Things I Used to Imagine at Night

On the nights I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, I used to employ my favorite “Imaginings.”

I used to pretend that the walls to my bedroom expanded out and out and out into a vast dormitory with rows and rows of old fashioned hospital beds, the kind with metal bars and headboards like the backs of folding chairs.  In this dormitory lived a hundred other girls, all the cliques one would expect from high school, and we were in the charge of at least one surly matron and occasionally her kinder, younger helper.  I would whisper to the other girls in the beds surrounding me until we had to hush because the matron was walking by.  The circumstances surrounding the dormitory changed.  Sometimes it was a camp for training us to be servants to the upper classes.  Sometimes it was an orphanage.  (It really depended what books I’d been reading lately.)  But that didn’t matter so much, because I only played this game at night, so I only imagined the dormitory itself.

I used to pretend that the ground below my bedroom window dropped away to a moat far below my tower, because I was a queen tucked up in her castle.  Except I was no orthodox queen – I had privateers with whom I could only meet at night for fear of tipping my hand to the sleazy ambassadors at my court.  I imagined a trusted maidservant showing the fierce pirates up to my sitting room, where we pored over battle plans until the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes I even held audiences with thieves from all over the provinces, gleaning evidence of treason by sending them to steal from my nobles.

I used to pretend that mine was the nicest room the boardinghouse had to offer, a respite from my long, secretive journey.  But I couldn’t rest just yet.  I had to listen for suspicious murmurs from the hostess downstairs, who looked at me sidelong when I paid for the room (a girl traveling alone?) and who might this very moment be disclosing my whereabouts to my pursuers – for a pretty penny, of course.

I used to pretend I was a favored servant in the palace of a sultan (particularly after I discovered the Arabian Nights), keeping tabs on court intrigue from my strategically placed room at the center of the harem.  My true loyalties shifted from night to night – sometimes I would pass on information to the sultan, and sometimes I would bide my time.

On the nights I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, I used to pretend a lot of things.  And even though I always woke up as myself again, I think the Imaginings – especially the ones I revisited over and over and over – left their mark.

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