Suzanne woke to the sound of the alarm. A moment before, she had been lost in anxious dreams.
She silenced the alarm, consoled that it had turned out to be just a dream, and slowly got out of bed.
Her bedroom was a well-intentioned mess of notebooks, post-it notes and clothes that should have been folded away. A postcard from a friend in Japan lay next to her laptop.
In the grey light her room could once have been an old set from an Ikea catalogue.
In the bathroom, Suzanne showered. She tried to remember what she had dreamt of that had made her feel so bad, the feelings still lingering even as the water washed away her drowsiness.
The dream had started off happy, she now remembered, and then descended into a mess of confusion. She remembered her mother. There was an overturned table.
She remembered feeling like she had worn the wrong thing out. She could barely recall the details now.
It was hard to believe that for those moments before waking she had believed that confused mess of a world was real.
In the mirror, Suzanne liked her just-showered look. She wondered what changed between that moment and getting ready to face the world.
She put on her work outfit, each item seeming so perfect when she had bought them. Now, they each pointed to some fault with her.
The blouse she wore accentuated droopy shoulders that betrayed her insecurities. "I will go to the gym every second day this month," she promised to herself.
When she did her face, she had learned to keep back her thoughts.
She looked at her face for only long enough to get the job done, trying to ignore the thoughts that would periodically break free and threaten to take away her future and her joy.
On the trip into town, she kept her headphones on and listened only to the music playing in her head. The morning commute felt like being two hours too early to a play. Actors had not yet costumed.
The stage had not yet been set. Suzanne got out out at her stop and began her walk to work. The sun had by now cleared away the grey of the dawn and revealed a clear, blue, cloudless sky.
A group of old Chinese people were doing Tai Chi in the park in slow, centred movements. She saw Sam, a workmate on her way to work.
"Hi Suzanne," she said, as she waved to get her attention.
Suzanne smiled. Her blouse seemed to snap into shape, moved by shoulders that had suddenly become square. She pulled out her headphones and took in the sounds of the city.
Birds sang as they battled for territory. A busker was singing some distance away. A barista announced he had a cappuccino for Simon. All the actors had costumed. The play had started.
Suzanne believed wholeheartedly that this world was real.
"Hi Sam," she replied.
*- 494 w*