I Had a Dream About You
    Ciara LaVelle
It's last night, and I curl up beside him to listen to his stories. He has the top bunk, so I'm careful not to hit my head on the ceiling when I sit up. I always do. His hand is slim and softer than mine as I hold it over my shoulder, my back to him, both of us on our sides. Sometimes he sinks his face into my hair, and there is very little distance from his mouth to my ear. I close my eyes and see the things he says.

The clock marks every hour as we talk. When I open my eyes again, it's five in the morning and we're still there, just about to sleep. He always sleeps face down, and his arm rests across my shoulders as I face him, curled up, my hands in loose fists beneath my chin. It's mid-winter, but his third-floor room is always stuffy, no matter how long or loudly the fan spins in the window.

He thinks he bores me. He doesn't know he's a storyteller. But there is a life in his voice that rises as he speaks, pulling me beneath this stale reality. It washes in, replacing his small, yellow-brown room with a cool nostalgia-soaked sincerity. But just before he gets to the heart of the story, insecurity passes over him like a fierce current, and he breaks into the former reality with an abrupt ending like a jolt.

He says to me, "a funny thing happened the other night." I smile and take a deep breath.

"It was the middle of the night awhile ago, and I woke up, kind of in that groggy state. I was lying kind of like you are, on my side at the edge, and I was only half-awake." He pulls our hands, clasped together, to his chest. They looked like an oil painting in extreme detail, with that surreal perfection of lifelike art.

He doesn't notice this frameless display. "I rolled over to put my arm around you. Instinctively."

He pauses, and I don't know what to say. He wants me to push him deeper, but I am flooded with anxiety, afraid of saying something wrong and rushing us both to the bitter surface. I want to beg him not to stop; I want to open my eyes and watch his mouth; I wish I had been there the other night. But in his story I feel comforted and weightless, so I keep my eyes closed.

He must think I'm asleep. "Obviously, you weren't there." He laughs at himself a little now, and the heat creeps in again. "I don't know. I just thought. it was disconcerting."

I always forget the things I'm supposed to remember. I get birthday presents at the last minute, do homework during class, forget to give phone messages, hit my head on the ceiling when I sit on his bed. But when I keep my eyes closed after he finishes, the story seeps away slowly in our silence. And I always remember his stories.

His voice is muffled through the pillow but we are close so it doesn't matter. Our eyes are closed.


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