Sleepy Time Harriet


Sleepy time, but I don’t want to because of the nightmares.

A dark figure chases me through my dreams. He wears overalls and speaks in a crisp voice. “Hold still,” he says. I don’t run. I can’t. His hands, somehow, grow huge and cup around me. As I get crushed I try to wake myself up but I don’t wake up; I get crushed. I’m frozen in a state of my body feeling like it’s broken.

Later I wake up. I can’t breathe. Sometimes the bed is wet. It isn’t morning yet, and I hide under the covers, because I know if I get up, if I go to the bathroom, he’ll be there. Waiting. Saying, “Don’t worry, champ. You’re in good hands.”

Two years single. I’m thirty-three. I’ve already given up on finding a soul mate. I had one of those.

She took my soul.

Harriet. My love. My ideal. My life. Beautiful brown hair—shiny and curling around her face. A strong presence, a strong woman. A real estate agent, self-made, and successful. All the ingredients for sexy. For our honeymoon we spent two weeks of sweat and sun in Cancun, and one evening as we curled up on the hot sand, melting to the sound of turquoise waves, she licked my ear and called me the perfect man.

God, I can’t sleep. I want to sleep; I’m so tired. In the day I contract landscapes. Listened to a guy go off on me for giving him the wrong colored koi fish. So I went off on the fish guy for giving me the wrong colored koi fish. Did he yell at his fish bagger for giving him the wrong colored koi fish? Did the fish bagger yell at his/her spouse out of frustration? Did he/she yell at his/her son/daughter out of frustration? Is there now a son/daughter crying on their bed, thinking of suicide because I didn’t stop the cycle of angry yelling?

What is this world? Is it real? It can’t be. This can’t be the one true actual world and my one true actual life. Driving down a two-lane highway I see the headlights of an eighteen wheeler coming my direction, and I switch off my low beams and drift into his lane. I close my eyes. I’m expecting a huge bang and then bliss. I won’t have to dry heave into a trashcan in the afternoons, or force myself to smile at customers, or sob as I eat two dry slices of bread for lunch, or feel too weak to open door handles. I’ll go away to a peaceful place where nothing happens—because nothing exists there. I’m such a coward. I’m not worth a damn. And death is going to hurt. Quick maybe. But painful. My body would be crushed and mangled and my face would have no expression on it, and it wouldn’t be my face anymore. But I know what getting crushed feels like: a satisfying collapse of one’s calciferous structures buckling and nerve endings sending messages to the brain. Dreadful? I don’t know. Maybe I’m not ready to die. I swerve back into my lane and the semi flickers by.

I get home and sit in front of an unpowered television until one or two in the morning, swigging from a bottle of Beam that tastes like candy and feels like hooking my throat to a salt-water-taffy stretcher. The man in overalls emerges from the darkened hallway and sits next to me on the couch.

“There, there,” he says. He pats my shoulder. “You’re not going to do that. You don’t want to do that. It won’t fix anything.”

“Get away from me.”

“You want to live. You’ve got plenty to live for.”

“You’re not real. You’re in my head. You’re a hallucination.”

“So much pain,” he says quietly, “Let me help you.” He puts a hand on my shoulder.

“No,” I say, trying to stand. His grip tightens and I’m not strong enough to free myself. I shout, “No!” His other hand is on my head, pushing me into the couch. The pressure of his grip crushes my shoulder.

Harriet. Naked in the bathroom with someone else in her mouth. Harriet. On the floor, on all fours. Harriet. Against the wall. On the couch. On the desk. On the bed. All saved on her computer. Different men. Oh my God. Oh my God. Emails. Texts. Pictures. Videos. How many men? How many? Does it matter? No. I have to know. Am I nothing? Am I dirt?

“I was miserable,” she says.

“Seven years. Did you love me? Did you ever?”

“That’s not fair.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Please don’t go,” I say. “I love you. I love you so so much.”

Now she’s gone. All the bras I bought her, she was so seductive in them. They loved her in them. And the dress. The diamond earrings. The shea butter for her gorgeous shining hair. She used them all. She used them well. When I close my eyes I see her dancing for a skinny man. She never danced for me. When I open my eyes I see her hair being pulled by someone with a belly like a boulder.

Just crush me, please. The couch breaks in half.

It’s light out, sun rays entering through the blinds. I go for the bottle. It’s not a cure. I meet with clients. I deal with landscapers. I talk to sod suppliers. I hang up the phone. My ears are ringing. My neck is sore. My shoulder hurts.

I wish it hurt more.


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