Outside Looking In

chesterfield sleeping.jpgI awoke cold, stuck to the hard, red leather of a chesterfield sofa. I did not recognise the sofa, or the room that I found myself in. I uncurled my naked body, ripped my sticky skin from the leather, scanned the floor for my belongings; clothes, bag, phone. My nudity was, apparently, all that I possessed.

It was dark but I was able to decipher the strange silhouettes of a room I didn’t know. I decided I was dreaming and I waited, for the dream to carry me along, for the story to unfold. Time quietly passed. Nothing happened.

I pinched the flesh of my forearm. The pain I inflicted on my cold goose-bumped skin convinced me that I was awake; fully present, fully naked. A blanket lay folded within reach. I clutched it to myself, concealing my modesty. I didn’t know where I was, how I got there, or why I was naked.

I backtracked to the last of my memories; dancing with friends, drinking with strangers. The time and space between then and now had been abandoned by my memory. Had I left the bar with a stranger, gone somewhere alone, without my friends, something I would never do? Had I fallen asleep here, at a party, had everyone else left taking my clothes with them? I remembered taking a drink from a stranger, was I taken advantage of? There was no good reason to be naked, other than in my own home. I turned on the light, hoping that would take away the fear washing over me. I was wrong.

The décor of the room was decidedly masculine. Technology filled the room; a laptop, extensive shelves of DVDs, surround sound speakers, giant flat screen TV, and a samurai sword displayed above it. What would someone want with a samurai sword, and a naked girl? My imagination was suddenly flooded by scenarios of rape, murder, my own body chopped up into chunks. I wondered if I had already been raped, if that was the horror that my mind had erased.

There was a man’s wallet on the table. I searched through the compartments with shaking fingers. I didn’t know the name on the cards or the mug-shot on the driver’s license, but his face was not friendly. The display on the phone next to it read 6.15AM. Whoever this man was, he was asleep.

I scrolled through the contacts, trying to find a mutual friend, a connection between us, something, anything, that made me feel safe. No such luck. I tapped in my boyfriend’s number. His phone was switched off. The only other number I knew was my own. I tried it. No one answered, but considering the location of my phone and who might answer it, caused me to have a flashback. I remembered changing the setting to silent, laying it next to my pillow, before going to sleep, in my own bed, drunk, at 2.00AM. I pictured myself sleeping soundly, oblivious to the nightmare I was going to wake up in, four hours later.

I wrapped myself in the blanket and looked out of the window. I didn’t recognise the view, couldn’t tell where I was in relation to the outside world. I needed to get out of there. I needed to get some help. I crept through the flat, avoiding the one closed door and its inhabitant. I found the front door and peeped through the spy-hole. I could see another door, an interior door, joining one corridor of rooms to another. Was I in a hotel?

I pushed the latch with my thumb, pulled the door inwards, looked down the corridor, and inhaled sharply in response to what I saw. My own front door was staring back at me.

My mind floated through the blueprint of my flat, wandering around the home I knew was on the other side of that door. I pictured myself and my boyfriend lying in bed, side by side, just how we had been when I went to sleep, phone on silent, next to my pillow.

I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was still there, where I should be. I became convinced that I had woken up as someone else. That somehow I had left my body where it was and got stuck here in this other person, this unreal doppelganger. I was outside looking in on my own life.

I hesitated. What would happen if I met myself? What were the consequences of re-entering my life as someone else? What if I had ceased to exist, what if I was a ghost? What if I was stuck here in this otherworld, this other dimension, trapped in limbo between planes?

Closing my front door behind me, I put the latch down to lock the strangers out, scared that I might be one of them. I stepped into the bedroom, as if in slow motion, surprised not to see myself, asleep in my bed. My boyfriend was still sleeping, as if nothing had happened. We had been either side of the same wall, helpless.

Half asleep, he couldn’t make sense of the nonsense I launched into, interspersed with sobs. He had come to bed after me, slept beside me, woken up to see me standing in front of him. He insisted I hadn’t been anywhere, insisted I was dreaming. He told me that I had come home very drunk, behaved strangely, had a very realistic nightmare. That was all. I looked down at the blanket still wrapped around me, proof that it had happened, and laid my head down beside him, as he slept unshaken.

That blanket was my strange souvenir from a strange other world where, for a brief and terrifying moment in time, anything had been possible.

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