Part One can be found here.
My dream that night, as always, was not a dream but a memory. The memory, the memory of the cold, bitter stars overheard, undimmed by cloud, that had shed me; the wet, freezing grass beneath me, blades scratching my skin; my limbs, wrapped tightly around myself, trying to keep the remaining warmth from fleeing; my skin, shivering, shaking, rebelling against the control of my hands.
And then the blanket, the sudden warmth, and her voice over me. Asking questions I could not answer, could not even understand.
And then, I remembered reaching out to her, unfolding my hand, stretching my fingers toward her…until I stopped. Or rather, something stopped me. My hand collapsed, and withdrew beneath the blanket as she tried to help me to stand. She tried to get me to put my arm around her shoulder, but I refused, staring instead with blank, newly-minted curiosity at surrounds foreign to my senses.
I was, then; that was all I knew, and all that had been left to me. Of what I might have been before, I did not know.
But there was a dark cloud in my thoughts, then, hovering, and I tried to push it away…dim it, deny it–but it remained, hovering. Words. Words spoken before. Before…before–
I awoke, beads of sweat running over my brow, dropping, stinging, into my eyes.
She was bent over me, running a damp washcloth over my skin, trying in her delicate way to keep the salt from my eyes.
“You cried out again,” she said. “I tried not to disturb you…as you asked.”
I swallowed. “Thank you.”
“But, I just couldn’t…” She wiped my brow again. “I couldn’t stand to hear you…cry out like that.”
“Did I say anything?”
“You…” She dipped the cloth back into the bowl of water, and sighed. “No. Nothing.”
“Please…I wish you would tell me.”
She shook her head. “You said nothing. Nothing I could understand. Nothing that would be meaningful to either of us.” She sighed. “So, anyway, I keep saying.”
I wanted to reach for her, I could feel the need to touch her…but I held my hand by my side. “I’m sorry,” I said.
She reached down and grasped my hand, and held it up in the air. The dawn light was beginning to leak around the curtains. My skin was pale when she turned my hand, back and forth, in the light.
“You know,” she said, then sighed. “I wish I could, just talk to you, sometimes. Ask you.” She closed her eyes and held my hand against her cheek. “I want so much to help you. You are….you are so…” She released my hand and sighed, turning toward the curtains. “Forgive me, I am…” She tried to regain her composure. “I’m sorry.”
Carefully, I reached for her, and stroked her hair with my hand. “I’m…not sure I understand. But I try. I do try.”
She turned to stare at me. “I have so many questions I’m not even sure I know how to ask them.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “They all begin with ‘Why—‘”
“I don’t have the answers,” I said. “It’s all…”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” I closed my eyes, and tried to turn away from her, but she held my hand tightly. “I know there are answers. I know it. I know it. There were, before. Before.” I rolled over and looked at her. “I just don’t know what they are, now.” With an effort, I pulled my hand away and tucked it under my side.
I didn’t need to see her, but I could feel her stand, the weight of her suddenly released from the bed. The springs bounced.
“You need to go, don’t you?” she asked.
I pressed my eyes closed. “Not yet,” I said. I clenched my teeth.
Many times, I tell myself that it is my hands, my hands that do these things. They are the ones who reach out, who grasp the invisible threads, and pull them toward me. My understanding is that people do this all the time…they blame other things for what they cannot control. Their jobs. Their cars. Their families. The state of things, here and elsewhere.
And I want to be like them, I confess. When I am down in the basement, looking into the furnace, howling to deny the hunger, because that is what she would want, that is what would make her look…differently at me…I tell myself it is my hands.
It can’t be me. It can’t.
But people know that their jobs, their cars, their images do not control them. It is, I think, a polite fiction. I believe that is the phrase I read. A polite fiction separating us from the animals. I don’t know what fiction means. Yes, she has shown me films, of spacecraft and death rays and the triumph of the righteous and good. But they are simply images, crafted elsewhere. They are very clever. But they can’t tell me anything. The hunger is always there. I can hold it at bay, but unlike those heroes, I cannot defeat it. It is never, ever defeated. Just delayed. Sometimes, she and I will watch some entertainment, with space heroes, and laser weapons, and problems that are neatly solved in an hour and a half. They’re good films. I find myself reaching for her…with my hands.
It is then I tell myself that it is my hands which do these things. Because I would never do these things…to her. I could not.
I would not.
I…I must leave. On screen, the handsome hero and the love interest have not yet acknowledged anything between them….but I fear…my hands. It must be my hands. ”Are you…okay?” she asks. “You have that—look.” She tries to hide it, but I see her shudder, I see her stiffen.
”Yes,” I lie, again. “I think I need to take a walk, that’s all.”
She’s very good at hiding it, but I hear it anyway. A sharp intake of breath.”Will you be walking…far?”
She has been so good to me, and everything I have to do is a risk to her. “Better not wait up for me,” I say, and I hear her breathing relax.
It’s all in the hands. ”I love you,” she whispers.
The most horrible thing in this world, to me, is that I do not know what that word means. But I know how to answer, I have learned that, at least.”I love you too,” I say.