when I looked up, my face looked calm.
In my reflection, my lips weren't trembling, they were round and parted, sticking out grotesquely like a fish's. My cheeks weren't damp. The gloomy grey light filtered in through the room illuminated my face in foreboding shadows. The cold light highlighted the bones beneath my skin, the angles that they created beneath the sack of human skin. It reminded me that ultimately I was a structure, a skeleton. Dangling loosely over the framing, characterizing walls were flaps of muscle, tissue, blood and skin hanging like sheets pulled over a tree branch to simulate a child's tent.
I looked normal but I didn't really look like me. My reflection was a robot that had been built to look like me, but was lacking something important, something deeper than the mechanics. All the parts were there, but the internal programming was jammed. The structure was sound but something was very severely broken, shattered with the soul. This terrified me and had become a more oft reoccurring thought that drowned out any other daydream, hope and even analysis.
Inside the external structure oozed a pit of bad things, swimming up and spoiling all the lovely perfect shiny knobs on the robot walls. I stared into my eyes, dark, scared, the only part of myself that oozed nervous energy right now. I took a deep breath and realized it was time to let go.
Leaning over I clutched my aching lower abdomen with one hand. My palm applied pressure. The tornado of anxiety inside of me danced with excitement at the imminent release of the storm. Nausea overcame me as the tornado screamed for escape from its prison. I swiftly flung my braided hair from the front side of my shoulders to my back. The braid fell thickly with a thwap against the winged jut of my shoulders, reassuringly sliding into place. I crouched like a track runner about to begin a race. Then my fingers drew to my lips.
It should be more difficult to do something like this, but it's so simple that I can't imagine why everyone doesn't. I used to feel crippled with guilt and shame for doing this, but now I feel so shameful and dirty when I don't do it. I opened my lips and out flew the tornado like a black winged bird into the quiet room. Soaring easily, the twister was a violent swarm of energy, tension, disgust, pain and failure. I heaved for a few minutes, coughing and spitting until I was free of it. It glided ethereally around the bathroom for a moment and then cascaded in a rushing torrent down into the toilet. Surprised I reflected that that the violent energy had a moment ago been brewing inside of me.
As it drained from me, into the toilet, I felt free and light. My abdomen shook, releasing the energy. The poison seeped from me like puss from a would. It leaked from me, an inner darkness that I was so happy to be rid of. The tornado consisted of tears, screaming, criticism, fighting, curling away into oneself to shut everyone else. The tornado was an amalgamation of hiding under the desk in your bedroom behind a pile of laundry and pillows after seeing your neighbors, together, on top of each other, yelling, sweating, shaking, while you cry and run back to your own house, unaware of what you saw or what you're doing or why you feel so dirty and ashamed and helpless. And that feeling was evacuated fully from me and replaced with the calming euphoria of absolutely nothing, for the time being.
I wiped my mouth with my hands and turned on the faucet, dipping my fingers into the stream, letting the cool liquild cleanse myself. I breathed for perhaps the first time in a while, a deep healing breath. I was empty of the anxiety. I filled the now clean and pure vessle of my torso with another deep fresh breath.
"Hello," said a voice.
I turned back away from the mirror and looked at the toilet. I jumped back in surprise and then rubbed my eyes and stared. Sitting on the seat was a small gnome-like creature. He had on black pants and a green sweatshirt. A long grey beard tangled over his tiny gnome face. His feet were bare, crossed one over top of the other, and swinging over the toilet edge.
"Hi," I said. I shifted my weight and looked at the toilet for a second and then at the door to the hallway.
"What are you doing?" the gnome asked.
"Getting ready for bed."
I looked around the room searchingly.
"Aren't you going to ask me what I'm doing?" the gnome asked.
"Sorry. What are you doing?"
"I don't know. I guess I'm getting ready for bed too."
"May I come to bed with you?"
"No," I said.
"Who are you?'
"I'm your tornado."
"You're a gnome."
"I got rid of you. I voided you from me."
"You have a queen sized bed?"
"You can't... um... you can't sleep over," I said.
I forced my feet to take a baby step forward. The linoleum was cold and harsh against my soles. My pajama pants hung long, curling under my heels and dragging behind me. I clutched my arms, hugging myself for comfort. Motionless, the gnome watched me. I reached out and with one shivering finger, flushed the toilet. The gnome was sucked down into the bowl. He spun around, his beard clotting in the toilet water, his clothing saturated. His eyes stared up at me, beady at black like marbles. He smiled at me just before he was sucked down into the pipe. His smile was the last thing I saw of him.
I turned the light switch on in the bathroom and then remembered I was leaving and decided to turn it off. I unlatched the door and padded down the hallway. One of my housemates heard me leave the bathroom and opened his door and walked into it. I wondered how long he had been waiting, if he had tried the door, if he had knocked.
I went back in my bedroom and fell onto my bed. The thick blankets easily wrapped all the way around my unsure form and I cowered under them. I shivered for a while and then rested back against the pillows and stuffed animals. The screaming in my head quieted to a dull roar. My housemates downstairs were turning in for bed. Gradually the sensations of light and sound grew dimmer. Something akin to comfort stroked my shaking back. The night overtook my eyelids like a gentle man in a faun costume masquerading as a prince. I was warm and for a split second right before I slid into sleep I almost convinced myself I was somehow safe from and not afraid of whatever was brewing like a tight tornado inside of me.