I always suspected that I didn't have narcolepsy, but no amount of suspicion could have prepared me for the truth.
Cliché. That is so very cliché, but I think that when I explain, you'll see that I'm just being accurate.
Since I was very small, I have had irresistible sleeping spells. I could be sitting in class, and suddenly I would be feeling just as awake as ever, but I would be somewhere entirely new.
Or maybe "new" isn't quite the right way to explain it, either. After all, I always went to the same place, and it always felt very familiar to me. In fact, in the house there were always photos of me… or I thought that they were of me. The person in the photos tended to be much older than I was when I started going there, but nonetheless, I always looked at them and thought, Oh, yes. I can almost remember when that was taken. Very strange, yes? Considering that, if anything, these would be photos of my future, if such a thing were possible.
Which it kind of is, just saying.
However, this has digressed. What I really want to start with is my "narcolepsy." I was diagnosed when I was very young, by a psychiatrist recommended by the school. He was local, and no amount of internet searching or looking through the phone book brought up any trace of him, but his office was well-kept and after all, he had been recommended by the school, so we went to him. My mother loved him right from the start. She was sure that this was going to be a great thing for me.
Baxter – my psychiatrist – never let me call him by his last name. He always said that it felt too weird, though when I asked why, he wouldn't ever give me any more detail than that. He was a big man, with thick, coarse, curly hair. He tended to wear a red sash tied around his belly and had the broadest shoulders of anyone I had ever seen. His eyes played funny tricks in natural light. The couple of times that I had seen him outside, I had always been enchanted by the look of them. But as brawny and tough-looking as he was, I always felt inexplicably safe around Baxter. Something in me knew instinctively that he was someone to be trusted, and I had always been the sort to follow my heart.
I met up with Baxter regularly, a few times a week. When I was little, each session was never very long, but as I grew up, he started feeling more like a friend to me. One day when I was nine, Baxter told me that he was retiring. It was a funny thing for a man his age to say… he wasn't really that old. Maybe somewhere around my mother's age, or just barely younger. I remember asking, "Why would you want to retire yet? Won't you get bored?"
Baxter laughed at me and said, "Oh, trust me. I have plenty to occupy myself with." And then I burst into tears.
"I'm going to miss you so much," I wailed, and Baxter hugged me and patted my back until long after I calmed down.
"Don't worry, little bird," for so he called me, "You and I will still see each other all the time. I just won't be charging your poor mother anymore. How about we meet up for coffee tomorrow? You'll see, it's all going to work out."
I never did get him to tell me why he would bother to stop charging my mother… and of course, she was too afraid of Baxter changing his mind to question it. But we started meeting for coffee, and we simply never stopped doing it.
Why am I telling you this? I promise, Baxter is a very important part of my story. When I was little, he taught my mother about narcolepsy and how it was to be treated. It was awful. I wasn't allowed to have caffeine, ever. I wasn't allowed to stay up late or to sleep in in the morning (regular sleep schedules are supposed to help… though if you ask me, people only say that because it sounds like it should help, not because it actually does. My sleeping spells never decreased in number. They only ever got worse, no matter how late I stayed up at night). I also had to go in regularly for sleep tests, which meant spending the night in some strange, sterile, machine-filled room. I don't see how those places can possibly accurately measure normal sleep. Everything about them is so, so abnormal.
It started to feel like the narcolepsy ruled my life. No driving, no riding on the bus (Mom always feared that I would pass out and get kidnapped). The same went for walking down any crowded places, or any abandoned allies. My bedroom was constantly kept at summer – in – Florida temperatures, since warm bed environments were supposed to help. Mom made me take up yoga from the time I was six, since relaxing activities before bed were also supposed to keep down the attacks. I tried telling her that it only made me feel tense, but she never believed me. My mother, she was a stubborn woman.
I was lucky to have her, though. I was adopted when I was a newborn, found abandoned at the site of a fiery car crash with no sign of the crashers anywhere. I spent all of my growing up years hearing about "the system" and how terrible it can be to get stuck in it. I had talked to other adopted people who never quite felt like they belonged in their families. I always felt loved, adequate, and like I was a necessary part of Mom's life. I was all she had, and she told me every day how much I meant to her. It made me feel guilty for my small rebellions, but not guilty enough to stop.
Now, another facet of my story. I already mentioned that during the sleeping fits, I would go to another place. It was a house: a charming little cottage on a planet which was very like Earth, but which I knew instinctively was not. Sometimes I would leave the house and explore the area around me. I was always met by curious, wide-eyed stares. Sometimes people would come up to me and say, "Violet! Violet, what's happened to you? How did you get back?"
Every single time that has happened, I found myself jolted immediately back into awareness of my body, my Earth-bound body. Those encounters are alarming enough that my ventures outside of the little cottage tend to be covert and rare.
That's another thing: my name, it isn't Violet. Or, it isn't supposed to be. Who can say, really? Maybe my birth mother had another name for me when I was young. I have wondered whether, maybe, that is something that my dreams are trying to tell me… but how could they be? How could I remember something as distant as that? When I was found, the paramedics said it was as if I had just come from the womb. A baby so fresh should have been in a hospital, far away from streets and cars and accidents.
I had asked Baxter what he thought of this. I made an effort not to tell him about where I went when I had my sleeping spells. Always, I was starkly aware that, as soon as I did, he was going to realize that I was crazier than he had ever imagined. I'd had enough of testing and limitations from an illness that I couldn't control. No way was I about to invite more. What I did ask about was whether it was possible for me to remember something from when I was a newborn, like a name. I can still see the look on Baxter's face when I told him that the name Violet seemed to be following me. Everything in him went limp. He lolled for a good couple of minutes, though his eyes – which were strangely bright – never left mine.
He never did answer my question.