I've never had the grasp of days. It could have been four weeks ago, or perhaps six, that the dreams began. Perhaps it was only two, but it surely feels a deal longer than that. I've never been the sort to reckon my dreams, and that is why the same ones recurring nightly struck me. It seemed every time I put head to pillow, I was visited by a young man with grey hair, in an ivory suit. He usually brings a switchblade with a pearl handle, like my father used to own.
Sometimes he throws acid or scalding coffee in my eyes. Sometimes he lurks by the stairs and seizes my ankles. Every night is a little different, whether I try to escape through a window and fall into a garden of thorns, or hide under the bed and he finds my ankle sticking out, or I simply charge him and have my tendons slashed. Every night it's the same end. The same pearl-handled switchblade.
After a week, I took to writing down what happened, to record, to perhaps show a psychiatrist. Evidence of a dream is a troubling thing. Also, it’s ridiculously hard to find one who’s taking new patients this time of year.
Now you might tell me to disregard the dreams. Yet three days ago, I saw him in broad daylight. His ivory suit, his grey hair, his utter lack of wrinkles. He was having demitasse at the cafe across from where I always eat lunch.
He has been to the cafe every day for the past three days. Those I’ve counted. He has demitasse and nothing else, and never looks at me, at least when I’m looking at him. Today he brought his mail with him; he opened the envelopes with a switchblade. I nearly threw up when I saw him pull it from an interior pocket. That was no letter opener, though he applied it to four letters, and read them studiously. Three he tucked into his ivory jacket. The fourth he left on his table, with a hundred dollar tip, weighed down by his cup.
Whatever you'll say of me, I'll hear nothing against my venturing to his table after he caught his cab. I had to see the scene. It was a need.
The demitasse was unfinished, still steaming in the mid-day gloom, smelling faintly familiar. I could have sworn that drink had been thrown in my face some night. I took the envelope as his waitress came over. She nearly called the police on me, but I insisted that I knew him and had to return the letter for business.
The envelope bore my address. My specific P.O. Box at the towers, and for several minutes all I could think was to throttle the manager for giving this ivory-suited stranger a double of my key. It made me feel positively insane, too much be a hideous dream, and I drew out paper to write everything down, because in dreams you can’t make time work so neatly. Because I needed record and evidence that this was happening.
But the letter. The letter inside the envelope, one sheet of paper, folded three times in the way I've done since third grade. Even the handwriting was familiar. How my a's and o's look the same. How I forget to dot things.
The letter in the envelope was the one I’m writing now.
My palms broke into a sweat and I nearly crumpled the thing up. I want to incinerate it, but my hands wouldn’t let me. They had to preserve evidence.
What’s crazy is that as I’m writing this, I can’t think of anything else to say. The letter’s words, its statements, its facts are all my mind can conjure. It’s as though his stolen mail is all there is. I can’t invent anything else. My imagination turns on me. Every sentence chronicling what I’m thinking is another step down what this sheet of paper says. I couldn’t even avoid going home, even though I read on and knew better.
I’d write more. I’d start scribbling, draw something since the letter has illustration, just to deviate from its ugly omniscience. I’d like to invent who you are – to find out who I’m writing to. Why haven’t I dreamed you? Or have I, and I can’t remember? But there isn’t time for that question, or to invent an answer.
I don’t have the time, for I saw him outside, just as I read that he’d be there. He was across the street a minute ago. Now someone is buzzing my apartment. It’ll be worse when he stops buzzing and stops waiting. I’ve dreamed what happens then.
I need some place to be, some place to hide or defend that I haven’t dreamed him in before. I’ve latched the windows, unplugged appliances, thrown away all the heavy objects he’s ever wielded, and what do I find? There’s no corner of this apartment he hasn’t killed me in before.
There’s someone knocking at the door. Have I ever let him into the apartment before? I can’t remember how he gets in. I’m no good at remembering dreams.