The alarm is for the dog, no longer audible to my own ears, I rely on the cool nose nudges and patter of little paws to joust me out of bed. One o’clock. I haven’t slept long, I blankly stare at the clock and calculate four. Four hours of sleep. The desire to be awake is absent as lethargy refuses to escape my muscles. “Switch day”, I mumble to myself and in a tantrum toss myself backwards disappearing into the sea of bedding. Thoughts of regret flood my mind, too tired hold them at bay. Night shift is killing me. Sleep has become a novelty rather than necessity. Was today his only day off?… Abruptly I rise and replay my thoughts now aware of their meaning. “Today is not only switch day, but his only day off!” I say to my dog as he cocks his head and stares in a manner that indicates he understands. The comfort of my bed no longer pleases me, I am panicked. “Shit!” Clothes dance through the air accumulating in a pile of chaos. After multiple attempts, I dawn the only outfit I deem appropriate for the day and look in the mirror. Brushing sponges with colored powders against my skin will never be enough to hide exhaustion but it will have to suffice. Ten minutes remain until departure. I use them to care for the dog, acquire my daily necessities, and take one more moment to glance in the mirror. Inhale. Exhale. “Wish me luck”, my attempt at lacing my voice with hope has failed. With a sigh my dog flops onto the couch as I secure the lock on the door.
I back into a space in the garage downtown. The extra time spent parking could provide beneficial in the event of a necessary quick escape. I’m tired, my contacts burn my corneas. I blink rapidly to clear the fog. My stomach churns. “I should have tried to eat,” I think to myself. One city block separates him and I, a distance which seems endless. Inhaling the fresh air I walk. The city buzzes with men in suits and women in pencil skirts all scurrying through the crossways. In my Chacos and cut offs, I stand out. The faces of those around me blur as I search for him. I see him in the distance, or who I believe to be him. His features clear as he continues forward. The palpitations in my chest quicken. He’s within ear shot but I am mute. I question his distance from where I stand as he appears to be miles away. The moment lingers. He’s speaking to me but I can’t hear him, I’m somehow responding but unaware of my words. The only audible sound is the blood pulsing through my veins. He’s close now. Close enough to touch. His blue eyes pierce mine and he smiles. “Are you ready to go?” Without breaking his gaze I smile and repeat, “Ready”. He turns to walk but pauses briefly. I inhale sharply as he takes my hand. And so begins our first date.