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.
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.