She’s lying in bed next to me and I feel like someone should have a cigarette. The only smoke in the room is invisible and it’s rising off my skull. There’s a fire in the pit of my gut, but it isn’t the warm glow of post-coital bliss.
Rage is too strong a word, but it’s the best that can be expected from language. Anger is too weak. Frustration, too weak. Disappointment, too weak. They’re all part of it, though, in their own way.
She rolls over and looks at me with her big blue eyes and she smiles an early morning kind of smile, and I know she has no clue that the cogs of entropy are spinning in my head. She’s got a tattoo on her shoulder that says happiness, but it’s in some foreign language. I think it might be Sanskrit. She got it at a cheap parlor while studying abroad, and I’m pretty sure the artist intentionally inked her with a completely different word. Probably some alien vulgarity. Not that she’d know, or take the time to look it up.
She yawns and stretches and her stomach elongates. I’m reminded of a taffy machine in an old fashioned candy store I once visited. She puts her warm hand on my cold chest and everything is color. A burst of synesthesia.
The hum of the ceiling fan is a vibrant purple, the vibrations of a Gibson in the next room a dark scarlet, the rain on the sliding glass door a crystalline forest green.
Her hand slides down to my stomach, her fingers gentle, maternal.
I find myself looking out the glass door and each rain droplet is a vivid warning. They tell me it’ll pass for now, kid, but it will never go away. I’m about to argue when I realize that she’s saying something. Good morning, I think.
I offer a weak smile in response and ask her how she’s feeling.
She replies, every dream is a good dream when I’m with you.
I fight the urge to punch the bedframe.
I ask her what she wants to do today, and she launches into a sermon about perfect rainy days. She says she’s inspired to drink tea and read all day by a warm fireplace, but I know that she never drinks tea, that the last novel she finished was the fourth Twilight book eleven months ago, and that there’s no way anyone in the state is starting a fire today when it’s ninety degrees outside and humid enough to make a rainforest commit seppuku.
I nod and say that sounds lovely.
Lovely. The word is acrid in my mouth and the desire for a cigarette intensifies. There’s a pack of camel crush on the nightstand with three cancer sticks remaining. I know if I light up she’ll ask for one, smoke half of it, get a headache, and waste the rest. I briefly entertain the thought of smoking all three at once like I’m part of some cheeky comedy routine. The rain gets louder. I remember a Kurt Vonnegut quote where he talked about committing slow suicide via cigarettes. I wonder if genius is just the ability to say something unique about tired habits.
Do you want to fuck me?
I’m about to answer in the affirmative when I realize it’s the raindrops again.
Suddenly I’m outside. The water is cold and crisp. I’m making love to an incorporeal entity. The universe holds me down and fulfills every repressed childhood fantasy. I’m swimming in bottomless oceans, orgasmic infinity. For a moment everything collides, senses breaking down and morphing, congealing, coercing sanity with a gentle lullaby. Everything is perfect and infinite, and then a dark thought creeps into the corners of my consciousness. I make the fatal mistake of opening my eyes and there is dark water everywhere. Up and down become meaningless. I remember that I am afraid of open spaces. I remember that I am aquaphobic. I remember that I am afraid of infinity. I remember that I am afraid of sharks, and perfectly on cue a Megalodon of Babylonian proportions appears in the distance, a rapidly approaching dark speck whose threat is as all-encompassing as it is incomprehensibly real.
I panic, but in the aquatic endlessness motion is as nihilistically pointless as sex and love and drugs and life and purpose and knowledge and happiness. I am caught in a thought loop of potential recourse. Every possibility of escape becomes a link in an ouroboros composed of past and future failures.
The speck in the distance grows larger and larger and now I can see teeth. Every primal instinct lurches into overdrive, but the paradox is unbreakable. My genes, evolved from African forefathers whose Nietzschean purpose was to avoid claws and fangs and tusks, become hysterical in their solipsistic terror.
The Megalodon is clear now, a portrait of apocalypse composed of lemniscates and drawn in shades of indigo. It is swimming so fast, the gap between existence and non-existence decreasing with exponential rapidity.
I close my eyes in denial and I see every color, every shape, every abstract conviction I’ve ever clung to.
I hear a distant sound, like an old air-conditioning unit outside a bathroom window.
Suddenly I know I am dreaming.
The sound gets louder, clearer, and now I can make out syllables.
Wake up sleepy head.
I jolt upright, my palms sweaty and flat against the mattress. In my head her words repeat over and over like a mantra. Every dream is a good dream when I’m with you, every dream is a good dream when I’m with you, every dream is a good dream when I’m with you.
The water droplets laugh at me and I instinctively reach for the pack on the nightstand. With shaking hands I manage to light the little fucker. Smoke fills my lungs. I lean back and exhale a stream of gray relief.
She looks at me with her big blue eyes and she smiles an early morning kind of smile, and she asks me for a cigarette.