3am: Mabel’s New Frenemy

I ascend stairs…or they appear as stairs or steps or…all I know when I lift my leg up and step, something meets my foot. I move one more up and up. Exasperated, I don’t understand why he isn’t slowing down. His back moving further up and away. Up and away. Up and away from me.

Where are we? I showed up and forgot to look around. A tree-house hotel. That’s my first guess. The stairs winding around themselves upward from the center of a lobby. At least it occurs to me as a hotel lobby. Filled with these big-backed and cozy arm chairs. I recognize them. They belong to the hotel/lodge of sorts my family stayed in once.

Floor after floor of rooms. The doors facing in towards the lobby which grows smaller and smaller. For some reason I am confident that this hotel is built inside of a tree. The barky-walls lined with string lights. Stroon haphazardly…but on purpose.

What floor is our room? He keeps ascending. Not looking back. Not in a deliberate ‘I’m ignoring you’ manner. No. Like he doesn’t know I’m following him. Even though I’m calling out his name. Andrew! Sheesh, did you suddenly change your name?! Andrew!!

I feel utterly befuddled. Something in my intuition bone whispers: “He doesn’t hear you anymore. You broke up, remember?”

I just have to get to our room. We will catch our breath and talk. We are just confused right now.

And then I reach a sudden landing and something wild appears in my path. A lioness. The hair on her back sticking up. Fuck, she is really scary. I feel really, really scared.

I want to wake up. I need to wake up. Wake up now, Mabel! Wake up! Imagine the blinds in your bedroom. The lines of light created by the street light below your window. Conjure up the pillow-feel. Your favorite squishy pillow. That good-for-nothing structure-less pillow.

The pillow you are clutching right now outside of this dream.

The lioness shows her teeth. Spit dangling from these shiny and massive fangs. I knew their teeth were scary…but seeing them up close elicits a panic inside my core so bright and shattering that I start crying.

I’m going to die.

I wake up.

I fell asleep on my right side. Facing the window with the blinds that allows in just a touch of street light. Pillow! You formless potato-bag! I’m so glad to see you! I pull it closer into my chest. Burrow my face into the fabric. The poor thing is a bit wet. Tears and possibly a little drool.

I feel so paper-thin and shaky. Like maybe I don’t exist? I tug at a burgundy-colored lock of my own hair. The wild-child bit that always escapes the ponytail during the night. Tug, tug. I still feel ungrounded.

I know it is a few minutes past 3am before checking my iPhone. I check just to go-

-yep, 3:04am. The perfect time to wake from a weird dream and start missing him.

My relationship with ‘A Few Minutes Past 3am’ is complicated. At first, I regarded this time with hostility. An enemy. Loneliness and exhaustion wore me down. It’s more like a reluctant friendship at this point.  

‘A Few Minutes Past 3am’ and I first met a little over a month ago.  Tossed from a dream and into the real.  That night I tried to catch up to Andrew and a rush of water stormed between us. I was drowning when I woke myself up. Gasping. 

I woke up beside Andrew. Sleeping on his side. Facing away. That’s when I remembered. We broke up. And I wasn’t dreaming anymore.

It felt like being punched in the stomach by the force of a cement beam. Something hitting me so violently fast it lost form on impact. The air tasted of blood. The pain so bright my bones ached.  

Back in the present 3am world, I lie very still under my quilted blanket. I’m awake and now painfully aware that it’s Saturday morning. Saturday mornings were my favorite. Andrew and I waking up at the same time. Laying around until we decide if it’s eggs or pancakes. Coffee or tea. 

Fuck. I miss him.

What does this dream want from me? At least once a week I show up in some obscure place. Andrew walks away and I follow. Confused. Because I know he can’t hear me. Like we exist on two separate planes. Which feels traumatizing enough. No need to add a freaking lioness!

A spot near the edge of my bed bends a bit. Under the weight of something soft, perfectly round and already purring. Marna. My cat of unknown age and the pinkest toe beans. She begins crossing the bed towards me. Stepping with the grace of a toddler trying not to wake mom or dad in pursuit of kitchen-snacks. She is truly the most profoundly beautiful creature.

She snoofs my face. I want to bottle the feeling of whiskers tickling my forehead. Delightful. I giggle and surprise us both. Her breath smells a bit like fish-flavored cat food. I refrain from telling her this, as she plops and burrows into my chest. Marna, I believe, appeared on earth one day. Exactly as she is this very moment. Gray and white fur. Fur so soft, petting her is a religious experience.  And that nose. The color of perfect-pink. 

Her back is curled up against my heart. Purring and occasionally letting out a snore-sigh. Without words she tells me “It’s ok Mabel, you can go back to sleep. No more lioness tonight.”


This piece belongs to my new project: The Adventures of Mable*

*A tentative title for a little writing experiment of mine. It’s a very rough first drafting of the foibles and fables of Mabel. She is the newly 30 year old leading character I search for in other books. A Woman. W-O-M-A-NNNN. And also a girl. Age 10 and just before the world and all its opinions and standards chimed in.

Sure, she’s based a bit on me. She is putting into words my thoughts and conundrums. Helping me re-write and understand certain events in my life.

Thank you for reading!

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