There are times when I just wake up in the middle of the night. There are times when I can’t go back to sleep. I then usually stroke Antares’ fluffy orange coat and make my way towards the fridge. Most of the time, there is some chocolate chip ice cream in it. I grab my laptop and try to watch some videos on YouTube, all the while nibbling on pieces of chocolate in the ice cream. I try to keep my mind off the things bothering me, and yet even as I keep looking up cute, silly, fun stuff, eventually some video that will quickly remind me of the very thing I’m trying to escape will be suggested to me. I can ignore it, and I usually do, but just noticing it makes me go back to that dark place.
Last night was different. For starters, I was in a hotel room at the opposite coast of the country. The reason I woke up was also a bit different. I was excited. This was the first job that had me go to the West Coast. I always wanted to go there, but somehow never got the chance. Of course, my usual anxiety was there, but thinking about it was unavoidable in my line of work. I didn’t really have any food left over in the fridge, so there was nothing I could eat. I also did not want to wake up the other person in the room. I got the normal bed, he had to sleep on the mattress. Not that I forced him to, he volunteered. His name was Chuck and I was genuinely surprised by that display of gentlemanliness. He was about my age, sandy haired, constantly scruffy, he had the build of someone who used to be a star player on his high school’s team but later partied more often than trained in college. His face, illuminated in the full moon, wasn’t that bad looking, with a strong jaw and a large nose. Can’t say he made a good first impression, but you could say we made some progress since the day he got assigned as my new equipment tech. I guess I was just bitter that I couldn’t work with Nikki ever since she got herself injured.
Chuck and I had an opportunity to get to know each other a bit during the flight here. None of us seemed to want to start a conversation. The welcome I had given him once the boss said we would be working together wasn’t exactly the nicest, what with the way I spilled my coffee on him and later pretended it was an accident. Still, I was usually the first to break the ice.
“So, Chuck,” I began, trying to maintain a neutral tone, even though I had a huge lump in my throat. “Shauna told me you used to be a photographer for a magazine.”
“Yep,” he replied. He was playing something on his white DS lite. I always thought that was a poor choice of color for a handheld.
“Really? What was it? Maybe I’ve seen your photos.”
“I doubt it. You’re not really the target audience.”
“Well, you never know,” I twisted in my seat, so that my left arm was lying comfortably on top of it, with my face resting on my fist. My insistence on keeping up this conversation clearly made an impression on him, as he put the DS away and fixed his hazel eyes into mine, a slight condescending smirk on his face. “I am interested in a lot of things girls usually aren’t. Was it a car magazine? Something about gaming, sports?”
“Not really, no,” he chuckled, now mimicking the pose I made. I blushed a little, but didn’t switch poses. I’m still not sure whether he was mocking me or not.
“Do you think I’ve even heard of it?”
“I’m pretty sure you have.”
“Huh. Now that’s surprising. I figured you were one of those people who wouldn’t hesitate to brag about having their pictures in a well-known magazine. If I heard of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve read it at least once.”
“I don’t think so. Unless you’re into pictures of naked chicks.”
“Oh,” I blushed again, this time turning my gaze away from his piercing eyes. Then it hit me – a well known magazine with pictures of naked women. “Wait, you don’t mean– “
“Yep,” the smug smile on his face turned into a grin. His teeth were perfectly even and almost unnaturally white. With his arms now folded, he looked really pleased with himself. “I used to work for that magazine.”
“Wow,” I said in almost a whisper. I looked back into his eyes. I needed to save face. “Well then, why did you quit? I’m sure they paid you better there. Or perhaps you got bored with taking pictures of celebrity boobs?”
Chuck chuckled. The word boobs attracted the attention of an old lady sitting in front of us. She gave me a look of utter disapproval as she put her headphones back on to get back to watching Forrest Gump. “Not really something you can get tired of, no. I wasn’t really paid that much, anyway. I was no lead photographer. Plus, I do get the feeling I’ll be able to deal with something personal working for you guys.”
“What do you mean?” I did my best to not let him know how thrilled I was to know what he meant.
“I mean that in your – our – line of work you get to deal with lots of weird stuff, right? I just thought I could get some answers,” for a while there he seemed deep in thought. That was the first instance I felt I could connect with him.
“So did I,” I told him. “But don’t get your hopes up. Usually, it’s not really anything worthwhile. You get all excited and think you found your proof, but then it turns out you were just seeing something that wasn’t there. Just because you really wanted to see it.”
“You said ‘usually’.”
“I still have hope.”
“So do I.”
We then gazed into each other’s eyes just a little too long. I thought I could see something familiar, something comforting in those eyes. I got lost in them, if only for a short moment. We came to our senses almost immediately. He went back to play his DS, while I put on my headphones and watched the movie. Couldn’t really concentrate, though.
On the way to the hotel we didn’t really talk any more but I did try to be less antagonistic towards him and he seemed to be more open towards me as well, pointing to any landmarks that seemed interesting. Once we got into the room, I was really furious they only had one bed and was sincerely grateful to Chuck for taking the mattress they brought in later. We must have been more tired than we thought, as we fell asleep almost instantaneously.
And then I sat on my bed in the middle of the night, watching the full moon over the ocean. I missed my cat, my ice cream and my Wi-Fi, but somehow, that night was different. I still couldn’t sleep, but the fear I had in me felt somewhat weaker. I felt a level of comfort that I usually couldn’t achieve with cute videos. I felt I needed to talk to Chuck more. I wanted to get to know him, get to know how he deals with those things. His loud snoring told me he was certainly doing a better job than I was.
I started to get drowsy much quicker than I usually do at home. To keep my mind away from its dark areas, I thought about the case we were on and couldn’t help but laugh at the name Shauna gave it: The Mothman.