Second Place Winner of the Comfort Contest
By Caneel Cheskin
Blankets shift. The girl in the bedroom (me) is half-dreaming, unwilling to wake up. Behind my closed eyes, I’m ten years old again.
The Christmas PJs my dad picked out for my sister and I don’t fit, but they’re plush and warm. My bare feet are freezing. My sister rips through her own pile of presents, and I have to wade through a sea of wrapping paper to take a gift bag from my dad. I pull out the tissue paper, and when I see a blue DSi nestled inside, with a matching stylus and carrying case and earbuds, I scream with my whole chest. My sister looks concerned, and I’m crying, holding it to my chest, all my dreams of bright colors and fun noises and pretty pictures becoming reality right in front of me.
The room fades. When I’m twelve, I spend the night at my aunt’s house because my dad lost overnight visitation rights. I wake up in my cousin’s bed and look at the red numbers on the clock: 4:30AM. The perfect time. I creep out of the borrowed bedroom, down the stairs (over the creaky ones), and go into the computer room. The house is dead silent, and the whir of the old desktop computer is too loud. Still, I click on the Sims 4 icon. Finally, I can be other people for a few hours, before everyone wakes up and I have to start another day.
Back in my bed, I turn over, rustling.
Sitting in the basement of my mom’s house, I look over my shoulder every few minutes to make sure no one is coming to check on me. I don’t dare turn up the volume on the clunky family laptop; I’m supposed to be doing math, but instead I’m a wizard girl who can shoot orange fire and heal herself with green light. No one would ever mess with me if I could do that in real life, and nothing could ever hurt me. I incinerate ten goblins before I hear the floor upstairs creak. My hands fly to sign out.
I roll onto my back and open my eyes. It’s bright. I stare at the ceiling.
Summer 2020, my boyfriend sent me a Nintendo Switch in the mail. He had attached the digital codes for Animal Crossing and Mario Kart 8 to the top of the box, and I peeled them off, touching the tape all over, knowing it had been pressed down by his hands mere days before. I hadn’t touched those hands in four months. I pulled out the flaps on the box like someone might perform a surgery. Seeing the pristine, shiny Switch punched a spike of visceral joy through the numbness. I started playing that day, and I didn’t stop trying to occupy all my hours with those games until September.
That DSi is in a basket by the front door, buried under other memorabilia. A laptop I own is perched on a basket by my rocking chair. The Switch, my Switch, is plugged in under the TV. I own them all.
I sit up, and get out of bed.
An alleged writer and a Creative Writing major, Caneel Cheskin is graduating December 2021 and unfortunately becoming a functional member of society. Her advice is to not let fear of failure hold you back from submitting to writing contests!