Waking Up by Don Bernal


      The knocking on his bedroom window startled him, partly because he didn’t have a bedroom window, and also partly because this wasn’t his bed.  He just laid there, till the smell of someone else’s blankets drove him to sit up.  The posters on the wall weren’t his; neither where the walls, but he thought the lampshade might be his.  Actually it would have looked nice in his own bed, but that was beside the point.  He turned and saw someone else in the bed.  He was shocked, at first, but then he realized that he was the stranger here, and he really needed to find his pants.  He looked round and round, and finally spotted them by a faraway corner.  He slowly peeled the blanket back, only to reveal his nakedness, but that was fine, she was asleep, and he was pretty sure everyone in the posters weren’t going to bother him.
     He inched off the bed, then landed on his toes.  Taking each step slowly, quietly, and nakedly, he made his way to his khakis lying crumbled in a corner.  There was a lot of pink, girly stuff in the room, he thought, but, as he figured out before, this wasn’t his room, it was probably hers, the girl lying on the bed, half a blanket peeled back.  When he finally got to his pants, he quickly stepped into them, and busily looked for his shirt.
     But, as his eyes gazed round and round, he turned to the window, and promptly let his pants fall back down to the floor.  She was staring through the glass, with a face part shocked, part disappointed.  She stared at him with eyes that cried dry tears.

     Maybe it was because of his pants around his ankles, or maybe just him, but he know she was upset at him.  But he had to make sure anyway, so he grabbed his pants and pulled up.  She still looked at him with disappointed eyes.  He tried to look for his shirt, found it finally beneath the girl-on-the-bed’s feet, but as he put it on, she was turning away from the window.
     How did she get there?  Who was she?  Why was she looking at me that way, he thought as tucked in his shirt into his pants.  When he was rid of his nakedity, he finally approached the window, and looked down, breathless and slightly scared.  He looked down three stories, onto the concrete street below.  A bare, gray wall was all that connected the window to the ground.  There was no three-story ladder, no fire escape, or even a flying carpet.  Looking up he saw no helicopter or window washer or spaceship.  He saw no possible way anyone could have been looking through that particular window he was at.  No possible way, except for the fact that it did happen.  There was someone.  She was there.  She saw him naked.
     He turned away, and went for the door, and pulled and pulled, till he realized he had to push.  He left the bedroom that wasn’t his, went down stairs he never saw before, said hi to a doorman he never met, and walked out to the street, whose name he didn’t recognize.  Then she bumped into him, before she said sorry and walked away.


     “I thought about her, the girl lying on the bed, lying naked and beautiful, blanket and all.  I thought about her in her pink bedroom, as the girl from the window was walking away from me.  I pulled my shirt down, completely tucked it into my pants, and chased after her.”
     He thought all this, and laughed.  He forgot about the part where he stepped into the puddle as he chased her.  Leaped into it.  Not a puddle but a pond; not slipped but crashed.  The splash carried far away, monsoon-like in its proportions.  His head bounced off the cement walkway, in a very unhealthy way.
     His eyes were closed, yet he couldn’t shake the stars away.  But his ears heard the voice.  Three little words.  But somehow, someway, they were the most important words he had ever heard; the missing piece of his destiny.
     “Are you okay?”
     Her voice had the sound of generosity and compassion hidden beneath calculated and refreshing apprehension.  She stood by his feet, he could calculate.  He couldn’t open his eyes, lest he saw stars in the middle of the day.  But he grunted, he moaned, something to show her he was not dead.  But all the time he thought of what to do next.
     “I thought of the girl lying on the bed, sleeping, and then waking up.  Will she expect me to be there?  Does she know who I am?  Is she okay?  Am I okay?  And why is this girl standing over me, touching me chest?”


     Sometimes, when someone hovers over him, gently tapping his chest, like the girl was doing right now, he tended to dream unreasonable thoughts.  For example, just then, as her fingers traced a route across his ribs, he thought about a barbecue grill being brushed with oil and barbecue sauce.  With hot dogs laying in wait on a plate on a table.
     He raised his head slightly, then opened his eyes.  She was face-to-face with him, her eyes worried and saddened the same, he wondered how she told so much with a look.  He sat up, touched his aching back, and she stood up, off her knees.
     Often, when he fell down, the embarrassment would be so great that he would jump up and get away as soon as he could.  But not now.  She was right there, waiting for him to stand, and he wanted her to wait.  Just a little longer.  Long enough for him to look at her.  To recognize her.  Make her familiar.  Damnit, she had to be familiar.
     But then her eyes said that was enough, they looked annoyed and deterred, and she looked him once over, then walked away.
     “Not this time,” he thought.
     He grabbed her arm.  She turned, surprised, a bit scared.  He loosed his grip.  He opened his mouth.  She waited.  So did he.  He tried to say something, anything, but silence spoke for him.  She looked puzzled, then more annoyed.  But he didn’t want her to go.  So he tightened his grip.  Just a little.  But enough.  To her, too much.  She tried to wrestle away.  He didn’t want her to go.  He didn’t know why.  But her eyes apologized to him as she tossed him backward after a chop to his guts.


     When the pain subsided just a bit, he said oww.  Actually he yelled it out, but the details of his agony are quite irrelevant.  He looked up, gasping for air, when he saw her, this beautiful, strange, assassin-type murderess walking away, keeping a wary eye on him.
     Why, oh why did he have to wake up in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a part of some city he didn’t recognize?  And why was this stranger tormenting him?  Why was she walking away?  Always, going away.
     Then he realized.  Or more likely, learned.  He stumbled up, waved off all help, which there was none, and limped back to the dwelling he just left.  Clutching his ribs he walked in and said hi once again to this strange doorman, took the elevator instead of the stairs, and stood outside the room he left a few moments before.
     Now what, he thought?  How to get in?  Would it be rude to awaken a stranger you just slept with to let you back in?  He realized that there weren’t many guides he could look upon for comparison, so he decided to knock out of necessity.  On the first hit, the door swung open.  As though it was never fully closed.  He swore that he left it……….
     He tumbled back in bed, pants thrown into its previous corner, shirt under stranger’s feet, he slid beneath these awkward blankets, and Dorothy came to him just then:
     “I wish I was home, I wish I was home, I wish…”
     He woke up with a start, and a face staring at his head.


     “Elisabeth, you scared me.”
     “Me scare you?  You were shaking all over the bed.  I thought you stuck your finger into an outlet or something.”
     “Oh, no.  I just….had a dream.   A really freaky dream.”
     “Oh, really…”
     “Not that kind of freaky.  Otherwise I’d have been shaking in a whole different way…”
     “Not in my bed.”
     “That was it.  That was my dream…. Remember that girl we saw last night, when we were waking home?”
     “Girl?….The one who was wearing all white and who you thought was cute until she made you think she was a ghost and then made you freak out and paranoid and…”
     “Yeah, yeah, that girl.  Well anyway, I had this dream where…. I woke up in a strange bed, and that strange girl….was sleeping next to me.  I was naked as rain so…”
     “As rain?  How is rain….”
     “Concentrate Liz, concentrate.  I was naked so I looked for my pants and…”
     “How was it again you ended up naked with her?”
     “How should I know, I was probably late for the dream so I must have missed out on it.  But the point is that when I found my pants I saw you looking out from the window, except I didn’t know it was you.  Wait, wait, I didn’t even know who I was.  It was like déjà vu except I was a whole lot dumber I guess.  You just looked at me and….”
     “And said…”

 Her eyes were crystal blue, skin pale, cool and smooth.  She was attentive and caring, each word coming from him as important to her as her own words. Still, he had thought about the mysterious girl from the night before, who was just different... strangely attractive… peculiar and unusual.  He had thought about…trying something different, just to see, just to….try.  And then he had a dream.

     “And I said…?”
     “….that you should be careful what you wish for.  I love you, Liz.”

Back to Stories