He wakes again, his hands in aching fists, the sweat still damp against his back and it’s like he never slept at all. He turns, sees her curled away with furrowed brow and dream-crusted lashes and strokes her side, once, twice, three times before she stirs and murmurs, her lips now a movement against his shoulder, and he can barely catch the words.
I can’t find it.
Years of this and one bed traded for another, each lost in another’s dreams, each night a drowsing failure and home a little more distant and just as painfully extant. They’d lost their way hunting, and here they were again, as together as time and space could make it so and they knew each other by likeness. He could feel his heart shifting in his chest at the familiar in her face, old lineaments and age an overlay, an illusion. The same. The same and he was just as caught, just as reminded of the music they were born knowing and following like two besotted pilgrims half-dead and stumbling. A bitter union this, when it’s the longing that first brings people together.
Covered and catalogued, and no two shrinks agree on what disorder best inspires it, he knows. Some mass delusion surviving hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of living and looking and dying, largely benign, like the conviction that it’s the talking spiders and not your mother making you eat breakfast. Breakfast is good, right? So the spiders can’t be a bad thing. They never seem to say much else. Nothing to do with the Illuminati, nothing paranoid, really, and it’s somehow better, locking eyes with some stranger knowing you’ll share the same fuck and the same story later that night. Brothers. Sisters. Lovers and lost, recognized and united in a confused haze of displacement and lust.
He slides out of bed and into the cold, regretting the ease of leaving her like this. The ease of not having to watch her face mirror his as they dress for waking hours, more empty stretches between their occasional and unplanned meeting. The ease of spending most of their time asleep and undreaming, unstirred and untroubled like some kid wandering around with her eyes shut cause she knows she’s fucking invincible.
The man who can’t bear to remember (or forget) thinks proximally. It is the blistering glare of the sun that keeps his world clear of everything but his present, that chains the shadows to the corners and illumines a path that holds his daylight duration to a straight line of optionless pragmatism. Routine, and the memories are at bay, structure and the whole of his existence can be measured and wrought and whittled down to the necessary obligations of rent and food and allowed luxury.
But the night. The night is its own mystery.
The shadows, laden with voices and images, cease lurking and become a sea.
Once upon a time they dreamed a city
Threw a wall around it, stuck a tower in the middle, filled it full of all the things they loved and feared and ran to and ran from and all the strangers whose lingering eyes they met and held on subways in libraries on rooftops at shows. And the city lived, grew until it held the hearts of its builders and changed from dream to soul. Somehow, walking those streets, they recalled the memories of every thing they’d lost in every thing they found, traced the lineaments of their lives on stone and in water, heard their stories sung by artificial birds caged in dim alleys as they stumbled past, drunk on a wine pressed by amnesiacs.
Pilgrims came by desert and sea to pass through open gates, to wander in streets that never led to the same place twice. Some settled and joined the city’s artificers and cut and bruised and burned their hands on complicated machines with equally complicated purposes, some moved to a street of weavers where they fabricated verdant sheets woven from their sleeping visions of the forests of their homes. Some became the beggars on the corners playing music with the bones of the city’s dead, melodies that haunted the miserly, that brought luck and light to the generous.
Some left– those who came looking for a city that was less than a collective wish, those who came expecting the familiar, the details that comprise the structure of home. They left the strangers and the stranger labors, the wild thumping of the city’s heart that wove its way through every line of music, the slinking pad of dog-sized cats, the bookstalls crammed solely with texts of an interrogative nature. They turned their feet outside the gates to retrace the same weary road and after a shorter journey than they expected, found themselves surrounded by their own lives again and filled with a regret that burrowed like a live stone in their chests and they lived ever after with the taste of ash in their mouths and their children, growing older, inherited faded memories of a city that drew them, over mountains and seas, through deserts and valleys, to itself like some impossible and foreign star.
I don’t know what to tell you.
Once upon a time he started running out of things to say and his tongue would tap against the roof of his mouth as he tried to think of, well, anything in response to queries and asides and concern. For a while, his conversation was awash with extravagant plagiarisms culled from whatever he was currently reading at the time. Facts and trivia and theories and dogmas and headlines and on one disastrous date, an entire twitter feed he’d scrawled on his forearm. His therapist still charged him for the one hour a week he spent silent in her office, the one hour a week he spent staring out a cloudy window and peering at the windows of an adjoining building where he could imagine that the occasional person he saw peering back or smoking on a balcony or watching television or reaching for someone else’s hand– he could imagine that they, too, felt the compulsion of silence, only they had kept going into that silence and come out with a new language that shaped a new world. He could imagine as he hovered on this frantic edge between desire and uncertainty, wanting to express the feeling of having this gaping vacuum in the middle of his chest that ate and demanded and cried out for more. He once spent four days confined to his apartment trying to verbalize the moment that exists when his world falls silent and the ticking of the clock becomes a thunder. The four days ended with stale cereal and a mangled pendulum.
His silences grew and