The city was sticky and cruel
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Ten years ago I dreamed a dream about two people. I remember every sense in the dream: the dust in the carpet they sat on, holding one another; the staticky, sticky feel and smell in the air from the sick one’s breath, the blueness of open irises; the silence filling their ears. The humidity. The weight of the air on their skin, close like water. Every color in the dream was tinged with sadness, with the knowledge of looming loss. The healthy one cried. The sick one was not just sick. He was dying.
When I woke up I wrote their story out endlessly, for years, in variations and settings and time frames, until I could nearly touch both of them when I reached my hands out in my sleep, until they were more like flesh than figments of my mind. I wrote them until I knew what they’d see in inkblots, what they bought at the grocery store, how they handled running late, which kinds of liquor each liked. The absoluteness of loneliness I’d felt for eighteen years before I had the dream left me, because after the dream, they were always with me.
But the sick one, in particular, has leapt from between the two-dimensional lines of his life spelled out in ink on paper and words on a screen and become something different. In some ways, we have become one person. Which may seem odd, because from outside, I’ve always been one person. But within me, there is me, and there is this other human who showed up ten years ago, who climbed out of my subconscious and got so entangled and intertwined in my psyche that I’ve lost entire personality traits and blocks of memory to him—and gained his. Sometimes I try to remind myself that memories I thought were mine are aspects of an imagined character, no more than words on paper. But even in my most rational moments I can’t make myself believe he isn’t real. I forget which things I’ve lived, which things this dreamed-up, living-inside-me other soul has lived.
We share the same body, but I get to control it.
There are days when he takes over. And nights.