A true story about some nights
Some nights were better than others, and others were so bad they had to be forgotten; any attempt at capturing their numb desperation would crumple overnight and reveal nothing but words the next morning. I’d been suffering through more and more of those nights during my last months in the army, kept up by nocturnal, slow-motion panic attacks that felt artificial even as they took over my vision like tainted contact lenses shoved into my eyes. When I finally got to shut my stinging eyes I was subjected to dreams that could weigh entire days down.
I dreamt about Gil, and the fact that I had yet to meet his new girlfriend Keren didn’t stop her from joining us there, flesh and blood, slick black hair tied back in a mischievous ponytail, clever narrow eyes and thin lips, so real, so flawed and beautiful. I understood immediately why he loved her. I told Gil I’d dreamt about her and he laughed and wanted to hear it. He was especially curious to hear what she’d looked like since I’d never seen her, and he smiled and said “She doesn’t look like that at all.”, but he wasn’t angry, he was gentle.
In the dream I had done the impossible and outlived the army. I was a free man once again and down on my luck. Gil was well established in this dream world, and since I had inexplicably found myself without a place to sleep I was crashing at the grungy apartment he shared with Keren. And yet it didn’t feel like a young couple’s apartment, more like the stuffy home of grandparents. It was furnished in rich mahogany and had couches upholstered in a foggy green that matched the wall to wall carpeting. The air stood still in this dark place, and walking through it I constantly felt the tickle of disturbed cobwebs on my face.
I imagined we were about to do something wonderful, an act that would be clean and pure within this cloud of flith, anything that would keep us alive. I had a glimpse of eroticism; one of Keren’s hands stroking me and the other stroking Gil. I sat with them in their old living room and time passed by, shadows moved on the wall and I understood the sun had set. They led me to my room, which felt like it had never been used. It was no bigger than a bathroom, with barely enough space for a grey cot with an army blanket neatly folded on top of it. I lay myself down in mild disappointment and after two hours of dreamless sleep within my dream I was awoken by the gentle brush of Keren’s hand against my cheek.
“Come.” She said, and I felt happiness.
She led me to the kitchen, where Gil sat nervously smoking a cigarette that he hadn’t ashed once. The sight of him was suddenly shocking; his fingers and throat were freakishly skinny, his face worn out and old with liver spots, his eyes sunken in black, his full head of hair nearly gone and his beard caked in white dust. He flashed an apologetic smile, his eyes brimming with embarrassment.
Keren ignored him. She picked a small brown bottle the size of her thumb off the spice rack, pulled me by the arm back into the living room and pressed my head to the couch. The bottle’s cap was an eyedropper. She pulled my eyelids back and dangled the eyedropper over me. Thick brown drops floated down and covered my vision until Keren’s image smiling wisely down at me was obscured by a curtain of brown.
Gil laughed at the dream. I felt he was happy I’d dreamt about Keren. He told me he was happy with her, even though she sometimes brought on horrible depressions. “Two days ago she gave me the worst depression I’ve had in a long long time.” He said. “I was just walking around at night going nowhere for hours. I called you, but I bet you don’t remember. I think you were sleeping.”
“When did you call me?”
My friend had been lost late at night and he’d called me, but I had no memory of it. I’d slept through his pain. The fact that I’d answered my phone, spoken to him and said goodbye without even nearing consciousness was a scary thought.
A few nights later he asked “So, do you want to meet Keren?” I drove to pick the both of them up from the center of Tel Aviv. I’d devoted time to deciding what I should wear, made sure my hair was relatively glued to my scalp and carefully picked out the right music for the ride. Keren looked nothing like she had in my dream. I liked her very much; it was all in her eyes and in her smile, and in her short curly hair. They couldn’t part and both climbed into the back of my cab. I smiled and winked at them through the rearview mirror.
Keren said “Buy me a lollypop.”
Gil said “No.”
Keren said “Pllleeeeeaasseee?”
Gil said “No.”
We stopped for frozen yogurt, my treat. I felt I owed them that much, since I knew I would be leaning on them plenty in our futures. I handed out small plastic spoons. Keren chewed on hers. Gil took it out of her mouth and pried it out of her hand. My smile wavered. I drove her home. They hugged outside my car window, two headless bodies, their shirts lifted above their belly buttons as they stretched around each other and I saw his hairy stomach and her smooth skin.
Back in the car Gil said “Man, I cried last night. Do you know how long it’s been since I cried?” He sounded strangely happy. When I stopped the car under his grandmother’s house he said “If you feel empty… really empty, indifferent to life… that’s the worst. That’s the most dangerous, it’s worse than depression.”
“You know,” I quietly tasted what I was about to say. “I used to live my life thinking that something amazing was going to happen to me. I think now I just live my life because I’m not dead.”
Gil said nothing. I felt horrible. He was finally happy, and I had to leave my dirty thumbprints all over it. Why was I was dragging him down with me? He’d done nothing wrong.
“I’m sorry.” I laughed stiffly.
“You should be.” He said jokingly. “Anyways, thanks for the ride.”
“Are you kidding? Riding in the same car with you is a rare pleasure in this shitty, shitty, shitty life.”