Ritual before Sleep by Amy Schulz

Eliza gathers up that strange and constant sensation of drowning, a wet web that clings to her skin, and shoves it into the bottom drawer of her dresser. The grimaces she wore during the day, like orthodontic headgear and eyeglasses, are placed neatly in the top drawer. She lets the skin around her mouth relax, lets the apples of her cheeks settle, and erases the fine lines around her eyes with her fingertips. Those paper-thin sighs that escaped her lips today get squished into the large middle drawer along with  helplessness, which is so long and stringy that she has to ball it up tight. She sits down in the chair by the window to take off her shoes. There is a spider on the windowsill. Eliza watches it amble along toward the phalaenopsis, white blossoms swooped and dangling from the bloom spike. Happiness takes this opportunity to run away from her. When she finally catches it, she dumps it in a flat-lidded container and pushes it under the bed. Annoyance, aggravation, and anxiety are nestled into cashmere sweaters that are too small for her, in the other middle drawer of the dresser. Eliza hasn’t had much use for desire lately. It is so tiny that she places it into a small, beaded silk bag, cinching the ties tight and snug, and sets the bag on top of the dresser next to a pewter wishbone. She pulls the elastic from her hair and shakes it out. Tenderness, that small feather, drifts to the top of the dresser and rests where it lands. She puts curiosity into a small padlocked chest so that it may not explore during the night. Eliza pulls off her dress, lets it sink to the floor, tugs a nightgown over her head, shrugging into the arms. She pulls frustration from her skull and places it on the bedside table in a small, silver nest with a glass egg. Her roundness settles into the mattress like a breath. She folds her hands between her breasts and waits for sleep to emerge from the closet.

“Ritual before Sleep” first appeared in apt‘s third print annual, now available for purchase.



Amy Schulz divides her time between Istanbul, Turkey and Pasadena, California.  Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, The Malpais Review, Global Graffiti, and The Schuylkill Review.

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