11:03 pm . . .
My stomach full of French fries and indecision, so I took a hot shower and laid down in my bed. My body was still shivering on and off, and maybe Ricky was on to something when he said my body’s internal temperature regulator was on the fritz.
The book is safely locked up, having only a few pages left that I need to read. I’ve got the important stuff out of the way already. Cross some I’s, dot a couple of T’s, and that should be that. As I’m lying there, trying to fall asleep, our last moments together keep coming up.
Over and over I see her brilliant eyes welling up. I watch as the tears break through the cold grey of her skin and roll down her cheeks. I feel awful about that. I wonder if she’s still over there, crying.
Asshole of the universe, that’s me.
Some saint I am.
Really, I’m kind of disgusted in myself. What makes it worse is that I haven’t got any answers. Now, in addition to not having any idea what is really going on, I am feeling guilty. More guilty, in fact, as each minute passes.
I close my eyes, not being able to sleep. I considered trying to count sheep in order to fall asleep, but the thought crossed my mind that I might accidentally crossover again . . . get carried away, and freeze to death. Talk about your bad dreams. My sheep have chainsaws and sharp teeth. No thanks.
Instead I just sat there, looking at the bumpy ceiling of my city sponsored apartment. It was like looking at a bone under a microscope, little peaks and sharp valleys with no real order to it. I imagined myself driving some tiny jeep up and down the hills.
I am the conquistador of my ceiling. The brave explorer of stucco. And after a few minutes of that, my body figured I wasn’t doing anything worth staying awake for . . . and I was out.
REM sleep, 36 minutes later . . .
I opened my eyes, and the room looked different. Not between dogs and wolves different. Ambiance, furniture, and size different. I wasn’t in my apartment. This room was much nicer than my place at the L.B.J. Health Manor. This is like a hotel or something fancy.
The comforter on the bed is thick, and shiny burgundy, so soft it might be made of silk. The sheets are off-white, and nearly off the bed. As I look around I notice the furniture, all of it elegant stained wood—maple maybe, or oak. The walls are egg shell colored, with a wonderful table between the bed, and what looks like a real living room. The lamps are brass and heavy-looking. There’s a television, and it’s as big as the refrigerator in my L.B.J. apartment.
On the ceiling, where the Land Rover of my mind was last driving around aimlessly, there are individual tiles. And there’s thresholds and finishing all over the place. This has just got to be expensive.
And then I felt the bed shake, just a bit. Sunlight is just starting to creep through the long, dark Venetian blinds. Golden fingers touching the folds and curves of the shiny comforter here and there. It was so warm and peaceful that those little fingers might have been god himself, just making sure I was alright.
The place smelled of fruit, and I notice a bowl on the table that seems to be overflowing with bananas, oranges, and a few other varieties of fruit that I’ve only ever seen in magazines and Starburst commercials.
Again the bed shakes, and I know that it’s not me.
I look behind me, and there is a large gathering of pillows and sheets. I very carefully push the corner of the comforter aside and I see a perfect foot, with pink painted toe-nails. My pulse rate is climbing as I crawl toward the perfect, thin foot, following it to the ankle.
As I am about to touch it, it wiggles away like a fish, hiding somewhere farther into the pile of soft sheets. I feel safe. Completely safe in this environment. I even have this wonderful feeling that I belong here.
Me crawling around, looking for the rest of the foot . . . it’s alright.
Life forgetting me, in a place that I’ll never be able to afford.
Quiet. Serene. Perfect.
As I make my way to the center of the inordinately large bed, I find the foot again. It is connected to a silky calf, which—with perfect curve and proportion—becomes a thigh. I haven’t touched her, yet. I don’t want this to fall apart.
If this is some dream . . . then it is some dream.
Under the sheets it is dark, and the top of her thigh, it is obscured in the shadows. I feel myself starting to shake a bit. I’m not cold, just nervous. I can only imagine what is about to happen. This is a very powerful moment.
And then she sits up, her face so full of color. Her eyes bright blue, with a hint of green in them—just full of life. Her lips are thin, just the lightest shade of pink. Her skin is as glowing and perfect as nature will allow. She’s blinking at me, and a smile starts to form on her face.
I don’t know whether to crawl forward, or wait for the police to show up. I decide to wait it out.
The sheets, they seem to fall away from her chest, and her bare chest is maybe the most incredible thing I have ever seen. Her breasts are perfect and round, with two tiny pinkish nipples. I feel like a peeping Tom that just got caught.
I wonder how long she’ll let me stare at her naked before she screams out something that gets me a special license plate.
And then she extends her arms, cocking her head to the side a bit as she furls her eyebrows. When I don’t move, she acts as if she’s pouting, her bottom lip thickening as her chin wrinkles.
She opens and closes her hands a few times, her fingers beckoning me in. In the sweetest, most feminine, girly voice she says, “Save me, John . . . pleeeeeaaase!” And it’s so cute and wonderful, and sexy, that I can’t breathe at all. No, it’s too much.
It’s Kristen, as she was. As she had been when we knew each other. And every nuance— the smells, the room, the bed, the sheets, the soft fingers of light—all of it is perfect. And I know, right at that very moment, what it feels like to love somebody. To need them as they need you. To be for them, completely.
And so I crawl forward, reaching to take her into my arms. To finally hold her, and protect her from the horrible world of shadows and people and typhoons and monsters and disease and pain and indifference . . . and loneliness.
And the moment that we finally touch, the exact trillionth of a second that I touch her skin—feeling her warmth—it all goes away.
In the blink of an eye the light is gone. The golden fingers of god have disappeared. The bed is nowhere to be found. No more fruit. No more silk.
No more Kristen.
I am back in my apartment, lying on my back, staring up at the Martian ceiling. I am alone. I am cold. And I am afraid that I have lost something . . . twice.
I sit up in my bed, searching for answers in the darkness. But there are no answers to be found here. The book won’t help me. The spooks won’t guide me. Ricky can’t advise me, and Ms. Josephine can’t enlighten me. I have to figure this all out by myself.
Am I my dreams of gold and love and perfection?
Am I my cold, dreary apartment?
Am I a man who is waiting to die, or a hero waiting to be reborn?
I need to find out what the hell is going on in my mind. I must figure out if I can help Kristen and Rupert, and all of those other lost souls. And if I can’t, then I need to make an even more penetrating decision. If I cannot be the saint they expect, the savior they are counting on . . . then I must either live or die.
What I cannot do, though, is both. I will live among the people in this world, or I will crossover, and never return. I belong somewhere . . . but this . . . this isn’t right. To be alive waiting to die—even if only for a couple of minutes a day—that is not a life at all. I might as well be dead.
And without her . . . I may already be.