It is four-thirty in the morning, the time shines in bright red alphanumericals from the tiny clock beside the mattress. The sun has not come out yet, the room is still awash in the clean coat of night, but I feel the faint licks of day. The light that hides just behind the black curtain, waiting its turn. An early bird coos from a tree just beyond the window. We share the thick quiet of the border-time, the desolate streets, the wind that carries only the sound of its own reverberations. I stare at a plain section of dark ceiling, my eyes open like a blind man, seeing the world through my ears. Little Cambodian and his mom are still sleeping, the gentle deep rhythm of their breathing moves almost in unison – he sleeps on a narrow mattress next to mine, his mother sleeps with me. The room is pleasantly cool and I lay there, resting, in the dark.
Below me is soft mattress, shielding me from a firm wooden floor. I am beneath warm covers and she feels good next to me – the soft skin of her shoulder, the warmth of her thick brown body, her arm unconsciously, yet lovingly resting across my chest, the soothing whisper of her breath singing to me. I could lay here forever. Like this, in the dark. A bird outside the window, their shapes filling me with comfort.
A thought moves through me like lighting. Have I ever been somewhere else? I notice that I can’t remember what I did the day before. I look into a sea of liquid gray and can pull nothing out, nothing to grab, no hook to hinge an existence on. I search through deep folds and caves, seeing flickering color and distant shapes, but I can’t remember any other day besides this, any other moment besides now. In the dark, I remember words that I know…. job, routine, meals, TV, shower, car ride, family…words, but they have no shape or faces, no names. Then I wonder, are the words real or of the dream?
A rush of excitement moves through my heart like lit explosives. Happiness bubbles. My enslavement to an organic existence has only been a nightmare, a long illusory road. I have always existed in this room, at this time, in this very moment – in this eternal heaven.
I smile to myself, it was just a nightmare. This is where I have been, this magnificent paradise – an eternity with a thick woman to love and a skinny child to play catch with. This room is all that I am – this chamber with these bodies, this breathing, this darkness. This and nothing more.
I smile again. Nothing exists outside this room. On the other side of the door, there is no street, no cars, no buildings, no grass, no trees, no birds, no people, no moon, no sun, no stars, no sky. The bird was part of the nightmare? Was it part of the dream? The nightmare? But what of them…the boy and his mother? Are they with me in the nightmare? My mind starts to crumble, my smile begins to fade.
I close my eyes. I take a deep breath as I go into the Void.
And then a sound to rip me from space. Tires screeching, metal slamming, footsteps against the pavement, two deep voices shouting commands. Rushing footsteps up the wooden apartment steps, ending at my door. A moment of silence, then…slam, the door comes down. I jump to my feet, my naked body feeling the shock of cold, my eyes squinting at the silhouetted shapes in the doorway. I stare and they enter, my father and brother.
I turn to check on the Little Cambodian and his mother, but there is no narrow bed, no thick sleeping woman. There is no steady breathing, no one to play catch with.
My brother and father stare from several steps away. Their panic is etched on their faces, they shout and shake their hands, urgency leaks from every part of them- but their voices are like distant murmurs, fainter than the breathing I enjoyed so much before. I stare into their eyes, searching for their words, but finding only black pools of mumbled urgency.
My eyes wander from my father’s eyes to the blue bathrobe covering his broad shoulders. Something snaps and I remember a word…dream.
I walk towards the shattered doorframe, smiling softly as I step over the door. I hear faint murmuring as my brother reaches out for my arm. I avoid his grasp and make it to the railing, motioning for my brother and father to follow.
“This is just a dream, watch.”
“No!” my father screams.
I have floated before, in other dreams.
I step towards the railing of the second-story apartment ledge. Jumping up, I walk like a lithe circus performer for a few steps, looking down to the parking lot of cold waiting cars.
It’s just a dream, and, in dreams, I can float and fly.
Floating forty feet above the ground, I look into the faces of my brother and father standing in the shadows, shaking their heads in disapproval. Below me is a sea of metal, beneath that, a paved earth.
The first rays of sun rise over the horizon. They rush towards me in slow, pinkish motion. Rolling thunders roar, shattering the blankets of silent stillness at five in the morning. A rippling sensation moves through me, sucking at my memory. My hands and bodies are covered in light, but when I look back, the apartment is still drenched in darkness. The street, the cars, my brother and father, the sun has not reached them. I now seem to be facing two worlds. Pure, shining, white light above, and phenomena in darkness below.
The light eventually takes over everything as I float between two worlds, and I find myself laying on a thin mattress, staring at the white ceiling of my cell.