As I lay beside Sonia and covered her with my bare arm, for the first time in my life I had a dream in which I could fly.
I sailed above sand dunes in a desert, skimming just over their crests. I whistled through the air at increasing speed, and had the sense that I needed to hurry, and feared that for some reason I would be late. I didn’t know what my deadline was, but I sensed my time was almost up.
I hurried as best I could, and as my speed increased I began to feel that I would make my deadline, whatever it was. There was a single great sand dune ahead of me, bigger than all the others, but as I approached its pinnacle, the ability to fly suddenly left me. I plummeted down toward the sand, and at the moment I hit the ground, I started awake with a loud cough.
“You’re up?” Sonia quested from the kitchen, where she sat at the small table eating a plate of eggs and toast. “You slept for a while, you were tired, huh?”
I sat up and yawned, raising my hands as high as I could behind my back. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and felt cold linoleum under my bare feet. My eyes shot open and my spine straightened. I trotted into the kitchen and took the seat opposite Sonia. “I guess, what time is it?”
“Two,” Sonia said, crunching into her toast. “Hungry?”
I said “Yeah” as I grinned, anticipating a tasty breakfast.
Sonia likewise smiled, pointing towards the stovetop at the laid-out components of a growing breakfast. “There’s the eggs, bread, the toaster, and here’s the butter,” she indicated to a small dish at the center of the table. “You know what to do, I’m already eating.” She sat up in her seat with an impish grin on her lips, pointing at things with her fork.
I silently made my way to the stove top, cracked a couple eggs, and dropped their insides in a pan. “Did you sleep?” I asked, over my shoulder. I wanted it to seem as though what was happening was completely normal to me, and no big deal.
“Yeah,” she answered simply. I breathed a grateful sigh of relief. She’s playing it cool too, I thought.
I flipped my eggs with the spatula to my left and turned to the right, watching Sonia through the edge of my vision. “Good,” I said, raising my two eggs over hard out of the pan with the spatula. I placed my plate of eggs onto the table and joined it with a piece of toast, onto which I began to spread butter. “So what’s up for you today?”
As I started to ask the question I could tell by the wrinkles in her nose that it was annoying to Sonia. “I don’t know, what do you care?” Her left eyebrow elevated slightly, indicating what could have been incredulity, but was more likely bitterness.
“I don’t know. . .” after this first phrase I let a pause hang in the air. I thought about what I should say, and then I remembered our conversation from the night before. “I care because I guess because I like you, whaddya want me to say?”
Sonia stepped towards the sink and began to slap her palms down on the counter to the side off it, laughing uproariously. “Oh yeah,” she leaned over the sink and turned her head around to look in my eyes. She smiled softly, as if grinning on her own in a private moment, and then lightened the mood with a joke. “Did we ever find a dick in the sky last night?” As she said the word “dick” the teeth in her grin shined like the whites in her eyes and warmed my heart.
“No,” I said, returning her smile with my own as I did, “We can’t see stars in the city.”
“Right, of course,” said Sonia, taking the seat at the table opposite me. We both ate our meals slowly, inspecting each other’s faces, staring into each other’s eyes. “I bet if we could we would find dicks all over the place, though.”
I returned her comment with barely a pause, as if I were reciting written dialogue. “I imagine cavemen did.” I slowly took a bite of my toast. “They probably saw whatever they dreamt about in the night sky.” As I spoke I thought about the way that, in the past, before even literature, human imagination had to be ignited by perceived patterns in the stars.
“The stars were their TV, I guess,” Sonia chuckled to herself. I couldn’t remember ever meeting anyone who chuckled as much as she did. “I bet there’s lots of swastika’s up there too.”
I cackled furiously, and as we continued to discuss constellations, each of us burst into laughter over and over again. We imagined seeing written messages in the stars like “WASH ME” or “FOR A GOOD TIME CALL—“ as well as comic tableaus that told stories of people falling on their faces. Our discussion went on and on, accompanied by rising and falling waves of laughter, until I finally looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was 4:03.
“It’s four already,” I said, smiling wide and flashing Sonia the most tender eyes I could. “We’ve been talking for hours.”
Sonia, who’d just been sitting on the front room’s couch, yawned and stretched out onto her back. “Yeah,” she said, allowing her voice to fade away as she stared at the ceiling.
“Yeah,” I parroted, thinking about all the things we could do together. I imagined us as a private-eye team in the twenties; some cuckoo dame could come to us saying that she thinks her husband is cheating on her, but we would find something far more nefarious. Or maybe we could be lovers and artists in 19th century France, discussing the signals god sends us through the clouds. I could feel myself falling in love, for real, and then being in love.
I’d fallen in love in the past, or anyway I’d felt that great pain plenty, but I called it love only because of the cliche that “love hurts.” This was the type of love I’d grown accustomed to, the unrequited variety. This type of love is very sad, powerfully disruptive, and completely selfish.
I call this type of love selfish because when love is unrequited the loved figure ceases to be her own being, in my mind, and becomes my personal object of desire. This both strips her of her own identity, and means that she can only become a symbol of pain in my life. But now it seemed that I might actually get to “be” in love for a time, and I was excited to find out what that would be like.
As I sat on Sonia’s front room couch looking out the window, I daydreamed, allowing my conscious mind to flit around wherever it wanted. “Have you heard back from your mom?”
Hearing Sonia’s question was like stepping on a bear trap, and I was instantly curled in pain. Oh no, my inner monologue screeched, I forgot. “No, I should probably head back home.” I said coolly, as if everything were going splendidly and to plan, but inside I was a nasty cyclone.
You idiot, I cursed at myself silently through clenched teeth. While trying to seem calm and in-control, I clutched at my right thigh as hard as I could, feeling the shape of the bone in my thigh. She could be dead by now you useless, fucking loser.
“I’m in a show at Gallery Cabaret tomorrow,” Sonia chirped brightly, unaware of the emotional iron lung I was in. “It’s a stupid kinda show, basically an open mic really, but you could come, the show’s at eight.”
“Eight o’clock, tomorrow?” I spoke, thinking that I might not make it, because my mom might be dead. “I dunno, might be working’ late at the store, Tuesday’s our inventory day.”
“Oh okay,” she said, chirpy as ever and showing me a smile. Her cute, lovely eyes made me wonder why I’d lied to her. Tuesday wasn’t our inventory day, and I didn’t understand why I’d claimed it was. I said something nonspecific about hanging out later that day and got out of there. I had one concern: I’d been away from my normal life for too long, and I needed to see about it.
Before I could look back on my own mind and guess why I’d become such a liar, I slipped my shoes on and hustled out the door. I stalked onto the sidewalk in a big hurry to get home. As I sensed a matt of flop sweat on my forehead I imagined that I probably looked disheveled, desperate and lashing out at the world with passion.
I half-grinned as I hurried along in my khaki’s, huffing and puffing in rhythm with the sound the legs of my pants made rubbing together. ShvooBAH. My fat little stub legs made this sound as they crushed into each other with a crazy rhythm. It wasn’t more than maybe ten paces of this hurrying bullshit that my inner thighs felt like they would burn off. But just as the pain seemed a bit too much, like my pants would literally catch on fire, I found the strength to go on. I knew, as I saw Welles Park, which was about the midpoint between Sonia and I, I for the first time felt that maybe I would actually make it.
The pain was great and liberating. My legs burnt and I breathed smoke. I had collapsed onto one of the benches outside an organized middle school soccer game at Welles Park. As I sat there panting and coughing, watching little kids run and run, my head dropped, planting my eyes on the sidewalk beneath me. I closed my eyes, folding my hands between my knees. I grimaced, bearing my teeth and emitting a painful groan; what was I thinking?
As had happened frequently during my life so far and was likely to continue happening for the foreseeable future, I raged at myself without understanding why I’d done what I’d done. It was the right thing to do, I decided, to leave Sonia’s home for my own, as it may have been, but I shamed myself for doing it in such a sudden and unexplained fashion.
I considered going back, ringing her doorbell and waiting just outside for the door to open. With the door open, I’d have been free to shower Sonia with kisses to my hearts’ content, but I realized in the middle of this thought that it would have been a terrible idea. I calmed myself down, assured as I was that Sonia really did like me. I regretted leaving her as abruptly as I had, but I felt we’d really made a real connection, and that our connection could last for the foreseeable future.
I stood up from the bench and trotted home, the tension melting off my cheeks.
As I walked out of the park, my pace slowed greatly and I inspected every pile of leaves I came across, wandering over expanses of grass in lazy loops. I retrieved my phone from my pocket and called my mom once again, expecting her to answer and place an order. It was at that point around 4:30, and I knew that it was around this time on most days that my mother is overcome by a need to buy some liquor.
I rolled my eyes as I heard the start of the first ring, expecting my mom to pick it up after only a couple rings. When she did not, and the answering machine picked up, I left a pointless message. “Hey mom, how’s it going?” I don’t know why I asked questions like this one frequently in voicemail messages, but I always have. “Yeah anyway, so I had a great night last night and I hope you did too. I’ll be home in just a few minutes, see you then.”
Theree was no real reason to leave such a message, when I could have just hung up. I was suddenly gripped once more by the tremendous fear that I might discover my mother’s corpse. As I turned onto my street, and stared down the long row of houses to the end of the block, my pace quickened again.
I thought about finding my mother dead on the floor, in front of the TV, with a line of drool trailing from the edge of her mouth. Along with my fear that my mother could be dead when I arrived home came the sad realization that perhaps she’d be better off. She’d been hurtling downwards into despair for as long as I cared to remember. My biological father’s death, which occurred when I was only two years old, effected her more greatly, I think, than she ever let on. Maybe if I found her dead, I realized, I could believe that she is once again with her love.
Of course, I don’t really believe that. I believe after you die you will probably spend most of your time underground, and that’s about it. If my mom died while I was out, I realized, then I wouldn’t get to tell her about Sonia, and that would mean that my mother died believing that I was lonely; and without anyone. This fear more than anything, terrified me. I’d been excited to tell her about Sonia the next time she was sober, but she could have died while I was out.
This possibility gripped my spine and pulled me forward, causing me to sprint down the final half-block, coming to a rest before my front steps. As I slowed to a halt, my shoulders fell forward and I placed my hands on my knees. Doubled over, I gasped for air as quickly as I could, believing that more air would stifle the pain in my legs. I rarely run, because when I run my legs burn like the devil.
I moved slowly up my front steps and put my key in the lock. I began to feel very powerful and conflicting emotions about what I might find inside. I feared the grief that would overtake me when I saw that my mother was dead. Though through my fear of the great sadness I would feel upon discovering my mothers’ death, I also anticipated great relief. I thought a calming might overtake me, and it might be awesome.
This thought, that my mom’s death would be great, added a sharp layer of guilt onto my mess of emotions. This type of guilt is very familiar to co-dependents like me, it is the guilt of not making sure your addict has enough of their preferred drug. I didn’t need to worry, though, because when I opened the door and walked in, I saw my mother snoring, passed out on the couch.
As I’d long claimed to suspect, though actually I knew, my mother had several small bottles of vodka hidden around the house. “Hidden” isn’t the right word. I’d just say they were placed around my house, and while I was out my mother’ed downed a few.
She lay, passed out on the couch in the front room of my house, and I sighed theatrically, as if there was someone to complain to. She snored loudly as I slowly approached to guide her into her bed, but before I did I noticed Scrabble was out and set up. My mother had even put two words on the board, opposite each other; one for me and one for her. I smiled, because this was the same shit she always pulled when we played Scrabble.
It was a joke we shared. She’d set up a game of Scrabble for us, and she would place our first words. Her first word would just be a random jumble she made on the spot, and my first word would always be something unbelievably good like “ZOMBIFY” or “PACKWAX.” She would then say that these two words were completely random, and this meant that I began the game leading by one hundred and fifty points.
I never once bought it, though, and I would shake my finger at her. I imagine I was probably really cute when I was five years old, sneering at my mother and scolding her. “No cheating,” I would say, demanding that we draw again. We would draw again, and she would absolutely destroy me. I never was able to beat her, and I never will, because I don’t count it as a win unless neither player passes out before the end of the game.
My left hand rose to cover my mouth as I began to cry, softly and only a little before I was able to jam it back down my throat again. Another wave of tremendous guilt overtook me, as I remembered leaving a message saying that I’d be home soon, and even suggesting a game of Scrabble “like old times.” I thought this indicated that she was also excited about Scrabble, and that I’d driven her to drink by not coming back when I said I would.
I imagined her on the couch, setting up Scrabble, sitting and waiting. Who knows how long she waited, but she waited. I resented her to my core, for creating the circumstances that led me to feel tremendous guilt that I’d not made it home in time to play Scrabble with my mom. She’d have been drunk anyway, I told myself, lifting my mother from the couch and guiding her into her bed.
She was very heavy, like me, and I wasn’t in great shape especially after the walk. I regretted carrying her all this way, because I could have dragged her or just left her on the couch. Grunting and straining, I put her over my shoulder and dumped her on her bed, collapsing next to her sideways over the mattress. I realized then that I would love a sandwich, so I was off to make one.
Heading to the kitchen, I was excited by the possibilities. Open-faced grilled cheese with bacon on top!