Friday, December 14, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Evidence of a Dream



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.

27 comments:

  1. Horror indeed. I don't think I can in all conscience thank you for this, because I suspect it is going to haunt me this evening. Indeed something is making my shoulder blades twitch now. So, while I cannot thank you - I do applaud you. Nastiness captured v well indeed.

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    1. I appreciate withholding your typical salutations - thank-yous really don't belong in the world of delivering unhappy endings. But thank you very much for your kind words.

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  2. Great piece. Very strong. Echoes of King and Kafka, but saying that's just alliterative and pretentious straw clutching. I'll just say instead: Wow! My hat is off to you in wonder at your prolific output.

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    1. If I can do a medium between King and Kafka, then I definitely spent my night correctly! Thanks!

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  3. psychic self=persecution and directional time scramble as Katherine was suggesting in her flash.

    marc nash

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    1. There are some themes in the community this week. It's a little eerie.

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  4. A character deep in his own world. Needs an outsider to come and pull him out of it. Sharp and engaging writing as always and I thought "The letter in the envelope was the one I’m writing now." was a very nice touch.

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    1. Interesting that you read him as too deep into his own world. Was that primarily because of his dreams and fascination with them, or other factors?

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  5. You know those trippy fantasy movies where at some point the character's world literally turns upside down and it sort-of takes you a few moments to catch up and reorient yourself?
    This sentence: "The letter in the envelope was the one I’m writing now."
    was that turn for me. I can't say I entirely caught up by the time the story ended and I was left more disoriented than scared/unsettled.
    I feel like i've just finished reading a really short David Lynch screenplay.

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    1. That sentence emerged naturally out of the writing process. I hadn't planned the piece to go in that direction, and wondered if emphasizing the letter as a twist would work on people. Certainly glad I tried it for the effect it had on you!

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  6. I'll second the descriptions of trippy and miasmic. When he begins to questions his own memory and perceptions of reality, the piece really sinks its teeth in.

    Well done.

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    1. What made the teeth sink in for you there, Tony?

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  7. Amazing piece. The letter makes me want to think the young grey-haired man is the narrator himself, whether a projection or from out of time, and that he is indeed missing a crucial - perhaps life-saving - part of his dreams. The why. It's as if he wants to die, despite all his defensive preparations that amount to little more than denial while clearing the field.

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    1. I love your interpretation, Larry. Totally valid and makes me like my own work a little more. Made my whole morning a bit brighter.

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  8. wickedly delightful, john. and, as an added perk, someone knocked on my door just as i finished the read.


    i didn't answer.

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    1. Haha! Oh Quin, that's great. Make sure to check under the door and see they leave.

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  9. This is truly creepy stuff, and his desperation certainly seems to mount as the letter goes on. Question is, how does the letter end?

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  10. This is a tough one to wrap my brain around.

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  11. The question is, is it all in his imagination, or does that man exist? This has a touch of the surreal about it with a dash or two of creepiness.

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    1. Did the creepiness work for you, Helen?

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    2. I think the last line had the impact you intended.

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  12. There's a Borges or two like this (then again, there's a Borges or two like everything). But since Borges is one of my favourite writers...

    I loved this. Loved the intensity, loved the gaps and stutters that the narrative just steamrolls over, loved the certainty of the confusion.

    I could totally see this expanded into a feature film that will never be made unless Christopher Nolan hears about it.

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    1. Just as with Kafka and King, I will very happily take a comparison to Borges! I adore his shorts; I keep going back to the collected edition.

      Also, the Nolan synopsis made me chuckle. I could see that. I was thinking of drawing the story out, taking the reader into each revelation of the patterns and expansion. Not sure how well it would work out, but I didn't know if this flash would work either.

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  13. Chilling, this line especially: "There’s no corner of this apartment he hasn’t killed me in before." (Although that may be his saving grace? Nowhere left to hide but also nowhere left to kill.)

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  14. I was there, throughout the whole story and the horror it intended to evoke. That worked just like this *clicks fingers*
    I think this is my fav for the week so far; resonated with me so well, the tone and the pace, going back and forth in a written form. Again you have me inspired, John! Thank you.

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