The toenail

She was in the middle of painting a toenail. Which was an extremely meaningful and dedication-requiring activity, because a whole day of doing nothing lay ahead, and she wouldn’t want to encompass the immensity of boredom that was to come. Toenail painting was a really good way to fill some of the time, because the concentration that made her stick her tongue out through a corner of her mouth excluded thoughts. And thoughts were her worst enemy. She wasn’t even trying to recall what she had done the day before, what tricks she had devised then to go from morning till night, because the minute she became aware of her own tricks, the day to come would appear in all its dreariness, and the task of making things up would tire her to death. As it was, she could pretend to enjoy the cosiness of her luxurious apartment, the silky feeling of her housegown brushing against her thigh while she was bending to the next nail, the precisely calculated temperature of the room… all the perfect things that she had always been so keen on.

The ninth toenail was being done with the minute gestures of a Swiss clockmaker, and with the fear that the tenth was way too close. And that’s when it sort of dawned on her… between the ninth and the tenth nail she could just doze off a little in the chair, just indulge in the laziness, wasn’t that nice… Just for a minute… Three hours later, she woke up with a sore back and a toenail left to paint. But the victory was hers, now she had the solution.

Sue had never changed, not as far back as she could remember. She had always been spoiled, but that was beside the point. She had always been miserable. And not even that, miserable was grand, and she loathed grand things. She’d never seen the point of it all. From an early childhood date, she had made peace with the thought that she was going to commit suicide, and ever since, she had turned in her head all the options and ways. Except… she was not a brave girl. And she was appalled by the grandness of such a gesture, and about the fact that people would attribute it meaning.  And she was spoiled, which was not really beside the point, because comfort was her second nature. So she had turned the suicide idea into a blander version of itself, and decided to not live. Therefore her days were purposely empty, because she didn’t have to do anything, and she didn’t want to. And her head was kept empty, by being given the menial tasks of watching tv, establishing the right shade of hairdye, choosing the right panties to wear for her own psychological comfort… She was stating to herself that this was just an in-between period until she’d find the right method of making herself disappear without anybody noticing and suffering over it… she really wanted it to be discreet, traceless, to make sure that she wouldn’t be divorced from existence, but that her absurd coming into life would somehow simply be annulled. Of course, like any woman contemplating “action”, she had considered sleeping pills, but that was still a gesture, and she was still afraid. The idea was still to be found.

But that day, between the ninth and the tenth nail, an unexpected answer had prompted itself. What if, in time, she could train herself to sleep ? To sleep every day more, until she’d get to long periods of hibernation. It seemed the perfect solution, and she got so overexcited with the idea, that… she couldn’t sleep at all that night.  But she started taking it very seriously the next day. She timed how long she was usually sleeping, and she began adding a quarter of an hour every day, so as to have nobody wondering. By next Monday, she had obtained two hours less in her active day, but she also noticed that her energy was diminishing. She took that for the perfect sign that she should go on, and she increased the dosage all the way to four extra hours of sleep. Her day was getting way easier to handle, and she was yawning all the time. By the third week, her family, worried by her not answering the phone, came by for a couple of days. Afraid not to get them suspicious, she had the alarm clock ringing six hours earlier than she would have woken up, and she watched tv with her father almost in her sleep. Fortunately, she had calmed them down, and she got back to her programme. Within 33 days, her sleeping hours had doubled, and she only had to take care of 8 hour days of boredom. She had managed to make sure that all her friends knew she was not to be bothered. She was getting excited to see if her experiment could be carried all the way, because she had more and more trouble falling asleep, but as soon as she managed that, she could hardly wake up at all. Only another month until she’d make the 24 hours.

The thing that made sleep therapy so adequate for her was that she had never remembered what she was dreaming. She couldn’t actually say for sure that she was dreaming at all. So she went through the almost two months to her deadline without any monsters of the brain grinning at her from under the blanket. The last few days were getting really short. The perfect apartment was getting messy, because when you only have one hour of “daylight”, you can’t afford the maid to clean up for an hour and ten minutes, and the schedule had to be strict, or else it wasn’t going to work. She had told her family that she had a mild flu and needed a lot of rest, so they were not to call. She finally got to the day with a quarter of hour waking time, and she felt like saying good bye, except it didn’t really fit her plan… it would mean to leave something similar to a suicide note, that wasn’t done, not in her perfectly unshakeable world. So she painted her toenails in a hurry, messing them terribly, and went to sleep. She thought of the childhood image of a bear, lazily crouching for the winter. She slept for about a week without waking up even for a minute. And then, all of a sudden, she started to dream.

The world in her dream was not as fragmented as regular dreams, but made so much sense, that she suddenly wondered where she was. When she got out of bed, she had a thousand things to do, and couldn’t decide whether correcting the papers for her students was more urgent than taking the laundry to the cleaners’. And she was supposed to meet Angela in the afternoon, to discuss their project of opening a cafe. And then, there was the club she had joined last month, and never had time to take part in the debates, that was always on Thursday evenings… And her car, she hadn’t managed to get it fixed, and she needed it badly, but ever since her parents had moved to Switzerland, she had to take care of so much… Weary of the hard day ahead, she turned the coffee machine on, there was no way she’d get through everything without dozing off otherwise.

Unfortunately, this is where the emotional notes of Sue’s best friend end. There’s no way to know more, because the brainwave interpreter that Angela (yes, Angela Wurthenbaum, the famous scientist and neurology researcher) used on Sue after her plunging into hibernation, refused to register any sign of neurologic life after this. And, certainly, the interpretation is truncated and… relative. Angela never agreed to reveal how she found out about Sue’s plan, and how she managed to install her machinery into the latter’s apartment without authorization from anybody. Sue’s daily programme before falling into deep sleep has been reconstructed based on the time intervals when she would answer the phone. The only scientific certainty is that she did not wake up on her own, or responded to any attempts of awakening her.  The family was told that it’s a rare disease and that recovery is possible anytime, but not guaranteed.


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