This is a story about a dream, or a memory of a dream. It was published years ago at another ghost town called Slingshot.
I think these pieces leant themselves very well to the the kind of online writing that was emerging in the late 00’s. It’s a shame so many of those venues, many of which were very good, are no longer around. Pour one out for each of them, I guess.
So We Had A Wake
You came over in red high tops from a yard sale and your old bandana with a Rubbermaid trunk of things for me to keep. Your Junior Legion plaque. Records from the bank you worked at one summer, but you never worked at a bank. You worked in a furniture factory and a Bible software company. There were toy baseball bats that I thought I might let my son play with but would maybe keep wrapped forever, a baseball with funny faces, binders from Seminary and records. “Have you heard any news of any kind?” I asked, afraid of why you were doing this. “I haven’t heard,” you said and I tried to remember how I felt when you were given back to us. I don’t remember what I said when I found out, like I’d missed the news but still knew it, like I coveted the chance I must have had to jump and yell and strip and beat my chest. I should have bruises there like butterflies, their brown shadow wings spreading from my sternum. My knuckles would be burger meat, my lungs would break my ribs, my throat would cut and chafe on the impossible proclamation, would scab and petrify, vanity, I’d bleed the truth out in a dribble. If you hadn’t really died, once, if I found out they had been mistaken, a clerical error, even a resurrection. What they can do with medicine, now. But I don’t remember.
I think you better leave me with the trunk, too, so I have a place to keep this all just how it is, you know, and I don’t say just in case because just in case is doubt and doubt kills t-cells, eats your organs. You have been so positive. You smile at everything you show me. “I probably shouldn’t have taken these,” you say about the jump drives from the bank that are branded with Jerry Dior’s batsman. “They might be interesting.”
I wonder if you were lucid all those mornings you slept through class, if you were conjugating Greek declensions, parsing Hebrew in your dreams. I wonder if you parse me now, if first and second person are constructs of the living. If your Thou to my I is only feltboard Jesus.
I understood that you were private, but I understand now, after our visit is consumed by things I don’t sleep through — my wife calling after church to wake me up for lunch, my son in the background saying “Hallelujah, Daddy!” — why you didn’t want a funeral. You couldn’t say goodbye and wouldn’t let me, either. And so when you visit in the morning, as often as the intervals in which I’d always seen you, we don’t have to talk about how we miss each other, I don’t have to ask if the end hurts or know how scared you were to go. The night is hypothetical and it seems we both are only sleeping.