(at least that’s what they say.)
Cat Power. Meow. Phoenix the cat rushes to my side. 5:09 am. I think that qualified as a nightmare. Or is this the nightmare? The truth. The reality in which these beings actually act, watch, punish. This is the second time I’ve woken up. Last time, 2:03 am. NOOOOOOOOO. I usually “wake up” around 5 or 6 as Phoenix runs up to me purring, and then starts suckling (read: clawing) my face. Feeding time. At 2 she was plopped down right on my chest. I laughed, ignored my need to use the washroom, went back to sleep. 5:11. Purring at my side for several moments. Oh, that’s nice, baby cat, that’s nice…
Then out come the claws. She starts playing with the nose ring I’ve just put back in – after forgetting that I finally had money to purchase nose jewelery. First I cover the other nostril and blow out, hoping that the backing of one of the earrings I’ve been using in lieu hasn’t made its way down farther yet. I wonder how many have? Where are they now? I didn’t set off the metal detector at the airport two weeks ago. I think I’m safe. These things have a way of working themselves out. Or being made of such crappy material that they’re not metal enough to be metal, and manage to lodge themselves so deep… I imagine my autopsy for a second.
“It appears to be the back piece of an earring. Was the killer trying to leave some kind of message?”
Is that how I will die? Murder? It would probably be one of the easiest ways. Unexpected. It’s the anticipation that really kills you.
I cover my face with the blanket to avoid what she does not realize is a potentially painful attack, not play, though I cannot blame her, the thing is quite outlandish, a hoop with little green beads woven into it such that they stick out to the side.
A bauble, a bookmark, a bee-sting.
We lie there for a while, I need to digest. Jima and I sitting here, there, at a bar. An uncomfortable scene that we’ve turned in to a play. Play. So much fun, like two little children, sitting together and giggling about something that doesn’t exist. We arrived with my father and ex #1 in tow. Jima knows him too, well – well, not as well as I do. He has managed to charm his way into coming to a bar with us after some kind of play, the kind with actors on a stage. Jima and I know how to talk to each other such that no one else can hear.
“This is really awkward.”
“Yes it is.”
But we are together, so it is also highly amusing. Will father slam his fist on the table and demand that he be repaid $20,000? Will I look down, will I run away, Jima following me out into the street, when he starts speaking of the damage he did to his daughter? Will daughter start crying?
Actors on a stage.
Back to reality. No, the dream doesn’t end there, but I must mark the passing of the magic hour when no one else is awake and nothing exists but my hands. A cigarette. Cars humming past, the wind sounds about 1000 times stronger, people waking, jogging, showering – all proper, like. About the order. A cigarette.
A cigarette in the garage, the first of the day, the only good one. I’m “not supposed to smoke in here”, but it is early. The beautifully thick orange ashtray that belonged to my grandmother. She was allowed! She was in her seventies and dying of lung cancer. Fair enough. But the wind – from here it squeals. A baby pig begging for milk. Next time I leave I will take the ashtrays (they are a pair) with me. By then I will have quit this horrid habit and I will plant herbs in them and put them on a windowsill. The space exists, but I am not there yet. Still running.
(at least that’s what they say.)
The waiter is clever, and swoops in to save the night. “A Guinness.” Jima is wearing a button down workshirt emblazoned with a Guinness logo. She does not drink beer, so I should know this is a dream, not when I notice the shirt, but when she smiles that huge smile that only she can smile and announces, “A Guinness sounds great!” I rest my elbow on the table, always the indecisive one. “Yeah, actually, a Guinness sounds pretty good.” Ex #1 orders some ridiculous cocktail that probably costs $15. So who will be paying for this now, Daddy? You’re disgusting.
Did I say that out loud? Ex #1 gets up from the table as soon as the drinks arrive. Soon he is sitting next to a girl whose chair is pulled up to a booth behind us.
“I think he slept with her,” Jima whispers from across the table.
“No, the one he’s sitting next to! The one wearing hot pants!”
I am awfully dense about these things, and have usually looked around and caught the attention of everyone in the room (is she looking at me?) by the time I see the person I’m supposed to be looking at, if I see them at all. However, the acid wash hot pants give me a break. Green-streaked mousy blond hair with thick bangs. Some grrrrls could pull it off, but not this one – I catch a glimpse of the most average face in the most average bar on the planet. Not the moon. I don’t belong here, I don’t belong here. Medusa, the green streaks are snakes in disguise. The two are sitting very close now, and neither notice my gaze. Of course not.
The chatter, the charmer, the chaplain.
Why are we sitting across from each other? Father has found that there are old Nintendo games that can be played for free at the back of the place, not far from our table – I think he looks like he’s having fun. Maybe not, as Jima utters once more,
I slide up beside her; she is filling out a passport replacement application, like the one I have been putting off for weeks.
Wait, how did she get here, from overseas, without a passport? I forget that she has double citizenship and assume she pulled it off somehow. She has her ways. Filling out this ridiculous form on a shitty bar table with deep grooves in it – it’s perfect.
At the very top of the form: three boxes. Male, female, or…Other?!? We can finally be Others?
“What? We can finally be Others?”
“Mmm-hm.” She grins maniacally.
“I’m going to be an Other, too!!!” I clap my hands and bounce up and down on the booth. I squeal. A baby pig. I’m finally going to get around to filling out that form – or picking up a new one, as I can’t for the life of me remember this box for Others on the papers that sit on my desk. Yes, a newer one, that’s all I need.
Waking. Reality. In which there is yet no room for Others. There are fewer boxes, much less diffused awkwardness, and the band is not playing my song. It became my song when I waited for the bus the other day, here, on the surface of the moon, but no, not the moon, and the album reached the final track by the time the bus pulled up…
“I am like powder, I am like relaxation, I am the snow, I am the snow, I am the snow, I dig in this ocean, And I try to fill it with gold.” (Cat Power)
I have to get the hell out of this town again. The bus moves so slow I feel like getting off and walking. I may be from the moon, but I was meant to dig in an ocean of salty waves, not dirty snow. I was done with this place last time around. It’s not good to return when you are already done. Anyone who tries it, beware.
I started packing my bags as soon as the sun rose.
Jennifer L. Reimer is a writer, artist, and entrepreneur. She studied sociology for eight years, but has no letters after her name to boast of because she ran away when her school became unbearable and she realized the limits of “education”. She is well aware that, as her supervisor told her as a parting gift, “[she] cannot call [herself] a sociologist without a Ph.D.” She still does sometimes, though – don’t tell! She currently writes for her popular website, Practice of Madness, and Ex Pat’s Post. You can reach her for queries by email.