There's a hole in my heart where the wind whistles through. It wakes me sometimes and sleep becomes impossible. I climb to the roof to wait for the sun to turn up.
The doctor who listened to my chest did not hear what I do. She shined a light into my ears and then my eyes. I blinked away the blue blots that lingered on the insides of my eyelids and the office walls as she prescribed pills to help me sleep. She admitted she was only treating symptoms. This is what she is trained to do. Most idiopathic maladies take root in the head, she said, but I don't believe everything she thinks.
My father says I have a fine imagination. He reminds me that as a child I thought sounds rose and bunched against the stratosphere in a giant roar known as the sound barrier. I'd plugged my ears against impatient sounds: screaming sirens, blaring horns, and jacking jackhammers, which rocketed up rapidly. The softest sounds barely ascended at all, audible only to those who sat very still and waited patiently to hear. I'd sit for hours listening to mushrooms stretching from the damp morning earth, to the tremble of flower petals, and to ferns unfurling.
My mother says I was an easy child, never a nuisance and seldom where I was not welcome. Though I vanished, too, when my presence was expected. Now my mother says I am too sensitive. I must learn to ignore the unimportant. I do not listen to her.
It is inevitable that we become immune to most things around us. Or else we'll surely go mad. I must guard against this.
I take two pills. I hear them clattering down my throat and splashing into my stomach like little blue beans. Sloshy currents sway my corrugated lining in a not unpleasant way. I rattle the bottle and consider taking two more for the sensation. I know better and resist. If it is true that the stratosphere accumulates sound eventually it would become so saturated the noise would tumble back down to earth in an unending rumbling thunder so loud we'd stop paying any attention at all. Perhaps this has already happened. Perhaps this is why sleep does not come.
I live near the ocean for the steady whoosh of waves washing sand. It is a sound few people ever stop hearing. Two streets and two rows of low buildings separate me from the water, and from the rooftop I can see the tight line where water meets sky.
It is windy up here, my whistle more vibrant. It is a clear night. All the stars are out and the gibbous moon glitters from horizon to sand. I lean back on my elbows and close my eyes. I count waves until I am startled by scrabbling on the roof behind me. The swift click of nails. For a moment my heartbeats out-drum all other sound. In the moon's glassy light I see a great shaggy dog shuffle towards me, his eyes and wet nose twinkling like stars. He stops and sniffs the air and blinks, then settles on the ledge next to me. We do not speak. A gust of wind fluffs his fur against my bare arm and he tilts his head side to side in the way that dogs do, listening, curious. It is my whistle that has summoned him, I am sure, and when the wind weakens I worry he will vanish. But he swishes his tail against the roof and lets out a deep doggish sigh. We sit in silence and gaze out over the water until the sun winks up from the waves, a great yellow eye opening in a forehead of blue.
Below, the streets of this sleepy beach town start to stir with people, and bursts of sound rise to meet us over the constancy of the waves. We look in the direction of each new noise, the dog's ears pivoting the way mine cannot. He watches something rise, follows it till he is poised to howl, but remains quiet. I smile and stroke his head. He yawns, lies down. A few slow blinks and closes his eyes. I yawn, too, curl myself against him, and wait, patiently, for sleep.
Geneviève Mathis is a graduate of New York University's MFA program in Fiction and was a 2011 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow. She recently finished writing her first novel and is currently working on a collection of short stories.