You Can Have a Dog.

I held him for the first time after he was born and walked him about.  Beneath the mass of black curls atop his head, his big black eyes reminded me of my own, of photographs of my own, taken in the days and hours after my own birth.

He was moving his lips, and I was watching him work wordlessly when very clearly I understood him to say, “Can I have a puppy?”

My first fatherly decree would be that my son would have a dog.

“Yes, you can have a puppy.”

Someone else in that dream room laughed good-naturedly.  They hadn’t heard my son’s first words to me, they were touched by what they thought was my pantomime of fatherhood.

I walked with him a bit more in silence and he asked me, “What is worrying you?”

In dreams the whole world is your own mind, and your worries cut true figures with little effort, so I asked him, because the world is the place that it is,

“Was I right to bring you into this world?”

It was almost with a laugh that he said, “Old friend, you have never been able to remember or understand the passing of 2,000 years.  I’m happy to see you again.”

It’s true.  In my dream-mind I had that waking-world irked struggle with familiarity that always surrenders to affability and further investigation.  I knew my son, and I knew I should know my son.  But, then again, I didn’t.  I was simply happy.

“Then welcome back.”

Last Night I Dreamed of Hurricanes

The house didn’t belong to my grandmother, is how I imagined I would start to tell someone as I stood staring at the old, discolored wallpaper, at cracks in old plaster walls in this composite house in my dream, but that was the reason I was there. That it had belonged to my grandmother, whose house has long been sold and which, to my clinging, nostalgic sorrow, I won’t ever find myself in again. It was on an island, and we were, both the family who had been there and who was expected in a few days, going over it to make sure we had saved all those artifacts whose sense memory would link us to our pasts.

The island was very small, and the hurricane was sudden. The grey wall of the sea reared a mile high or more than a mile offshore, and I was sure we would be lost. The tide moved from the front to the back of the house that was not my grandmother’s house, as I have said, but was intended to be, even though it was a composite of many houses. Water rushed through the empty living room that the front door opened on, and out the back door of the empty kitchen. It was not my grandmother’s first story, it was my mother’s, but that’s not important. I finally thought to shutter the doors and went out back. The Japanese open air cafe under the house was in full swing. The weather was not good, the wall of water stood there as though built of bricks just offshore, but the Japanese were calm, taking their oddly flavored pizzas and drinks. I, too, became more comfortable with the impending doom that may or may not visit, and walked down to the line where the soil gave way to sandy beach to stand and watch the water standing up as though it thought it was a man.

Simple Visions

Muscle memory kept Ilya the driver beautiful. He lifted a finger, set the cruise control, answered his cell phone, made the rare use of his turn signal, and his tissue reciprocated magically with new and fabulous striations, rich grains whose alluring strength was uncontained by the suit coat he wore. The eyes of passengers find health and strength like wizards will find water in desert countries where it sits below an inconsequential surface, and the chauffeur was iconic of health and well-being. He held his clientele in the hypnotic sway of either attraction or fearful respect.

for fifteen years, fifteen hours a day he shuttled humans to or back from the airports over the uneven pavement that could hardly be called a proper road, over the seemingly randomly channeled spread of concrete and asphalt divided by temporary concrete rails in new patterns daily, like frost on an airplane window, that crept outward from the unnatural, growing concrete and glass metropolitan crystal garden on the island whose new facets of poured stone and hung glass, that slowest of fluids, he kept framed either in his windshield or in his rear-view mirror. It was a quiet life free of unexpected disappointments he never had to call on his vast strengths to vanquish.

The day he picked up the old nun he was unable to fasten the cuffs on his sleeves. On the third try He gave up on pushing the cuff links through the holes, and when he opened the drawer to replace them on his dresser 3 spiders, each with three stripes on their bellies in the shape of a cross, or a sword, or a crosshairs, made for the corners. He picked up his keychain, holding 3 keys, and left the house.

He arrived three minutes early and, as he was waiting, denied three calls for a pickup in the area. The convent where he picked the nun up was situated on a triangle of land between ill-planned roads, and the front door was on a small porch the old woman had to descend three steps from as she was bade adieu by two other ascetics.

The nun gave him a strange and long look as he lifted her three traveling bags into the trunk of his car, the last of which was unusually heavy. The trunk took three attempts to close. He had three quarters of a tank of gas left.

“That last bag was a heavy one,” he remarked when they had gotten underway.

“It contains the Word.” She replied. Ilya’s mind told him it must just be some devotional fervor that made her response so strange, that it was just religious stuff, but he couldn’t shake the chill that ran down his spine. The rest of the journey was spent in an understandable silence.

She had asked him to take her to an airfield whose name he did not know, but he did not think it was strange until later, until he had been thinking on all the events of the day after the fact.

When he had left her at the funny little airport, alone somewhere far away on Long Island with nothing surrounding it, he stopped for lunch and found that she had left the heaviest bag in his trunk. Somehow he had forgotten to remove it.

He finished his lunch and pointed his car toward the convent to return the bag to his passenger’s cohort, but the windows were dark and, like so many specimens of bungalow architecture, in the building’s eerie vacancy had taken on the mien of eyes seeing for a strange and timeless mind. There was no answer when he arrived.

He brought the car with the bag in it back to his home, where he hefted it with great struggle up the stairs and into his apartment. He set it down beside his computer, which he turned on to check his email and Facebook messages. With dismay at the difficulties he was being forced to surmount, he let the bag fall open, and a large flash drive in the shape of a casket that said “Facebook” on it fell out onto the floor. It was fully large enough to fit a man of his size.

Without thinking, he let his curiousity get the better of him and he lifted the giant vessel to the USB port of his desktop computer. It slid in and mounted and, as it did, the casket opened.

Ilya climbed inside.

Yours On All Counts

Amid offhand pissing contests, stories about the more unbearable depression, there you were in the canopy, languid amid the apples of my eyes. When I saw you I told you,

“Seeing you is like hearing bells ringing.”

All you were willing to try was refilling my coffee, was trading a tale of unromantic origins.

You and I fell from the same mold, this is what I was thinking.

“You and I were shipped to the same big box retail giant, Saran-wrapped into the same forklifted pallet, returned in the same consumer recall, implicated in the same class action lawsuit,”

Is what I said.

You weren’t not unsure of how to respond, but you also just didn’t seem concerned while I remained conscious of my elephant gun clumsiness, my proletarian design features, my reaching for an acceptably unhaughty demonstration of the goodwill toward couture while still remaining able to stay in touch with my relatives.

No more coffee, no more small talk, all this caffeine and frustrated ambition makes me fart, and I want to control the airs I put on for you. You, who sit in disdain of all effort as you foil me.

“If this is really all there is, if that is the case,” you say with a tired heft of your eyelashes, “I wish you’d say something to me that doesn’t already contain its own end. I wish you’d stop chasing your tail and match the universe with your ambition. You’re not giving me anything to hold on to, and being cruel and being kind have in common that they can only go so far. I’m becoming irritated at embodying your clichés. I wish you’d tell me your own stories.”

Alright.

“I quit,” Is what I say as I stand up. “I’ll meet you when your shift is over and we’ll change our names so our last paychecks can never reach us.”

“I’ll never be able to serve you coffee again.” You pretend to be saddened to inform me.

“I’ll never have to build time for longing into my day again.”

“Yes,” you say, “You’re getting it. Now tell me again about bells ringing. Now I’ll know it’s true.”

Your Days at Fermilab are Numbered

They turned their noses up at him- they, of all people. These second rate Einsteinian hangers on and their pathetic jumping rope of a particle accelerator locked in the strange pre-urban Eastern hell of Batavia, Illinois.

Couldn’t these losers, these dead-enders, these limited lifers see he was just doing a penance, he was serving a sentence, lowering himself to undeserved depths to prove his superiority, to stay in the game, to show everyone he was right?

They turned their nose up at his Von Agassi science shorts, so short and tight his white, academic flesh could feel the wind of science giving him goosebumps through the very scientific curled mat of hair all the mannish men in his family sported in tight dark coils in the hidden reaches.

They turned their noses up when they could plainly see that his jacket was an original Donna Plaasma. He had cultures more cultured than these backwater Quebecois furriers.

And Danil “Dan” Ostrov, the middle-built, round of face Russian Jew string theorist, with his jokes and good nature, his soviet-era glasses that never seemed to revert back from their polarized state when he came in from the sun… that sonofabitch wouldn’t even acknowledge that he hated him. Hated him for tagging the only piece of Nobel quality tail from this wintry grove of twigs to New York City, the kind of place where he really belonged.

He deserved to fuck Bergdora Fafnirsdottir, not that Cossack-fleeing turnip peddler, with her easygoing straightforwardness and her great, photogenic tits- those tits that stood up like a veteran at during a ballgame rendition of the national anthem even in her dowdy, stock-issue Fischer Scientific lab coat, straight and stock still as though they had compensated for her going into a pacifist life devoted to bettering the plight of mankind by enlisting in the army and making general.

He deserved the recognition he had been deprived of when he was shipped off of the CERN Large Hadron Collider project for being caught trying to put his dick in it right before putting it in a curious grad student. Shortly after that that opportunist Blake Onionplaatz had finally won approval for his experiments that stood to create food for the hungry built from the cosmos’ limitless beams of free energy.

These people should show more respect for someone who was almost the incredible hulk below the waist.

The Ghosts of Loves Unfinished

“Know this thing for certain,” these the first words he forms in his mind as though they could be spoken when he wakes in the dark, though he does not actually speak, “Dreams will always betray you and how you think things are going.”

When for weeks life was workaday, now those things whose constance was assured and assented to have been summarily brought back under review by the subconscious committee and rejected for fitness in one decisive motion.  In a meeting held as he slept, no less.

His compromise with life is to operate on scale.  His new job could be worse than it is.  The fact that it is better than his last job gives him a solace that will, for a time, function in lieu of success.  His wife is loyal and loves him honestly.  When he imagines his wife’s love and the love of the woman he had let come before as neutral red foam bars rising up from the ground beside each other as though they are part of a bar graph quantifying and comparing the two varieties of intimacy and relationship, the sum total of his wife’s kindness and honesty stands very noticeably taller than hers, the one he had committed to before,  she who was brilliant but prone to boredom, who had been very adept at digging him hollow like a native’s canoe when his jokes and drinking were no longer funny and paddling him ably up shit creek.

Dreams will not re-read the pages of chapters written to their finish and ask what might have been.  Here the length and breadth of the betrayal of a dream is limited to wistful remembering, a fresh taste of the variety of loneliness that that one left you with unameliorated by time or rationalization.  The worst these dreams can do is sit on your chest like a succubus until you’ve shaken their weight off.  But that weight will always come off.  Demons you have exorcised will drop in for tea now and again, after all, but abide by a politeness not observed in that first breaking and entering.

When dreams team with the phantasms of loves that end by no impetus more robust than circumstance, however, there is the formula that dissolves the palliatives binding prosaic life like an enzyme, a perfect equation suited to the task of digesting the patchwork of acceptance of the way things have become until it appears ragged as resignation.

The dream brought her to him again, she whom he had been happy enough to see off, in whose bon voyage he carried little enough outward culpability, in the acceptance of whose departure he bowed to finance and a nascent career he wasn’t particularly interested in.  She, too, young as she was, shrugged off the blow, apparently.

“I’ll never know.” he speaks aloud this time, lying on his back.

Greater than the hunger that is now awakening in his belly, and harsher than the weird lack of the caffeine his waking mind is beginning to crave, he feels the want to stop the feeling that he’s been absolutely thorough in his life only in the pursuit of the wrong thing.

Almost all of his regrets begin with ellipses:

…and that’s why I have to go to work in an office every day.
…and that’s why I’ve never been published.
…and that’s why I’m not free now to do what I want.

Only one of them, this morning, begins with gold blonde hair and eyes as big and blue and portending of a coming lack as they were once present and tangible in one summer in his life.  Only one of them makes him crave to hear French spoken to him early in the morning as he heard again as he was sleeping that night.

“J’embrasse, mon petit coeur.”

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Surrendering to the Lure of the Great Known

The meeting occurred like every moment that changes life. It began as though it had been planned. No one was aware it was happening until someone lost an eye, or brushed a nipple, the gist being that it resulted in that deformation of a moment commonly packaged under the nomenclature “impropriety”.

So, in the moment after he had glanced at a new placard pasted up on the plywood shell of some new scaffold, overcome in that moment of marketing genius when the second and third glances at the shirtless girl photographed there, while failing to produce a better or more substantial view of the breasts she so provocatively managed to cover with an arm while still granting the voyeur full access to the knowledge that her breasts were very significantly present (very significantly), in that moment when he was contemplating the contradiction that had arisen between his desire to understand why he would be driven into a state of limitless potential action by this particular variety of beauty despite all that he knows that he has already and his awareness of his knowledge of the sudden object of his desires in reality (the Russian is no more than a girl, her beauty is cold in its perfection, her eyes are round and staring, bold but lacking the investment to care enough to know they are bold, her cheeks- the perfect skin is so new- are high, and fear of want and early, perpetual envy have made her limitlessly cruel in her new and weaponized beauty-it’s clear!) and his surrender to this evoked desire, in that moment when he is overcome by the urge to fuck an attractive stranger, the woman who is not his girlfriend recognizes him.

They knew one another in earlier days, and the two were strangers then- both to each other and to themselves. They ended as strangers, and only strangers, can end. They parted vaguely, and on good terms.

So it was a few drinks later, she was telling of trying to make it as a writer in a bar he had chosen and, until then, had kept familiar only to himself, and they were distracting themselves by faking wonder at the truths, witnessed or passed to them through hearsay, that were so much stranger than the fiction they churned out- the fiction that they secretly felt revealed how paltry their talent, as well as the world’s real need for writers, really was. That’s what they were doing with all those words. Faking wonder and keeping secrets, dancing a long white lie and spending time with an extravagant wastefulness unbefitting of their station.

She, being a woman, beautiful, had the more interesting story.

“I had a friend, someone I had met through the club somehow…”

He knew about the loose association of drunks and part-time recidivists to respectability she mingled with from before, from when it could be said he knew her, the changing cloud of bleariness and impressions of social memories she referred to as the “club”. He had been a droplet in one of those nimbuses at some indeterminate time in the infinite before, himself, around when he met her, though it wasn’t how he had met her.

“She was a “dancer”,” she spoke so that he could hear the quotes, “and she just lived to have fun. She had tried going to school, she had moved around, she had “serious” “relationships”,” again with the audible quotes, “and eventually she learned she had to live with herself as someone who realized she only enjoyed one thing or hate herself for the rest of her miserable life.”

“I can imagine the conversation you were having. The cockfight of sincerities, I call it. I’m trying to work it into a story. It’s where two drunks meet and try to out-sincere each other with vasty declarations of common bonds. Always amusing. Always amusing in hindsight.”

At the word cockfight, her eyes raised at the same time as her glass.

“I suppose we’re having one of those right now?”

“No, but I think we’re moving in that direction. So, finish your story.”

“So, she realizes that, for better or for worse, and she knows it’s shallow, she knows there is a world of depth to be reached just by acknowledging one iota of the contrivedness and eventual emptiness of the life she is living… the only thing she enjoys doing is stripping, being sexy in a totally contained environment set aside for nothing but. All she cares about is having fun and that’s all she thinks is fun.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. And then one time I run into a friend of hers, she comes up in conversation, and all anyone can say is that they think she moved home. Or somewhere equally conceptually far away from here and now.”

The warm reciprocation of description, of aiding in adding to the narrative was kicking in, so he threw in,

“Forever. That’s it.”

She used it.

“Forever. That’s it. And do you know why?” She ended her sentence like she was sharing a secret. She was getting a bit sincere.

“Pregnancy? Death in the family? Nervous breakdown?”

“Nope. One day, for no reason, she started to get nauseous when she was cold. Not even cold, really. She’d get nauseous when she had a chill. At goosebumps. And that was it. She couldn’t parade her terrific tits out in front of anyone anymore.”

She, the attractive stranger, the woman who was not his girlfriend, had had really terrific tits. She still did. He had always remembered them and her own fondness of them and awareness of just how terrific they were with a wistful sort of sentimental horniness. He liked that she was letting it happen that the two of them were able to share that memory together again, finishing the story like that, with those words and with her terrific tits right there at the table with them as a visual reminder.

She put her glass down. She had those lips that were red without lipstick when she was a little flushed, a little excited. She stared a little past nothing, pursed her lips and blew.

“And then one day you stop being able to enjoy the one thing you love,” she said as though writing it down. Speaking in the expository style.

They both sat still for a moment and really thought about how lousy and undeserving they were as writers, then about their age, and then their peers.

“Stupid.” He said.

Stupid that someone would live so willfully shallow a life, stupid that life would reciprocate by demolishing the foundations of that contrivance. Stupid how the two of them suffered for their romantic ideas of success as writers among their small professional circle of the envious.

They reserved a split second of guilt and reassurance for crimes as yet uncommitted, then the teenage gameshow wash of surrender to pounding hearts and mystery outcomes hidden in boxes. Mystery mostly hidden in shaved boxes, with a trim of light blonde hair.