This One Time, 47

This one time I was holding a baby that didn’t belong to me, looking up at a moon that would be full in a couple of days, and wondering how much time I had left.

It was a strange dream, but so was every day. My life had run off the rails a decade ago, and nothing mattered anymore, because nothing could possibly be real. I am sick. I’m damaged. Nothing that happens makes sense.

I can deal with life only as a series of moments that don’t necessarily have to be be connected. I live inside a dog’s head. Expectations are things of habit and training. Everything else is … jumping up to look out of a window of a moving train. I can hang on for maybe three seconds, make a coherent picture of what I see if I’m lucky, and then fall back. When I jump up and look again, the window might contain nothing from the previous time I looked. No connecting factors. So I kind of make the best guesses I can for how things got to be the way they are. I tell myself little stories I have to believe so I won’t feel crazy. I am the fastest mythmaker on earth, and the most prolific.

Many years ago I fell off the world of brightness and landed here in the world of shadows. It happened because something impossible happened, and it broke the world wide open like an earthquake will, and I fell through the crack. Sometimes when I jump up and look out through the window, I see the world of brightness behind the glass. The glass is cold against my hands, against my forehead, and I hear none of the joy and beauty through the sounds of the engine and wheels on metal.

The baby smelled like fresh bread, perhaps a hint underdone. Something told me that maybe it meant that the baby is sick — bad sick — but I’m sure that was just wishful thinking, something that would let me claim this stranger’s baby as my own. Its warm vapors were heady, but they hit stone. They hit the glass of the window separating me from the brightness I couldn’t reach.

The baby looked up at the moon, with blue-blue eyes that couldn’t possibly focus on something that bright and close and enormous. That was how I knew that the baby knew I was sick. I rolled him off my shoulder and made a cradle of my arms, holding him to the flannel of my shirt. I gave him one last cuddle and then held him out, and a stranger took him away. Probably the same one that handed him to me. I don’t know. It had been more than three seconds and this place was so full of people and things that I couldn’t be sure. I try not to worry about how much casual damage my disconnection can cause to this dreamworld, because what would be the point of that? In the real world, the mother would not have left, nor allowed me to hand the tiny boy to anyone else she didn’t trust.

Down here I know that sort of reasoning doesn’t hold. Down here I handed him to hyaenas that walk on their hind legs who will carry him back to their den, and they will be so grateful not to have to hunt or fight to feed their own babies. And I will have tamed one, just a tiny bit, with my tiny gift.

Down here the moon will be full in a couple of days and the disease in my blood will — not do anything special. The disease in my blood will kill me, but not today, not this month, not this year. It’s fun to think it’s like a werewolf virus or rabies, but the beast in me isn’t wolf. It’s just dog. I’m still a part of the human pack. I want to fetch slippers and bring the newspaper. I want to bark at danger and at strangers when I smell that they’re evil.

I want to sleep in their beds, or, failing that, on the floor somewhere nearby. I want them to see how happy I am with their scraps. I want to lick their hands and faces. I want to be beaten by them and know that they still love me.

It’s like licking the window, like trying to taste the brightness on the other side. When I close my eyes, I can taste the sun and the ghost of it fills my mouth like warm butter.

Has it been more than three seconds? What was I saying?


February 16, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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