It's like one of those dreams where you can't wake up.
"Wake up," you said.
I remember the day rolling away from the roof of the world, like a demoralized guest curling toward the wall, and how the darkness made everything shimmery, grainy, and animate.
"Forget it. Go to sleep," you said.
That winter the winds whistled no human tune. Just an oscillating galactic plainsong. Like abandoned sheets on the flinch of a rise, all fluttering and sullied in a dirty howling wind.
"Meet me one day at the crossroads," you said.
Recall how this was once a place of brightness and strangeness? Target and Walmart and Rite Aid. Boulevards. Rust and stardust. Corrugated iron. Cherry blossom. Cascades. Brick facades. Ferries departing the point. Knots of people gathered outside Starbucks, warmed by a patio heater in winter, by mochaccinos always, and by the arbitrary camaraderie of belonging.
That's all memory now. Here is not here anymore. I had no answer for you anyway.
Except this: "You mean all things to me."
But the dreams. They used to call it post-trauma. I don't want to give it its dignity by naming it fully. It encumbers me. The dreams are part of being awake, or as close to being awake that you're unable to tell the difference. And it's whatever your chosen fear, your trigger. They arrive in pairs. Fluctuate. Could be a small fire breaking out and a scream. Or the brittle shock of shattering glass and a moan. Disbelief and the blurry grind and shred of tumbling asphalt. The hot proximity of a biting human reek, then wrenching tears. Or the feel of rubber or hair or oil or watery, seeping hangnails. It's usually specific and crawly and lost.
To gather myself, I remember a night horse named Blondie. A winter horse. Escaping the horror of family, I would cross the frozen ridges of soil beside the dark barn and talk to that horse, rant at him, stand in the crystalline air beside his paddock, leaning on the railing, my nostrils crackling in the cold, the draw backdropped by a bright moon, my entire world ghosted, and make peace with him, watch his large luxuriant eye as it sought some gentle kinship of its own.
But that was the world that was, and this is the world that is. No return. I only torment myself with thoughts like these.
You are out there somewhere. At the crossroads.
"At the crossroads. You follow me, yes?"
Murmurations. That's the word. Those twisting, flowing skeins against an orange sky. A fluid net of birds. Starlings. Practicing molten turbulence over the stark ruins of a blackened pier. These were things that occurred in the world.
I want to follow you.
America: you are a generous and optimistic place. Where else would carpet the outdoor stairway of a motel? Carve monuments from sheer cliffs? Serve food on such lavish platters in your cheapest diners?
I love you. I loved you. I will love you.
The sun loses its perfect circular rim and bulges into the horizon, while grey clouds become dark lavender and muted pink against a pale coral sky. All is melting and breathless.
Some memory conjures the reassuring call of a train from another era and I feel a tear fall.
Will you burst through a cloud? Emerge. Like a sprite in a fallstreak hole?
I sit by a roadside and watch a creature, some misshapen rodent thing, drag itself across the blacktop. Its rear limbs are shattered and skewed and blood pours from the tiny holes in its snout. One of its eyes is ruined, and it snuffles like something plague-begotten. A trail of blood and sand points back toward the creature's tale, untold and star-crossed. Its suffering is fascinating. But relieving it of the burden of life is a tenderhearted thing, so I stand, find a large rock, and attend to its leave-taking. Pity almost stops my heart, although not my hand.
"Will you be waiting for me, my love?"
There's only the wind across the bare desert and the single cry of a hawk.
My gaze on the heat mirage, I walk toward the crossroads.