Sleep’s understudy

It’s late.  I overslept. That’s not accurate.  Sleep plays tricks on the grieving, coming and going outside of regularly scheduled programming.  Last night’s program was scheduled to play until circa 0500, maybe 0600 depending on the sloth rating of my mind.  Instead, on this morning, sleep shut down programming at 0300-ish and woke me up to tell me just that.  Perhaps it was the nightmare.  Enough with the fucking nightmares already. One day I will tell you all about them.  They don’t visit me every day anymore.  In fact, I’ve slept dream free for many days in a row.  Right now, I have exactly one minute to get this one onto millennial paper. Not possible cries the clock!! Dare me I say, but not out loud lest the birds think I’m strange or I scare the new daisies emerging from their little tiny flower wombs.  Back to the story.  The nightmare.  

This night’s feature presentation was the one where he is alive.  He knocks on my door and walks in all at once and I say “but you are dead” and he smiles as if in agreement, as if acknowledging to me that he is, indeed dead; but then tell me he’s still alive without actually speaking.  Something isn’t right. This feels wrong. He’s in my doorway with a bag collecting his things.  He says he has a baby on the way that he needs to take care of and so he must go.  It doesn’t feel right.  Something is wrong.  He is dead but there he is in my house wandering around as if he got the memo but decided he didn’t agree.  He’s got things to prepare for.  He smiles.  There’s a baby on the way. It isn’t mine.  That part doesn’t bother me because why is he here in my house putting things in a bag? He answers even though I didn’t say it out loud.  He smiles hurriedly and tells me there’s a baby on the way. He seems happy but in a panicked sort of way.  

I watch him and worry that the maker of the baby is only luring him with false promises of love and comfort.  I know better.  I know the truth.  The maker of the baby, whom he’s known for exactly only seven days, doesn’t love him but he can’t see that.  He’s caught up in the promises the maker of the baby has fed him.  I see her even though she isn’t there.  She knows exactly what she’s doing.  She is evil.  She has no real shape.  Her nebulous form floats always nearby, nudging him to hurry, not to linger too long.  Then he is gone and I am wandering through my house confused. 

I panic and rush to the shelf where I keep the flag, now folded in a triangle, the single dog tag on its chain (the other one was buried with him per military regulation), the medals, epaulettes marking his rank, patches and challenge coins and pins and I see they are all there.  Why didn’t he take these things with him? I’m relieved but confused and then I wake up. 

It is 0300ish and I can’t go back to sleep. My kitten cuddles next to me.  The dogs quiet on their beds on the floor.  It was just a dream.  I can’t go back to sleep.  My kitten senses I am awake and starts purring loudly while reaching a little kitten paw up to my face.  I wouldn’t have this kitten if he were still here.  He barely tolerated the dogs even though he loved them and the GSD never left his side. I wonder if the GSD is waiting for him to come home.

It is 0430ish and I lay staring up at the blackness into the nothingness waiting for the sun to mark morning’s arrival.  Perhaps I dozed off for a bit, grasping for the remnants of sleep.  But the program had ended.  The studio was closed.  Still, I lingered nearby in what was an amateur version of sleep. Sleep’s understudy perhaps. 

0700. I really need to get up out of this bed. Why was he alive in my dream? Now it is 0829 and I’m 29 minutes late for work.  Up the stairs. Into the office in the same room where I sat while he drove to the tree, parked under its shade then picked up the gun.  

Good stories have some kind of great ending to bring everything together. This one doesn’t. Not yet.

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