A Few Short Words

Dense Not Thick




I woke up moaning in despair, separated from you by inches, infinite neurons, and the wilds of sleep. I’d dreamt I was a cuckoo’s cuckold. Another shape moved in my place to drink my fill of you. I begged, pleaded, and performed the menial while your love for me evaporated. ‘Don’t do this,’ you said, regret and contempt so vivid and visceral it tore the dreams from my head. Brutally aware of mixed realities, I lay in the dark listening to the night birds sing the world awake, weeping for myself and a life that is and never was.


We lay in bed holding hands like main stream otters and drift into sleep. We meet then in dreams where the visage can be hazy but the intents are clear and carry an undercurrent of the day’s rumination. At times our faces are other, garish masquerade or marvellous gall, but only for the objective of the interim. This then is important for the process of understanding purpose, of distilling the chameleonic collation that coalesces in headspace.  Who are our minds at rest. In the morning we wake, in arms or at odds but always together, and pool our experiences.


I wake into her as the drowning man, gasping and lost. She strokes my hair as the seawater nightmare drains from my lungs and says, ‘Hush.’ Have I been sleeping? ‘Sort of,’ she says, ‘in a way we both have.’ My skin seems aerated, void of tension, and I worry her arms wont be enough to tether me. ‘Don’t worry,’ she says, as though my thoughts were a stream running over opal pebbles and passing from her lips, ‘we have each other now and that’s all there is.’ I worried I might never wake, I say, opening my eyes.


I wonder if you’re asleep by now. Probably a pillow curled against you, defence. Maybe one of your stuffed friends. It’s getting cold now, about the right temperature for you to want a hard spoon. Makes me wish you were here, though I’m sure you’d just get all elbows as usual. I picture you tangled up like you get, somewhere between hot and cold in a pollock of blanket. You look, well, rested I guess. What I wouldn’t give to be there, beside you, sharing air. Makes me wonder what it was like for you, that first night alone.


I dreamt of you last night, abusing me on television. You were being interviewed for a piece on arthritic hips and somehow found a tangent to include my defamation. Watching you broadcasting hatred, I was outraged and confused and happy you were hurting. I woke turgid and stinging, bitter feelings clinging at me, stinking, meaty shreds of memory tainting my sense of me. I scrub and can’t get clean. I don’t know how to say, I hate you, so I carry your shame and resentment with my id, paying penance for my wisdom and getting guidance for my sins.


When I get up she’s playing Xbox in her underwear. Sitting on the couch and distracted, an empty mug wedged into the hollow cross of her legs. Coffee, she says, trying to make it sound like an offer, not looking up from the screen. I can hear the buttons clicking while she doesn’t look at me. I pace around behind her while I wait for the kettle. Window to bench, bench to couch, couch to table, table to window. Checking into the corners with measured steps. I walk over and ease the mug from her lap.

‘What do you want to do today?’ she asks the screen.

The kettle screams.

I don’t know, I say, whatever you’re into.

Something scratches at the back of my mind, some fragmented dream wanting to come back into consciousness. I try not to think while I fix our coffees, letting a little bit of Zen seep in with the sugar and instant granules. There’s too much immediacy and the dream nags.

‘It’s nice out,’ she says.

Pieces of dreams float in and out, thoughtless nothings that fail to catch. I walk over and put the mug down in front of her and she reaches out, wrapping her hand around my forearm. Her fingers are cold and I find myself looking at the shadows of the room as though they hid an explanation.

‘I love you,’ she says, and I lean down into her kiss.

In my dream I say, I love you, and then lose some small McGuffin. I spend my life searching, asking familiar strangers for directions to places I’ve already been. Go on, they say in idle tones, and I walk on until I wake, scattering hopes around me like sand thrown at the wind.

I heard its going to rain, I say, and walk out onto the balcony.


She watches him go, slightly bored, with an onset of the musty disappointments you find at the end of dreams. Her thoughts a slithering question mark. Under the surface she says, surreal, full punctuation unseen. She washes her hands of electricity, fingertip sensations tightly strung end to end in to a webbing that she rubs free of care. Stung now empty, watching at nothing, she captures the wait. Tapping tap tapping, heels’ rapping kinetic, churning the water wheel. Under the surface she says, refresh, zero punctuation clearly heard. Rising she goes, following a stream of consciousness, only flotsam now.

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