I Wish I Could Tell You This Straightforwardly

A catalog.

That there
That’s not me
I go
Where I please
I walk through walls
I float down the Liffey
I’m not here
This isn’t happening

— Radiohead, “How To Disappear Completely

1.

“I know you want to make out with me,” this girl says.

I’m sitting on the ground beside the magazine rack of the Rite Aid I used to walk to with my father on Sundays. This is a dream, but you have to be careful about what you say in situations like these, especially because she’s pretty much right.

She’s leaning over me, wearing an outfit I think she might have been wearing two weeks ago when I saw her last. She tells me the words she’s saying like they’re a secret she’s been holding onto for a long time — and I’ll probably never hear her talk like this to me in real life, and I’ll never hear her say these words to me. Her eyes burn blue, the color of the flames of my stovetop (but is that the right color? I can’t remember), and I notice that her lips are parted, ready to do more than kiss me: Ready to hear what I’ll say to her.

I don’t say anything.

Just nothing. I don’t know what the right thing to do is, so it’s better just to do nothing. I don’t even look at her.

And then I remember that we need to be going somewhere, so we go together. We reach the door to Phoebe’s, the underspace of the college theater. The door is painted black; everyone on campus knows it’s supposed to be haunted here. I was talking with some friends about this a couple days ago, back when I was awake. I told them that I didn’t believe it was haunted.

But now I’m terrified, like I’ve been here before and something horrible happened. But I don’t remember what it could have been.

I reach for her hand, but she won’t take it.

She just looks at me funny. How could I think of doing such a thing?

I’m sorry.

I wish I could tell her I’m sorry, but I just don’t say anything because it’s probably better that way.

2.

There is something coming toward me. I know it more than my own name. I don’t know what it is but I can feel it coming quicker and quicker now, zooming straight in on my sleeping body. This is one of those dreams where I know I’m asleep but the rules of the dream still can’t be broken — and the other rule I know is that it’ll only get me if I’m still in my bed when it arrives, that it won’t be able to see me if I’m not there.

I can’t move even though I want to. I can see my body lying there, frozen in bed, seeing but not seeing.

There’s a moment of pure flurrying panic and then I wake up halfway with my head driving itself into my bedroom floor, my legs still stuck on the bed. My shoulder muscles ache like I’ve torn them apart, like I’ve lifted five thousand pounds onto my back.

It doesn’t feel safe here.

3.

Someone is knocking on my apartment door. Who could it be? I think. It’s too late for visitors.

I stumble down the tiny hallway to my front door, flip on the light but it doesn’t hurt my eyes. But before I can look through the peephole, the door comes crashing open.

(I forgot to lock it. I’m supposed to remember these kinds of things now.)

It’s my friend Jeff Scott, but he’s not smiling and when he talks, I can’t understand the words. He’s going to hurt me, I know, and it doesn’t make any sense so I decide that this dream is going to be over now, that I’m going to be awake now, and back in my bedroom, in my apartment, in a safer world.

Now, I think, as he keeps walking forward, now

Now, back to the safer world …

Now …

Please …

4.

I notice that someone has been in the background for a long time without me noticing. When I look at him, I know his name is Poland and he’s a pig, I think.

I ask him to tell me about himself, and he shows me a narrative of all the dreams I’ve had tonight. I’m no longer in the middle of it. Nothing is happening to me. I can see it happen.

When each dream ends, I don’t forget what happened anymore. And I can see things now much more clearly: I can understand the reasons why my friends are doing strange things and why they speak so illogically. It’s because of all the feelings they keep hidden inside themselves, the desires I can never see or understand in real life.

Now my vision moves beyond my own dreams, into the dreams of everyone I know. I can understand finally. I can understand like no one else ever has.

There’s another scene change but the new dream is one I’ve already seen. The story is looping over itself. I ask Poland, “Is this the only story that happens? Isn’t there more?”

He doesn’t answer.

I’m stuck watching as the story continues.

Article © 2002 by Chris Klimas