Weight

It was weeks later when he saw her again. They were in a bar. He was with someone else.

She had waved briefly before returning to her conversation, wrapping herself in the protection of distraction.

At some point in the evening, they found themselves near enough to speak, alone enough to try.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Even these words feel uncomfortable now.

“How’s life,” trails into a noncommittal sound at the look on her face.

“It was good to see you.”

After a brief hesitation, they embrace, letting go quickly because even their bodies are strangers now.

And after she is gone, the weight of their last conversation still seems heavy in the air.

“But I love you.”

“…I know.”

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Still

It’s okay that it’s over.

She pauses. It is painful to continue. He takes her hand gently, timidly, as though he would rather leave it resting by her side. But the warmth of this small connection, this thing that has not yet been stolen gives her courage.

It has been difficult to love you this way.

She is embarrassed when the tears slip freely over her face. She wishes she could be stronger.

It doesn’t seem fair to love so passionately, but be so confined…I wish there were more ways that I was able to tell you what you mean to me.

His silence is agonizing, but it hurts even worse when he breaks it.

“Goodbye.”

Please, she begs, please let me love you in my limited way.

He slowly lets her hand go and stands to leave.

But before he reaches the door, he looks back to her propped up in the hospital bed and scans her searching eyes – so desperately alive, they seem nearly to scream.

Hummingbird

Jackboots crack on pavement top
echoes of wings in the undercurrent.
Dark, heavy silence
cut only by the flurried fists
which hover, dart, knock
in the night.
Flashes of color,
rank and status,
allow them to pretend awhile longer
that this could never happen
to them.
They laugh as they sip their sweet nectar
which tastes only faintly of fear, for now.
So hush, my little one.
They won’t come for us.
Tonight.

Wonderland

Your fingers seem longer, thinner
alive in their own right, as they crawl among the pill bottles.
For a moment, you feel like Alice:
labels are meaningless, but you’ve tried them all.
The tall green one will cause strange words to tumble
over and under and from your lips,
while this orange one brings dreamless sleep.
And as you mix yourself
a cocktail that rattles in your palm
you wonder –
how did she climb back out
the rabbit hole?

Dream: Part Thirteen

The sidewalk is still wet from the rain that fell last night.  It leaves dirty, thick stripes down the backs of her legs as Lana walks quickly, head down.  She doesn’t seem to notice, but repeatedly chews the edge of her thumb.

She has never come to see him without being expressly invited first.  But that doesn’t matter today.  Her free hand flutters to her chest, smoothing the fabric over her skin.

She cannot get there fast enough.  She is afraid she will lose her nerve, turn back and pretend to be okay with the way things are.  But she has made her decision, everything will change today.

Under her breath, Lana begins to whisper the carefully rehearsed words.

“Dean.  You have been very careful to keep emotions from being a part of our relationship.  But I am sure that you know how I feel, how I have felt.”

The words came faster as she felt her face flush.  Clenching her fists, she continued on.

“I gave you everything you ever wanted physically because it was all you would accept from me and the only thing I could ask from you.”

She wipes a tear from her eye, noting with some annoyance that her makeup has smeared across the back of her hand.

“But not anymore.  I don’t want anything from you.  I need—”

Her phone goes off, its staccato vibrations interrupting her triumphant finale.  It’s Dean.  Telling her to meet him at the hotel.

She stops short.

“Son of a bitch.”

Taking a few deep breaths, she can feel the rage building.

“No.  No, I decided to come see you.  You can’t make me do anything anymore.”

 


 

When he opens the door, Dean casts a critical eye over her.

“It’s still raining some,” Lana finds herself saying, as she smoothes her hair into place and tries to wipe the makeup from her face.  Again the anger wells inside.  Why should it matter what he thinks?

“Of course.  I didn’t realize you’d be here so soon.”

“I was running errands when I got your message.”

She turns away from him, cursing herself.  Closing her eyes, she counts slowly to ten, trying to regain her composure.  She reminds herself why she is really there.

She feels his arms slide around her, encircling her, the smell of him is heavy on her heart.  She leans back into him, as if he could help her hold this emotional burden too.  His skin is warm on hers; it feels as though she is melting.

“Lana,” he whispers, his lips brushing against her neck softly.

“Yes, darling.”

“I need you.”

“I need you.”

“Yes, but I need you to do something for me.  Something very important.”

He turns her around, bringing her face carefully to his so that she would have to look him in the eye as he explained to her exactly what he wanted her to do.

Dream: Part Twelve

Reese closes his eyes, stretching his neck slowly to the left until it cracks.

“I hate when you do that.  It makes me want to throw up.”

Smiling, he grabs his coffee from her.

“Why do you think I do it so often?  That and you’re the one causing all my tension.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I am the main pain in your ass.”

Mila flips a folder onto his desk and perches herself in his chair with a grin on her face.

“You are going to fucking love me.”

Reese picks up the file and flips through it while Mila begins explaining.  Before she was transferred to Narcotics, she worked undercover in Vice.  She finds it advantageous to keep up with some of her old contacts, and one of the girls told her that Dream has been making a big appearance.  Not all that surprising on the surface, but apparently it’s a little more nuanced.

Mila’s contact said that the runner that used to supply their end of town showed up about a week ago talking about how several of their corners were going to be annexed.

“Annexed, what the hell does that mean?”

“Apparently, some of the girls are going to start selling Dream on the corners.  But this guy said that they would provide their own girls, if they would provide protection.”

“So renting the corners, for a cut.”

“Got it.”

“The runner.  He say who gave him these orders?”

Mila grinned again.

“Said it came straight from the Sandman himself.”

“So it would be safe to assume, that girls working these corners will have contact with this runner.”

“Seems to be his territory.”

“And he seems to have direct contact with Sandman.  Fuck, me.  We have a lead.”

Dream: Part Ten

She hates the waiting room for this office. The walls are a disgusting red, too dark to be appreciated. It is menacing. The couch is old and it sags in the middle, so she always chooses one of the hard plastic chairs which flank the water fountain whose presence in the middle of the opposite wall seems inexplicable to her.

The room is too small, the seating is too close together, and even though there is never anyone else here when she comes to see Dr. Waldron it makes her feel claustrophobic. As though the people who normally keep these places warm would disapprove of what she comes to talk about.

“Lana?” the receptionist slides the glass back and indicates the door ahead, “She’s ready for you.”


“Good morning, Lana, please make yourself comfortable,” there is a pause as Lana settles into the much newer leather couch.
“I’m glad you decided to reschedule. I was worried when you cancelled after our last session that we might have touched on some subjects that you weren’t quite ready for.”

She hesitates for a moment, then shakes her head.

“No. You said some things I needed to hear. And I have been thinking about it a lot on my own lately.”

“What have you been thinking about?”

Lana turns towards the window. She realizes she hates the window in this office as well. She feels like it should look towards something idyllic and peaceful, some place she could lose herself in while she gathered her thoughts. Instead it overlooks the parking lot to a hotel. Nothing cheap and tawdry, but nothing high class. The kind of place she often finds herself in with Dean, tangled in his sheets and wishing she was closer to him. She looks back to Dr. Waldron.

“Did I ever mention the time I bought a blonde wig? Something I thought I could surprise Dean with. I thought it was beautiful, it made me feel sexy.” She toys absentmindedly with her own hair as she talks, speaking slowly and purposefully.

“I remember my hands shaking briefly as I knocked on the door. Being shy and nervous, hoping he would like it; it was always so important to me that I pleased him. And when he opened the door, he looked at me, and he laughed.”

Lana smiles sadly, “I had nearly forgotten that. But he laughed. So I took it off and put it away and that was the end of feeling spontaneous and sexy.”

“Lana, just because he laughed, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be spontaneous or feel sexy anymore. He could have been startled by your unexpected change in appearance or-”

“Oh, it wasn’t that he laughed. I asked him later why he didn’t like the wig, since he’s had me wear one before. And he explained that the other wig belonged to another woman that he fucked. That’s why he liked me wearing it.”

The room is silent.

“What I’m trying to say is, I’ve realized recently, that I don’t love Dean.”

“This is a big step, Lana. What does this mean for you?”

“I’m not entirely sure…”

“Okay, well let’s start with the practical aspect. What do you intend to do about your physical relationship with Dean?”

“I want to end it.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“I mean it this time.”

“Then, if you really intend to end things with Dean, where do you believe that puts your relationship with your husband?”

Lana is quiet.

“I don’t know. I don’t know who he is to me anymore.”

“What does that mean?”

“We’ve spent so much time being invisible to each other, I don’t know if we could ever really see each other again. Does that make sense? When I was with Dean, I didn’t want to see Reese. Even when he was across the dinner table from me. So I made him invisible any way I could. I made myself angry at him, I made him undesirable, I made him cruel.”

“And how did he make you invisible?”

“He didn’t have to work very hard. He is hardly ever home. His job is all he cares about. I bet he wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t come back one night.”

“Do you really think that’s true?”

“Sometimes.”

The room grows warm in the ensuing hush. The women can feel the weight of the words that have been spoken.

“I feel like I am making myself invisible too. Like, without Dean, without this need that I have defined myself by for so long, I won’t know who I am. And I am afraid I will just disappear.”

Metamorphosis

She stands, clutching her dress in her hands
naked and bare,
she inhales the scent of decay
and discovery
before the oak armoire.
The fabric feels old and worn under her fingers,
like a skin she has shed.
And that thought makes her smile.
Stepping out of her mourning clothes
and leaving them behind,
as a snake slithers from its scales.
She takes her time, folding the blackness.
She uses crisp corners and even lines to give order
to despair.
Then, she places it on a shelf
and quietly closes the door.
There is no rush to cover herself.
Naked and bare,
she stands, transformed.

Dream: Part Eight

Reese is gone when she finally wakes up.  She stretches, running her fingers over his side of the bed, sheets already cool to the touch.  She wonders if she should just stay here until he comes back.

            There is a message waiting on her phone. 

            Lana slowly slides her feet to the floor, beginning what feels like the inevitable and unavoidable return to Dean.  Will she always come when he calls? 

            _______________________________________________________________

 

            “How’d you get this?” She asks, tracing her fingers over the scar on his arm.  She is lying in another bed, beside someone who feels colder beneath her hands than the empty sheets this morning. 

            He sighs and shifts away from her, “I don’t really remember.  Accident as a kid, I guess.  Why does it matter?” 

            “It doesn’t…I just wanted to talk about something other than your work for awhile.”

            Dean is silent. 

            She rolls onto her back and stares at the ceiling for a moment.  Then, bringing her hands up in front of her, she continues, “Like, this one here on my pinky.”  She splays her fingers out for him to see, small, pale and crescent shaped. 

            “Got it caught in a folding chair in the sixth grade.”

            He laughs.  Encouraged, she moves on, cataloging her broken pieces for him.

            “This one here,” she gently lifts her breast and exposes the thin scar running beneath it, “surgery.”

            “Just on the one?”

            “Not that kind of surgery.  I had to have a tube put in when I was younger.”

            There is another pause, but it is less hostile. 

            She turns to him, placing her wrist on his chest.  These scars are faint, but visible.  Tally marks keeping their gruesome score.  He takes her thin arm in his hand and sits her up. 

            “Lana.”

            She curls into him, but can feel him stiffen slightly at this intimacy. 

            “What, Dean?” At least he will give her that.  The feel of his name on her lips.  He belongs to her as long as she can hold those letters on her tongue. 

            “Lana, I asked you here because I need you to do something for me.”

            She smiles, relishing the sound of her name in his mouth, pretending that she is his.  “Of course, name it.”

            “I need you to start delivering Dream for me.”

Dream: Part Six

Reese reclines back in his chair, staring at the pictures he has posted up on the back wall of the briefing room.  He sits still, tilting his head from time to time, thinking. 

            “Hey, got a minute?”

            He spins the chair around.  He hadn’t realized how long he has been here.

            “Yeah, what’s up?”

            Reese’s partner steps into the room.  Mila is young, and relatively new to Narcotics.  She has a case file in her hand and looks ready to launch into a prepared speech when she catches sight of the collage he has set up.  There are pictures of drop sites, mug shots of known dealers and runners, car tags, and a bright blue powder. 

            “Is this Dream?”

            He turns back to face the wall, running his hands through his hair.  Scanning the pictures again, he takes a deep breath.

            “Yeah, this is what we’ve got so far.  The stuff has been on the streets for months, but we’ve really seen a major increase in the last few weeks.”

            “I thought we had turned this over to the DEA?”

            Reese looks up at her. 

            “I just feel like we are missing something critical here.  And, in case you were wondering, I am here on my own time.  I had to take Lana downtown anyways.”

            There is a pause, a palpable weighing of alliances, he can taste it in the air between them.  She slides into the seat next to him, setting the case file on the table behind her and looking intently at the photos taped to the wall.

            “Okay.  So tell me what you’re thinking.”

            He grins. “Alright, so we know that Dream is flowing into the city in massive quantities.  We just don’t know how.  There have been arrests made, sure.  But those were all small time runners, delivering the goods to junkies.  All they had on them was whatever they needed for the drop.  This brings us back to: where is it coming from?”

            Mila looks over the mug shots from the runners brought in.

            “Is there some connection between them?  Gang related?  Same neighborhood?  Same school growing up?”

            “No.  Nothing anyone has come across yet.  It’s like someone is picking up known runners from all over the city and creating some sort of larger, integrated system.  And whoever this asshole is, they are paying well.”

            “What makes you say that?”

            “Because not one of these guys will talk.”

            “Nothing?”

            He stands up and points to the picture in the very center of the wall.  It is a page torn from a comic. 

            “One word.  We got one word from one of them.”

            He taps the picture, “Sandman.”