I dreamt of her again.
We were at a party, sitting on the couch. It felt like it was just us. In the dream we’re only friends. Even in my dreams, we´re only friends. She´s magnetic and beautiful, like always. I´m quiet and tense, trying to find the nerve to tell her how I feel. Like always. We´re forever together. I don’t know why she chose me. She’s amazing and incredible, and I´m just…me.
She told me once, she thought we could read each other’s thoughts. I told her, I knew she was going to say that. She laughed. We have a special connection, we always have. That’s why it seems so strange to me that I just can’t find the words.
I touch the note written in my pocket. The words I cannot say.
I care for you
You mean the world to me
Sorry about the things that happened
It was me
It was my fault
I did it
Please don´t leave me
Please don´t forget me
Please don´t stop me
I have something to tell you
I have kept this secret for so long
Maybe you won’t understand
You´re all that I have left, and I…
The temperature shafts, then plummets. My skin bunches in reaction as spiders crawl over my heart.
I can’t do this
I need to do this.
Two tiny consciences materialize next to my ears. Both competing for my attention. I become a clumsy awkward giant crouching low as they perch on the cliffs of my shoulders. Each vying for my attention, slipping on the folds of my shirt as I become unsteady ground. In my outstretched hand floats a riveted brass heart spinning languidly amongst its own gravity.
They both make compelling closing arguments. Entirely silent, my tiny consciences take turns to pantomime crushing or releasing with their minuscule hands.
Let it live. May it die.
Her sweet voice calls me back. The room shrinks down to normal size. I’m sitting on the couch again with the most beautiful girl in the world looking at me with her questioning eyes. My hand thrust in my pocket, holding on to the words I cannot say. I will do this. I pull with determination to tell her the truth, only to find the dream slowing to molasses. Every movement not matching the intensity or my thoughts. I need action! I am a captive dreamer, a mannequin pretending to exist. Unable to tell people my thoughts. Fate resists me as my hand attempts to rescue a note from quicksand. Just as it starts to give. My eyes snap open, heart pounding the barren wasteland of my bed sheets.
The cracks in the ceiling come into focus. Sheets tossed about, and huddled up like feral children at the foot of my bed. My feet pull them away to complete the job, the cool air hits my toes as I push a couple extra kicks that probably weren’t necessary. Freedom from this bed. She fades from my mind as reality re-writes itself over the comfort of my dreams.
Back in the Glen. The sounds of hotel living invading my silence. The droning buzz of old 1940´s air conditioner humming their woeful song of other times. Dapper fellas, sharp suits, Chicago hats, and jazzy dames. A quick flurry of footsteps as some junior vagrants run down the hall, shrilly yelling,
“ You’re it!”
A low thumping accompanied by a woman´s voice. My adjacent wall decides whether to move or not, losing the first battle, a piece of plaster crumbles and falls. It explodes into a small universe of debris. I watch small motes catch, twirl, and spin in the encroaching sunbeam that managed to thieve its way into my room. I need to get that rip in the curtain fixed. The woman next door´s voice becoming louder as her lack of interest decreases. She begins to scream a series of oh’s, trying them out in a variety of voices and combinations. In my head I lump them into three categories:
1. School girl
2. Piano mover
3. Truck driver
A couple of school girl oh´s, a piano mover oh, and then a flowing truck driver oh! Seemed to be her best move because the sweaty air halted, paused, my motes still spinning in the sunlight, the familiar buzz of old air conditioners resumes. Another flurry of footsteps, now traveling in the opposite direction.
“ No! You’re it!”
I consider going over there and spending my last forty dollars. My next door neighbor is a prostitute. Bambi´s not that hard on the eyes. Small, blonde, perky tits. She exuded sex. If you have a thing for lost souls and daddy issues. I have helped her a couple of times since she first moved in her refrigerator.
Fixed a leak. We don’t talk much. Although, I would love if she gave me a couple of piano movers and growling truck driver. I reconsider though, it’s my last 40 dollars and I haven’t paid the man at the front desk. Rent is due.
Tossing the thoughts out of my mind of my foxy next door neighbor sucking the color out of an otter pop, I start to wonder if things would be better if I moved my bed away from Bambi´s wall. Unhappy with the effort required. I imagine myself dragging my bed into the living room. Fatiguing from the imaginary work, I add it to the list of things I might do today
Move my bed
Change the world
Buy some milk
Tell her I love her
Lose my friends
Buy some fish food
Tell my therapist to fuck off
Well, things I might do. I swing my feet over the edge of the bed, careful not to touch the floor with my bare feet. Who knows what is crusted into the floorboards after years of misuse. I had a friend who got hepatitis from a dirty spoon at the Cafe. No lie. That’s why whenever I eat at the Cafe, I bring my own silverware. Plus whenever I walk in the Hotel I always wear shoes or slippers.
At the edge of the bed my feet hover over my slippers. Fuzzy pink rabbit slippers. They are special to me. They let everyone know I don´t care what they think. Wiggling my toes inside of these pink animals, I realize for the first time, one toe is longer than the others. However, the rabbit seems to have known longer than me, because there is a worn spot in the lining where this one toe hits.
I should throw them away, but they are all that I have left. Not just some forgotten Christmas Story joke. We were happier then. I have to piss. I stand, stretch, and waddle across the floor, bulldozing my way through dirty Levis, air walks, and mossimo shirts. The TV is still on.
Breaking news filters through my silence: Air traffic controllers have the highest suicide rates. I always thought it was dentists. They have a really bad rap, those dentists do. Whenever I go to the dentist´s office, I always look for the signs. Is he smiling? Does he seem abnormally depressed? Has he lost interest in his usual hobbies? Will today be the day? How can I expect someone to do a good job on my teeth when they know they are going to kill themselves at the end of the day? There should be a sign out front, Going out of business soon, all dental work half off! – That would be the responsible thing to do. And their life insurance rates. Do they have to pay more because of their profession? Sorry sir, we noticed that life is not as satisfying for you, you are not eligible for the gold plan. Can we interest you in the corrugated steel package? The payout is not good, but it includes a free clear up and psych sessions for your children.
The TV crackles and then shorts out. Probably the meth heads trying to run a generator in their room again. The lights dim as the old hotel fights the power drain. Unconcerned, I pick up a canister of fish food, and shake it to be sure there is some left.
My fat goldfish eyes me expectantly, but makes no indication of interest or disinterest. He just floats. I envy his satisfaction with so little. Very Zen, goldfish. Probably the reincarnation of some famous Yogi, transcending from the far reaching Himalayas to the serene waters of the Glen Hotel. I bring myself to eye level with him, and tap the glass lightly.
This is the first time that I named him. Until now he was just fish. Buddhafish seems to fit though.
You hungry or are you going to fast today?
He bobs in the water, the perfect master of his environment. I shake him a few flakes paying alms to my Yogi. He swims to the top of the water, says a small fish prayer:
Bless these flakes
That fall from above
The Universe sustains
I am eternally grateful
Then buddhafish gobbles them down appreciatively.
I stand satisfied with myself, but not before the fleeting thought that Buddhafish might have been a dentist in another life. And this isn’t his reward but his punishment. I study my fish for signs of depression. His demeanor is tranquil. If my goldfish has a dark side, it’s definitely under the surface.
I go to the fridge. My throat parched. I open the heavy steel facade with a loud creak, and the rust crackles from years of never being cleaned. Instead of orange juice, I grab a bottle of milk. If the power doesn’t kick back on soon, the milk´s the first to go bad. I drink straight from the bottle, making sure not to waste it. With my bare arm, I wipe the milk mustache from my upper lip.
A Lot to do today. I still need to piss. I head for the door. I grab card # 13 and place it in my pocket. Written in careful letters so I can maintain my misanthropy:
Hi, my name is Karl
You know, in case anybody tries to talk to me in the hallway I give them trusty ole card # 13. I look at her card for a fleeting second, worn and heavily handled, one day I´ll show it to her.
Right as I reach the door, a low thudding starts up again. When I get back, I am definitely dragging my mattress away from Bambi´s wall.
By: Paul Thorsteinson