Joe dreams like a man condemned. He experiences REM like a man submerged. In this particular dream, Joe wears a large, moon-sized watch on his wrist, an unusually small wrist for a man. Joe would not dream of wearing a watch in real life as he feels life is fleeting enough. The weight anchors him nicely, though, and for once he feels as though he will not float away. The second hand jerks tiny staccato movements like crisp salutes showing great loyalty to someone who surely does not deserve it. Now, there is a woman. Isn’t there always in dreams of this sort? But this is not a sexy dream. Really, this dream is not about sex. Well. This woman would like to spend some time with Joe. She admires his crisp white shirt. His black pants with creases so sharp, someone is bound to get hurt. Or maybe just a little bit injured. Both hope it isn’t one of them. Joe is not handsome in this dream, though he is in real life. Which is all a part of the paradox that plagues him. Joe does not feel the pain of loneliness in this dream. If things do not work out with this woman, though he’d like it to, being low on energy as he usually is, there are others. He can see them waiting. The women will wait with the patience of 10,000 saints. There are two bottles of Silver Oak on the table, though no glasses. Still, they mean to do some damage. The woman circles the orbs of his face, smiles like a radiant Madonna, blinding him. Joe headlines in a Million Dollar Movie. But now it is Midnight. The Star-Spangled Banner plays. With a start, Joe wakes up. In the bathroom mirror he stares at his eyes, tilting his head this way, then that way. His lids are heavy as shrouds. The sadness is back again. He thinks about tomorrow night and all the nights that came before. Counts the precious hours before sleep claims him, once again.
Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at Arcadia University in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Gargoyle, PANK Magazine, jmww, SmokeLong Quarterly, Staccato, Word Riot, and elimae. Her work was included in Dzanc Books’ 2011 Best of the Web anthology. Her short fiction collection, Natural Habitat, was published by Burning River in 2010. Her short fiction chapbook, Like Lungfish Getting Through the Dry Season (2011), is available from Thunderclap Press. Her most recent chapbook, If All They Had Were Their Bodies is available from Burning River. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.