I Don’t Think I Ever Sleep

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So. I’m in the back of a cab with the girl of my dreams: gawky and bony and rough as a one-bar call; and really, really odd looking. I like her face. It’s unusual in the arrangement of its disproportionate features. The nose is long and barbed with a small mole on a nostril; eyes like scuffed marbles; cheeks dented inward, almost skeletal; and a mouth like Greta Garbo that slims when she smiles to hide a few crooked teeth. I find it interesting and one-of-a-kind — genuinely just hers. She’s telling me about all the cuff links and tie pins she inherited from her grandfather, who, somehow, is still alive. This is what she’s telling me. He collected them, from all over the world. Was obsessed with them. She tells me not to get too addicted to cuff links or tie pins like that. She says she rarely has any occasion to wear them. I’m not sure how you inherit things from someone who is still alive, but…

My phone rings.

“Sorry. I’m going to have to answer this, or else this person is going to keep calling and calling until I do.”

I take the call, and, without saying hello, I tell the person on the other end: “Hey. I’m in the back of a cab with the girl of my dreams. I’ll call you back another time.” Then I hang up.

I turn to the aforementioned girl of my dreams. I tell her, “Sorry about that. I don’t like lying to people, but it seemed necessary at the time.”

Her mouth ovoids into a disappointed, “Oh.”

“Yeah. This isn’t really a cab, is it?”

Now she gets back to smiling, “Ha. No. I guess it’s not.”

I place my hand near her on the seat. She drops her thin, long fingers down to meet mine. Everything is stuffed with promise. We’re both glowing on the inside.

Fourth Street’s all crammed with construction, as there’s a new subway coming in any decade now, and I tell the driver (who is not a cabbie, but some sort of independent contractor who works for a tech company that spells “lift” with a “y” for some reason) something along the lines of, “Hey, let’s make this trip snappy, if you can. We’re in love back here, and we’re dying to get this night moving along somewhere a little more, well, personal.”

He punches some buttons on the gadget attached to his dashboard, and we’re soon hedging our bets down Folsom, and the moon’s just a sliced-slipper cutout pasted on the darkening paperboard sky out the window.

I’d met this magnificent weirdo named Edna at the Hotel Utah Saloon, where she’d been serving drinks to yuppies at Happy Hour, and was sick of listening to them yap about whether it was better to be offered a contract to work for three years for three million and not have any vacation or work-hour restrictions, or to sign up for four years and two million but get much time off and only have 8-hour days. I placed my nods and looks of disapproval at all this to her at just the right time, and soon our timing was working out very nice together. And after the yuppies started dispersing into tech-gadget obscurity, Edna and I shared a pleasant glass of bourbon, commiserating over the plight of the world of people, places, and things. We both agreed that soon there would be no nouns left to count on.

Edna shifts in her seat so she’s as close as she can be to me, and slides down and puts her head on my bicep, rubbing her cheek like a cat against the fabric of my jacket.

“Where do you get off, lady? Just taking condolences out on my suit jacket, there. I’ve got a mind to…”

“I get off when I hear that robotic female voice say, ‘You’ve reached your destination.’”

“Good to know.”

Our hands intertwine in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s a bit like losing your fingers in a mound of mashed potatoes, and then forgetting that they’re there, and you stop feeling around and just enjoy the sensation of being lost in all that warm softness.

Edna’s stretching out of her seat belt. I keep staring wistfully at her thin lips. I can’t think of anything except how it might feel to brush against them with my own.

Then, without warning, I’m woken up by some bastards upstairs dropping their tools on the floor of the apartment above me. Soon their wrenching out the carpet and making all sorts of racket. I roll over in bed. There’s nobody there next to me. The second pillow’s cold. My sheets are a wreck. Edna died five years ago today. I yawn up through the ceiling, which is cracking with all the hammering and wrenching and tearing that’s going on above it, and I grumble to myself, “I don’t think I ever sleep.”

But when I do, if I do, it’s nice to have at least a dream like that once in a while to keep me going.

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