Mirene Arsanios


Last Days of Sleep

(March-January 2019)

I buy the cheaper version of a doll on craigslist and impregnate myself with it. I pay $250 instead of $1500. I have made a good choice. The doll gradually grows inside my womb. An ultrasound shows a baby in an unusual position: arms spread wide apart, crown of the head pointing laterally. My uterus looks like a speech bubble in a comic book. What comes next is my delivery. Something is thrusting downward, wanting to come out. “Fine, I’ll do it,” I say, taking control of the situation. I pull out a baby covered in blood and placenta, a plastic doll missing her right arm. I feel stupid for not buying the more expensive version of the pregnancy doll. This one has already been through someone else’s cunt and its wears (broken arm and scratches all over its body) stand out, even in this mess.

The apartment is flooded with rainwater and paint is falling off the ceiling in large chunks. I live in an environment I have no control over. The environment longs for someone to control it; it wants to survive. I try reaching the stove to boil Turkish coffee in a pot. It hasn’t stopped raining. The power shortages are longer than usual, and I’ve opted out of the monthly generator subscription. Mainly, I’ve been living in the dark, waiting for the sun to set but it is taking forever.

My father says that he wants to be cremated; he doesn’t want a funeral or formal ceremony, just a note in the newspaper saying he has departed. My uncle reminds my father that he is still alive, but my father insists on giving us posthumous instructions. We gather around his hospital bed and turn on the television while he is having dinner: boiled artichokes and carrots and a saltless meat patty. When my father dies, we publish, against his will, a note in the newspaper announcing his funeral. “We had no choice,” my uncle says, “It doesn’t really depend on us.”

I hold my baby tight and tune in to her first and last breaths. I am devastated. Instead of going back home, I take a walk on the Corniche. The costal air is exhilarating, with many boats crossing the Mediterranean and furry, unidentified animals rubbing their backs against my naked calves.

The worst is over, I believe, but the more I run uphill, the bigger the wave gets. Instead of riding along, I take a stairway leading to a stone palace in which soldiers are shutting a large window. They recommend turning left until I reach a tower with multiple doors I open until I end up facing an entrance too narrow for my body. Through a hole I have carved out manually, I can glimpse at a tiny, fluffy, grey dog. I have the distinct feeling that it has been waiting for me. The sea is now about to release its calamitous wave. People are scurrying in all directions. Some, afloat, seek refuge by swimming in my direction but I want to be alone while others are drowning. I feel conflicted about my own impulses: am I doing the right thing?