She seems to melt out of the air. Her face is just as I recall, and nothing like it at all. She is wearing a sweater that my mother once wore to Christmas. She pulls her hair back, and I see she is wearing earrings. I cannot remember if her ears are pierced or not.
HEARTBURN? NAUSEA? OR ARE YOU JUST NOT FEELING YOUR BEST? TRY PEPEASE FOR ACID, DIARRHEA, AND STOMACH ACHES. PEPEASE—WHEN YOU’VE LOST YOUR PEP, TRY PEPEASE.
I take her hand and we walk to the docks of L’Orangerie. We settle into a rowboat. The pond is like ink. Neither of us row, yet the boat soon reaches the other bank.
A weeping willow sheds its flowers. Her hair is crowned with petals. She does not seem happy.
I WAS INJURED AT WORK! JIM HELPED ME. I WAS GOING TO BE DENIED WORKMAN’S COMP! JIM HELPED ME! I WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT. THEN, JIM HELPED ME. HI! JIM SANDERS HERE. I HAVE BEEN SERVING THE PEOPLE OF THE GREATER BOSTON AREA FOR THE LAST 15 YEARS. IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED, CALL 1-855-HELP-JIM! JIM HELPED ME, LET HIM HELP YOU TOO!
Her lips turn down into a frown. She says something, the words bubbling out of her mouth and resting on her shoulders.
I feel afraid. I know I have disappointed her again. She was always underwhelmed by me. I brought her to the most beautiful place I could think of, and it still wasn’t enough.
Children are jeering from the bank. I can hear their taunts clearly. She wants to go back.
Then, she isn’t there at all. It is just me in the rowboat. The noontime sun is burning me. The petals fill the air like a pink smog.
A sound like a single gong resonates, all consuming. The low hum seems to shift the world around it. The weeping willow grows. It must be at least three stories tall.
BADABA. TWO SANDWICHES. BADABA. TWO DRINKS. BADABA. DINNER FOR TWO STARTING AT ONLY $10. BUT THIS DEAL WON’T LAST LONG! STOP DREAMING—DINNER IS HERE! ONLY AT MCDONALD’S.
The hum shifts. Shakes. The willow casts off all of its petals, and they fall like a heavy rain.
They collide like glass bottles. I roll over, pulling my ratty duvet with me.
The sky is gold. A squeal as each of my neighbors’ recycling is overturned into the idling truck. Clinks and crashes as glass hits the truck bed.
I stare at the cracks in the ceiling. They look coffee-stained. They might have gotten bigger.
It is a luxury to dream, and I have phone bills, rent, and loans.
Besides, sometimes it’s fun to see what other people come up with. To not be so alone up there, in sleep. Maybe I’ll call Jim later. Could use some help.