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In Your Dreams (cont.)

by Paul Bauman
Thu, Nov 14th 2019 01:00 pm

The ceiling fan greets me back to life in a blurry haze, circulating the odor of stale alcohol in my room. I can’t tell if it’s the room that’s spinning or just my head or maybe only the fan or what, but in any event, I can get drunk again just by breathing in here, so that rules out any theories of me doing karate last night. However, no less than six concrete blocks were smashed over my head. Yeah, six blocks feels right. If I were to rank the discomfort from greatest pain to least, after the splitting headache comes the dry mouth, then the mysteriously sore hips, and lastly the blanket chafing my b---s.

“Where time is?”

My nightstand clock reads 10:27 a.m., and I sound like a zombie, and I’m late for work! I leap out from under the covers in the direction of my pants and—

—I rattle awake to my left arm being yanked from its socket. Something heavy just collapsed on the floor, and I think I felt something tear.

“Owww.” I moan and wince and palm my shoulder, which is possibly dislocated. “That hurrrt.”

Not only that, it feels like I got shot in the head with a beer can. I let out another moan while something sharp and hard cuts into my wrist. Wait a sec, this isn’t my nice Egyptian down. This blanket is made of sandpaper! A sixty-watt bulb burns overhead, and a wad of rags over the window stops up all outdoor light. Skin itchy, hair in face, I dig my heels into the mattress and scoot crossways toward the side of the bed where my wrist is pulling me. That seems to decrease the pressure. What in God’s name am I attached to?

It’s a bracelet. No. Holy s---. I’m handcuffed! To another hand! Draped over the edge of the bed! Panicked and bruised, I fumble to my feet right when the owner of said hand tilts her head back and wipes away a mess of hair. It’s a woman—thank Christ—and she squints at me, blonde and bleary-eyed.

“Jess?” My eyes go wide.

Hers must be adjusting, because she keeps looking at me upside down with her cheeks puffed out like an angry chipmunk. “Collin Marshall?” she says with outright disdain.

In a snap, she whips the comforter up to shield her face and chest. “Not happening. Not happening. This didn’t happen. I’m not here.”

“I sure hope you are.” Grinning, I grab a pillow and hold it between my legs in a Book of Genesis fashion. “You should feel honored.”

“Oh my gahd!” She waves our arms in a circle, inadvertently tossing a bra around that had slid from her arm down onto the chain. Furious, she heaves the covers off and peeks out to check, as if unsure of our predicament. “I’m f-----g handcuffed!”

“I know!” I say, admiring the craftsmanship. “These things are legit.”

Struggling with the cuff, she tries to push it over the bone of her thumb.

I find a tube of K-Y jelly on the nightstand and drop it next to her. “Here. Try this.”

She glances at it, growls, then jams her thumb into the cuff even harder. When that fails, she goes back to waving her arm like a lunatic.

“Easy,” I say. “My hand is attached to this thing.”

She lets the cuffs hang midair between her left hand and my right, bra suspended, making some attempt to compose herself. “Where am I?”

“My house.” I present the clutter and all its glory. “Fifty-four Gordon Street, Brockport, New York. Would you like the zip code too?”

I could smack him, but instead I sit up, distracted, and find myself studying his room like a curator would her first day on the job at a natural history museum, with first day jitters cranked to the max. Collin follows my eyes as they race from the spent Natty Ice cans on the windowsill to a pile of ratty work gloves on the dresser to a collection of SOLO cups leaning against a wall.

We move deeper into the drinking paraphernalia exhibit, my attention pausing on each item for .2 seconds before I realize it does not contain a Xanax, and I go zipping on to the next in a whirl. Dizzy bats/caveman clubs. Nope. Beer funnel with eight tubes/primitive watering can. Nada. Kanjam display/pair of cylindrical devices dating from the late Paleolithic whereby Aborigines would slap a piece of wafer-shaped neon plastic into a slot for ritual purposes not yet discovered. No, no, no, and no. Exiting drinking paraphernalia Xanax-less, I dash off to the exotic animal wing.

An old leopard-patterned vest hangs off a dusty flat screen, situated next to a fish tank with a cigarette butt floating on the surface. That poor goldfish, and oh look, he has a plaque—Mr. McGillicuddy—still alive, by some miracle.

Winding down, I gloss over the Fall Out Boy and Fetty Wap posters, all to arrive at a condom in the ashtray, the highlight of the tour. S---! We definitely hooked up.

I can’t stop smiling at the irony of it all. We met as freshmen in Music Listening class, a very important and life-changing elective. It was during the wind chime unit that she grabbed my attention. I developed a small crush, hardly noticeable, at which point I asked her out. Then, I got rejected for being too awesome for her. What other logical explanation could there’ve been?

He was a giant p----. First I’m subjected to three months of furtive glances and awkward stares from the next row over. Then when he did approach me, he stood there hemming and hawing like a gibberish-blundering weirdo. After a while he finally managed to formulate a coherent sentence and all that came out was, “Hey, you, uh, what, are, uh, you, uh, doing, uh tomorrow, uh, I gotta go.” I didn’t know how to let him down easy, so I just felt bad and said I had a boyfriend later online. I was young. I think it was during the finger cymbal unit. Who remembers with that b------t class? I hope he didn’t go back to his dorm after and make a shrine of me with pipe cleaners and crepe paper... 

 

 

Continued from page 23 of issue 10 of The Stylus 

 

and weird s---. Oh my God. No one can know this happened! Why is he smiling? His smile is torture. He thinks he won something. I’ll give him something to win.
“Wipe that stupid smirk off your face.”

I smile brazenly, and that smile turns to a laugh. Four years ago I would’ve jumped at the chance to be with her. But now that I am a learned man, and know that her string of bad relationships and nightly bingers were red flags for crazy, I could care less.
Clenching her jaw, she looks at me with a crocodile glint in her eyes and balls up her fist. “You have thirty seconds to get the key.”
“They’re…not your handcuffs?”
“No, they’re not mine.” She bends her wrist to her chest, appalled. “You think I walk around with a bottle of 151 and a pair of handcuffs in my purse wherever I go?”
“I mean, if you’re drinking that kind of firewater, yeah.”
“It was my 21st birthday,” she explains, pulling the bra under the comforter with her. “Still is.”
“Um, happy birthday?” I let the pillow balance against my groin and spread my arms wide.
She scoffs and reels my hand behind her back to clasp the bra. “Where are my clothes?”
I spot a pair of panties near my foot and pick it up like a fish caught by the tail.
“That’s not mine,” says Jess. “Whose is that, your girlfriend’s?”
I fling it past her head. “Define girlfriend.”
“Define your face.”
“Well, I’m told it’s remarkably similar to Jude Law’s.”
Jess slaps at the bed, laughing nervously in that brassy way of hers. “On what f------- planet is this comparison being made?”
“Earth,” I say, flatly.
“No. Just, no.” Tears come to her eyes. “You actually kind of look like that one painting where that guy is clapping his face in a scream.”
She’s lying. I look like Jude Law.

Wait a sec. Jude Law? Britain. West End. Theatre. Globe. Shakespeare. My eyes dart to the nightstand clock. My hands begin to tremble uncontrollably. Oh s--- oh s--- oh s---.
“Oh s---!” A pang of terror recasts the lines in my face. “It’s 10:30!? I have a final exam in half an hour!”
“A what?” asks Collin with a dopey expression.
I fidget to the edge of the bed, clinging to the sandpaper blanket. “A final!” I throw out my feet and push him aside.
“Skip it.”
“Are you crazy!?” I stop halfway to my clothes by the door and let him have it. “Understand this. At 11 a.m. the LAST exam for my teaching degree will be handed out, and my a-- will be in that seat to take it. I need to graduate on time. My future kindergartners need me to graduate on time. They need to learn, Collin! Do you want them setting off into the world not knowing their shapes? Not knowing how to count to 100! Not washing their hands after using the restroom! When they catch hepatitis, do you know who will be responsible?” I stab him with my finger. “You, Collin, you!”
“Well, this is quite the quagmire, I must say.”
“You’re goddamn right it is.” Thinking he’s on board, I wrap the blanket around me like a cloak and stoop to pick up my glitter-blasted denim. He lends me his arm, letting it trail from the floor to my waist as I crouch and rise to put on my jeans, affording me what privacy the situation allows. I do a little hop to get them over my hips and then turn to him.
“Why aren’t you moving?” I shout. “Get your clothes on!”
He hitches a thumb toward the darkened window. “I have to get to work. I’m an hour and a half late.”
I lose the blanket as the hairs rise on my arms and neck. This is not f------- happening to me. What the —How do I get him to — I feel the tears welling up.
“Please, Collin. Oh my God, I’ll, I’ll—”

She literally has nothing to offer me without making us feel cheap.
“I’ll cry,” she says defeated, and lowers her chin.
Yuck, melodrama. Must find hacksaw and cut loose girl. One thing’s for certain. I need to bide for time. She can’t go to work with me like this. Speaking of—
“Hold that thought,” I tell her, digging into my jeans for my phone. “Why are my jeans wet?”
“You peed yourself,” Jess appraises, “and need a diaper. If you don’t come with me right now I’m telling everyone.”
“Whatever.” I unlock my phone, pillow held firm, and ignore a series of missed calls from Alicia in order to locate my work number. Scrolling through, I turn to Jess and reveal my priorities. “Let’s deal with my life first before going anywhere near your dumpster fire.”
Jess grits her teeth, and out comes her feisty side. “You have thirty seconds to get dressed, or I am dragging you to this exam whether you have clothes on or not!”
“Shhh.” I shove the pillow in her face and bring the phone to my ear just as my boss answers. “Hey, Mike,” I say with a sniffle. “I realize I’m late. I haven’t had a chance to reach you. I’ve been at the hospital all morning.”
Jess wrestles the pillow from me and bonks it between my legs.
“Olgh.” Balls! “My grandma just passed.”
The look on Jess’s face is priceless.
“That’s the third time you’ve used that excuse!” Mike shouts. “You have three grandmas?”
Oops. “Yeah. My stepmom’s mom.”
Jess sneers at me, her left arm dangling from my ear.
Mike was all corporate. “I’ve spoken with upper management, Marshall. They want me to let you go.”
My landscaping gloves taunt me from the dresser with a demotion back to manual labor. “Please, Mike,” I say. “I need this job. You know that analyst position just opened up. I took my last exam yesterday. My degree’s official. Finance. I qualify.”
“Listen closely, Marshall, and listen good. The only way I’m going against the top on this is if you send me a selfie with some old lady on a gurney, hooked up to a cardiogram, flatlining. And I want an obituary that reads ‘survived by Collin Marshall’ listing today as her date of death.”
“Are you serious?” I pretend to sob. “This isn’t a joke. My grandma died, man.”
“And a picture of the tombstone,” Mike tacked on.
“We’re having her cremated.”
“How many chromosomes do you think I’m missing, Marshall?”
“You have all 24 pairs, sir.”
“It’s 23.”
“The more the merrier.”
“Goodbye, Collin. You’re fired.”
~Laissez-Fare Mike Call Ended~

I read Collin’s cell phone screen loud and clear and can’t help a devilish grin. Dad is a senior executive there. Gotcha now, bitch.
“Fired?” I ask, unobtrusively.
“Yes. I am.” Collin winces and lowers the phone in his fist. “Go ahead and gloat.”
“Such a pity.” I pretend to mourn and click my tongue. “Losing a nice cushy job like that.”
“You don’t get it.” He’s so cute, shaking in my web, totally helpless. “I needed that raise.”
“And you had to go and lose it,” I say. “What ever will you do?”
“Probably drive trucks for a living.” He looks up, and I’m grinning like the damn Cheshire Cat. “Okay, have your laugh already.”
“That’s not why I’m smiling,” I say. “You work at Laissez-Fare. So does my dad, who just so happens to be”—cue dramatic music, dun-dun-dahhhhhn!—“Mike’s boss.”
“No fucking way.” Collin’s eyes go buggy.
“Way.”
“I’m inclined to believe you.” Any last bit of skepticism melts out of his features. “Every hippie and their love child works there.”
“You want your job back?” I narrow my eyes and ram my finger into his chest. “Get me into my exam. And Collin”—I get in his face—“so help me, if you tell one person in that office what happened last night, you can be sure the whole world will know it was nothing to write home about.”
“Nobody writes home about that!”
“I should hope not.” I pick some lint off my shoulder. “The first act was rocky at best, and the ending had a weak climax.”

Is she reviewing a Broadway musical? “Okay. I’ll cooperate. I can’t have these lies” — I give my spirit fingers a flitter — “circulating the airwaves.”
“What lies?” Jess asks nonchalantly, testing out her rotator cuff like a baseball pitcher.
I grunt as our linked hands go round in a circle.
“Kidding.” Jess stops the windmill. “Or am I?”
Muttering obscenities, I discard the pillow, pull up a dry pair of pants and loop my belt.

Now he obeys, and bonus points, my shoulder works. Isn’t that the cherry on the cake?
“But for serious.” I sigh out two lungfuls of air, mildly relieved, but still angsty AF. “Thank you.”
“Got you, babe,” says Collin.
“Don’t call me that.”
“First things first.” He ignores me and reaches for a bottle of Pedialyte, then pops two Advils and washes them down. “Some of us try to plan ahead.”
“Sure, Dad.”
He extends the purple liquid to me.
“I’m not putting my mouth on that.”
“Really?” He raises an eyebrow. “We just did way worse.”
For the sake of dehydration, I begrudgingly palm the bottle and take a baby sip. “If I caught an STD, I’m sending your health insurance the bill.”
“Um, pretty sure it doesn’t work like a car accident,” he says, notching his belt.
Wow. Brain fart. Where is my top? Torn to shreds on the floor. Great. I bend over and pick it up while he finishes gassing down the beverage for children.
I hold up my pink tank like a flag and can see the stitches have split apart from the armpit down to the hem.
“My shirt’s ruined,” I announce.
“Mine too.” Collin has discarded the drink and has his blue tee spread out for inspection. “We’re animals.”
My God, we must’ve went HAM on each other, for reasons I’ll never care to know or admit.
“What are we going to do?” I ask.
I can’t wear one of his shirts. My left hand will never fit through a fresh sleeve. Not with him still attached to me. A new shirt would rip all over 
again. “Do you have duct tape? Or crazy glue? Clothespins, paper clips, sewing machine!”
“Yeah, in my back pocket for the f------ haberdashery I run on weekends.” He holds out a finger to give pause, forming a pensive look in his eyes. “I’ve got it.”
He dons his t-shirt like a poncho and leads me around the foot of the bed over a slew of dirty clothes and old food. Jesus, Mary, hire a maid. He snags the cords of a PS2 along our journey and sends it crashing to the floor. Hire two maids. I mean, this poor fish! I pick up the net and scoop out the cigarette butt while Collin rifles through a crate of school supplies in the corner. Butt retrieved, I set aside the net and stare in a fog at his stack of Blu-rays, waiting impatiently, when I detect an anomaly.
“Is that a VHS copy of Spice World?” I point.
“No!” He whirls around so fast, chucks the tape with his right hand, discs toppling, and proffers something shiny in his left. “Found the stapler!”
“Uhuh.” Wetting the bed, no big deal. Guilty pleasure flick and he’s red as a Gobstopper. “Let’s go.” I’ll blackmail this wannabe later.

Jess hurries me into the hall, and all I can do is get my arm through my sleeve and hope she suffers from short term memory loss and chronic fits of dementia. The sound of wheels on hardwood emanates from Carl’s room, who with a scoot from his computer chair soon materializes at his door, kicking back in his Spider-Man peejays.
“Collin, Alicia called. She says it’s over.”
“Good. Did she say why?”
Carl takes note of the handcuffs as Jess and I rush past. “Did she have to?”
“What are you, her secretary?”
“May as well be.”
We get around the corner and shuffle down the stairs with relative ease.
“BLOW IT OUT YOUR A--, CARL!” I holler up at him. Then I turn to Jess. “It appears I’m back on the market.”
“Am I supposed to need this information?”
I spin around the kitchen in search of my shoes. “Yeah, tell your friends.”
Who breaks up with a guy by calling his housemate? A brick through the bay window would have been less informal. Honestly, Alicia doesn’t deserve another sober thought. It was a fun two weeks and that was that.
 

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