Friday, November 14, 2008

With the lights on or off.


I dreamed that I had a thousand hands. Nothing could be taken from me, and nothing could get past me. I had everything. Thin tentacles streamed from my body, puckered with tiny little hands. They grasped and groped, feeling everything in sight with a strength wholly unimaginable. The sensation of this expanded realm of touch pitched my thoughts in every last direction but straight ahead, and I knew that this was what beauty meant after all. Neither smile nor flower meant anything compared to this. Blue skies were shit compared to the thousand hands, feeling everything in sight. More: having everything available but touching nothing significant. There! Perfection.

I groped for hard, flat surfaces, dusts in the air, granules in the floor and the heights of ceilings. To do nothing with everything became the the most worthless and antagonistically real goal I ever threw myself into. In my dream I twisted away from this perfect gift and with one thousand hands failed to touch a single significant surface. I triumphed in the act of avoiding stuff, with the world in my hands six dozen hundred times the hell over.

But then the dream came to a similar conclusion as others. It showed itself as only a dream. No surprises at all.

The regular world was closing in on me and I knew it, could sense it. At the same time I backed away from it, the sheer horror of having to leave the dream drilled into me cold and hard as a nail driven underneath my eyes, trying to pry the lids open forever and keep them open.

Exactly like I thought I might be in real life, I grimaced and pulled faces until the scene before me became a total nightmare. Everyone had their attention on me when at last I opened my eyes. It's not a new scene; this has happened before. Awfully enough, it has. But I still couldn't get used to this shit with people crowding around me. What the fuck, I'm not a circus oddity. Was I glowing? Had I materialized suddenly from thin air? The expressions on these douche bag faces could almost convince me they were seeing some horrific magic trick, complete with a girl sawed in half but then re-assembled; all round eyes, oh-shaped mouths, timid gasps. They were watching me re-assemble, only I wasn't re-assembling. You couldn't tell by these shitty faces, though. I'd really done it this time, I guess.

Everyone in the office stood above me, crowded, gawking at me. When I came to my senses, casting off the disorientation quite unwillingly, I found that I was balled up on the floor by the punchclock. Fetal position, soaked in sweat, nerves shot. This feels worse than the other times, and I have an awful feeling that I'd made quite a spectacle of myself while out cold. Did I talk out loud? Scream? Cry? Who the fuck knows. I wouldn't get any answers from this bunch, that's for sure. It would not be polite. Better to let me deal with it alone. Lord knows I need any more alone-time in my life.

The eyes in these faces bulged fat like reptilian eyes, mouths pursed. Not a smooth face in the throng. I had made a scene, and I would pay for it. Sure as shit, I'd fucked up bad this time.

Gavin was the first to extend a hand, and he stared at that hand -- his own hand -- like the gesture was an act of defiance committed against himself. The fingers splayed weakly at first, unsure, and the palm turned upward, tensely. I pressed my palm into his and the fingers suctioned over mine, tight and clammy and quick, robotic. Gavin pulled me up with no time to spare and I let my body rise with this uncomfortable haste.

Once on my two feet, however, the world seemed a much more harmful place. That's why, I know now, curling into a ball on the floor is that instinctual. The bad parts are justifying themselves to the good parts, and the two talk it over; meanwhile, I'm not being told what's happening, my body's coming to an agreement with my mind that's completely private, excluding me entirely, and I wake up in the middle of the floor at work.

My co-workers attempted to disband, but people were still staring at me, unable to pull themselves away from this. I might have been one of these people too if I weren't so damned stuck in me. Gavin walked me back to my desk, with Lucille taking a portion of the weight of my other side, one hand on my hip and the other at my elbow. Lucille was old enough to be my mother. She looked at me with an expression bordering on speechlessness. Her gray hair suddenly seemed malicious. The wrinkles in her face and the motherly attention paid to seeing me to safety now felt like a hammer. I looked then to Gavin, and he seemed to be taking on the same role. Their help seemed to me like harm. Just softer ways of kicking me in the spine until I cracked and doubled over.

The funny thing is, I know that's a fucking lot of shit. They were good people. They are good people. At least as far as I am concerned. It's my mind that's causing the harm. Not me. My mind. Making its own decisions.

"You're getting worse, Alan," Lucille said to me, very quietly.

"No shit, Alan," Gavin agreed. "You're gonna lose your job if you do this in front of Bralen."

No shit, Gavin, I said to myself without saying a word. But my job was already fucked and I knew it and those gawking faces knew that I knew it. Everyone knew it. Things were getting worse and there apparently was not a thing in the world that I could do to stop it. The only fucking secret here was what the hell was happening to me.

"Joe Bralen's not a bad man but he won't have this, Alan," Lucille said.

No shit, Lucille. No shit.

Back at my desk, I spent the rest of the work day pondering. My job can be replaced. They can replace me, and I can replace the job. But what I can't replace is my sense of self. What the hell is happening to me? I could remember, if vaguely, curling up right in the middle of the goddamned hall. With who knows how many people watching. Curling up into a ball and going to sleep. To nightmare.

Something inside my head is breaking. I'm so lonely I can't take it anymore. When I was younger I could stand being disembodied and I could withstand the trauma of perhaps even hallucinating a little. Back then I could actually skip my medication and I'd feel sick a lot, smash neighborhood items like car windows and mailboxes, and then I would feel a little better. But I no longer have these things. I just have my apartment, and this job. These people.

I'll lose my job and even if I can get another one the very next day, so what? What's that going to do for me? I'm so lonely I can't take it. And my head is on strike; it's defecting. It doesn't want to be sunk with the ship of my body. Smart brain, stupid me.

When I leave work I exit through the back hall and press my fingers into the buttons on the confection machine. Candy bar, chocolate muffin, potato chips, candy bar, spiced almonds, barbecued almonds, barbecued peanuts, more chocolate, a ham salad sandwich. It's like a maze. A rat maze.

I'm not meant to get out, perhaps. Lucille would be gone by now so I can't count on her. Gavin's a good guy but he wouldn't be seen helping me home if a vice presidency in the company were pitched to him for it. Things just got very dangerous. More so because I need this job to keep me regular. I need normalcy, steady hours and steady people. Without Lucille or Gavin or Kilby or Cane or even stout, bitchy Joe Bralen, I might go over the end worse.

My mind is fracturing. Nobody knows the extent of what being lonely can do, not even those who are being done to. It's a mystery door, and you only get to see the prize when you have to. When I have to claim the prize there will not be a room behind me anymore. Didn't I see this happening when I couldn't fucking figure out what I was doing this morning, patting the other end of the mattress like I was looking for someone's leg to hold onto, or an arm or a shoulder? My empty bed is stretching out, growing the way deserts do, only faster, and more visible to the naked eye.

Gavin and Lucille have probably talked about this to the others by now. It's not their fault, it's mine. I'm all alone, you know? Just going out of my mind. I bet it doesn't hurt so badly when you can't see it happening. Or maybe it does. I don't even know how to get home right now, let alone perfect a synopsis for this terrible equation. I can actually feel my body writhing along the floor like an earthworm. It doesn't matter that I'm physically leaning against the soda machine, still as a rooted tree. It doesn't matter because I can feel myself burrowing into the floor because some kind of picture is developing in my head that's pretty far fetched from what's legitimately going on.

It would not surprise me if I don't make it home tonight alive.


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