from TABLE 41 by Joseph Suglia
And now you slowly awaken.
You are awake. But where are you?
You are not yet alive. Or rather, you are alive. But you have no idea where you are.
The day’s eye closes and then uncloses again. The morning robs the room of its deep shadows, pressing the dead night more deeply into the darkness. Drawing the curtains of your eyes shut, you can feel the light closing in around you.
Rocking your head back and forth in refusal, you are only dimly aware of where you are.
You are in a hotel. That is where you must be.
You are steeped in the swirling sheets of a rent-a-bed at the Lincoln Park Inn, 601 West Diversey Parkway.
Why are you in a hotel?
Bursting into the world of consciousness with the elegance of a rabid muskox, you no longer remember who you used to be.
The dawn undarkening splatters against the window in a plasmatic rainbow.
The matutinal glow is reflected on the plasma-wettened streets.
The matutinal glow drawing fuzzy halos around you, you have only a vague post-awareness of your usual self. Now, as if reborn, your existence slopes into a question mark.
Raising your head, you uncover yourself with uncertain fingers.
You remove the blanket from the bed. The blanket falls to the floor.
Your eyes wrinkled with fatigue, you survey the ghost room.
A sepiatone photograph of a ghostly cadaverous bride on her wedding day hangs above the bed.
Staring at the mirrored ceiling, you avoid the questions that you are too afraid to pose.
Even while you were sleeping, you had silently asked yourself the questions that are now insistently buzzing in your mind, buttery questions that are churning in the butter churner of your brain. Lying in the deep bed, you corral the unstable words that, as horses, threaten to bolt from the stable of your mouth.
You had a dream last night. Did you dream of a boy? Did you dream of a boy coming from the lake? Was that even a dream? Did you dream of a boy with blank eyes emerging from the water?
If you could choose where you will die, you would die beside the water.
If you could choose the place of your own death, it would be a beach.
Imagine lying on the beach. You are reclining on that beach. You are watching the merchildren coming from the waves. They are disappearing into the city. You are watching the children come from the sea and disappear into the city.
You are lying on the beach, in your imagination, and you are staring at the sky above you.
The sky is growing foamy black. You imagine the waves rising.
You imagine that the tide is rushing in and bearing your body into the water.
Into the water you go. You are joining the children of the deeps.
Enough of these dreams! You are alert now.
You flow from dreamfulness into wakefulness, voiding your mind of cloudy thoughts.
You raise yourself and gambol across the room and into the lavatory. You feel as if you were levitating. It is time to take your morning shower, your matinal ablution.
A mirage of flesh and tufty pubescence fills the shower cube. Loose and wet, your flesh is blasted by a blast of fresh effervescence. A haze of mist surrounding you, you stretch unsleepily, stretching out and open. Then unstretch. Shivering with bliss, you stand high over the wavelets that are forming around the drain.
You squeeze a jet of clear plasma into your palms. Beautiful shampoo ejaculates into your palms. “Tangerine-Guacamole Surprise,” you muse to yourself in a mumbling mutter. You rub your hands together until the shampoo froths. You slather your hair with the viscous sap until your hair becomes lathery.
Translucent ooze ripples over your forehead, dew dangling from your eyebrows.
You recall silently to yourself that it is a faux pas to soap one’s body with shampoo. You smile bemusedly to yourself, content with your knowledge of showering etiquette.
You place the shampoo bottle upon the soap-encrusted balcony.
You unravel a serpentine shower hose and spray yourself with a heavy, frosty spray. The folds of your skin shiver and then settle back into place.
You clump out of the steamy shower capsule.
You feel the towel in your hands. The towel is pink.
You dry yourself off. You dress yourself. You unclose and close the door of the hotel room and tread down the corridor.
Watch the white cat sidling against the wall, a sliding sidler. Its tail high in the air, the white cat mighews as you step forward.
You tramp toward the elevator. You push the DOWN button. The elevator doors open obligingly.
Into the elevator. Out of the building. Through the courtyard. Across the parking lot. Out on to the street you amble.
The day is cascading incandescence.
You insinuate into the Starbucks at 617 West Diversey Parkway.
There is only one client waiting to order: a man of twenty-six winters, wearing a maroon sweater, cosmetically faded grey jeans, and black-framed goggles. His boots are brown; his hair is gelatinized into stalactites. He orders a Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuchino. His sinuous lips worm over his puckered face as if they were telling a joke that only they could understand.
You stare at the back of the maroon man’s head as his head bobbles. He turns around furtively and goggles your eyes with a googly-eyed look. He slinks and slouches away.
You swing toward the counter. There, a clerk adorned in a green apron. She is waiting for you to speak. Beneath her green apron is a multi-creased cream-colored chiffon blouse. Her hair is chignoned; her skin is pallid. Behind her is a mounted photograph of coffee beans aswirl in a grinding coffee grinder.
You ask the clerk for a Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuchino.
Behind you, there is someone. Behind you, a dumpy woman is groping for the counter, bellowing and barking. She is wearing pink slippers and a pink jumpsuit. She claws the air with her hands as if she were clawing her way through ectoplasmic coils.
She yells at no one in particular:
—Can I have some sugar? No more sugar!
The clerk looks at you.
The clerk conspiratorially fingers a table in the seating area and intones sotto voce:
—You can sit there. She’s not supposed to be here. There’s a mental home a few blocks down the street.
The dumpy woman is clawing at the air.
—SUGAR! SUGAR! WHERE IS THE SUGAR? NO MORE SUGAR!
You caper to the vacant table—bonum vacans. The clerk hefts a transparent cup on to the green balcony of the ordering area. You take the cup into your hands. The cup is gorged with thick white liquid and plumed with crests of thick white foam. A straw impales the aerosol cushion. You think of ravens nesting in the White Cliffs of Dover.
A young woman is folded up beside you, her knees against her chest. She is nestling in the nest of a brown leather armchair, her apricot-shaped face impending over her mobile telephone. Sunglasses rest on flaxen hair. She is wearing a white sweatshirt, blue jeans, and brown boots.
At the counter, perched on a stool, is a man of thirty-five summers; he has sideburns and is donning black sneakers. His left wrist is constricted by a large watch. He is circling his finger on the mouse of his laptop, squinting at the screen.
Deflating in a brown leather armchair is an old man. His forehead is corrugated; his skeletal form is draped in a grey sweater and loose blue jeans. His eyes are plunging deep into a photograph that he has extracted from his wallet. He loses interest in the photograph and pulls out a wad of twenty-dollar bills. He is counting his twenty-dollar bills. Look at his orbiting orbits.
Scanning the walls up and down, his lidless eyes trace outlines.
A young woman, long black hair enveloping her head like a blank manta, shifts into the Starbucks space. She is gripping a black Armani purse and is swathed in a black suit jacket. Grey yoga pants mold her thick thighs.
The young woman speaks masklessly toward her friend—a dwarfish version of her—while surveying the flatscapes of her mobile telephone. The taller woman says to herself:
—I was, like, you are my entertainment. Do you know what I mean? I want a tall coffee. The ‘tall’ is literally the small one. My hair is crazy.
You listen to the rustlings of the sachets of artificial sweetener and lapse into a morning reverie. Through the ten-foot plate-glass panel windows, the sky is turning a refulgent yellow. The yellowing sky calls to mind the fulguratings and effulgences of your dream. You imagine yourself slipping gently into the oceanic flow.
You are sliding into the mysteries of last night’s dream.
Of what did you dream last night? You pause and muse.
You seldom dream. Or you seldom remember your dreams. Psychologists have told you that every human being dreams.
But is this the case? You have not remembered a dream in ten years. Does this mean that you have not dreamt for a decade?
You dreamt last night.
Last night, you dreamt and dreamt vividly of a sea-boy emerging from the waves of Lake Michigan. The question is not “What does the dream mean?” but rather “What did you dream in the first place?”
Last night’s dream surfaces in flashes, as most dreams do. Your dream lights up.
You remember the boy’s white shape rushing across the sands of the beach. He ran so quickly that he seemed to be hovering, suspended over the frozen sand.
Soon he vanished into the city of Chicago. He danced into the shadowzones of the city of Chicago. Something happened immediately afterwards, something succeeded his vanishing.
In your thought-vision you see the boy galloping across the pavilions of the night. You visualize the boy’s journey from the lakeshore, concentrating the faculty of your imagination on his flight through the nocturnal streets. He traverses the park, whisking between the wispy trees in the park and the sleeping presence of gantries and traffic lights, sentries of nothing.
You remember the sea-boy running down Fullerton Parkway toward Clark Street and then south on Clark Street, his white shape scudding down the roadway and into a convenience store, as if propelled by a violent gale, the boy’s white form juddering as he seized a bottle of fluoride-freshened water, pressing it to his sea-mouth, glugging as the water gurgled from the bottle, an elemental memory of his nativity, and down his throat, water wettening the boy’s neck as the effluence flowed into and on to his body. The clerk wheeled around the counter, keeping a reverent distance from this exotic creature, a silky seal that sinuated into his store.
The boy ran away. The boy ran out of the store. The boy was gone, out the door and into the street, into the careenings and the careerings and the circlings of the traffic, a spiraling volute.
Now there is a gap in your memory at this point. It is difficult to suture the holes of memory, to bridge the ravines that form between one’s consciousness and one’s dreaming vision.
You strain the muscles of your memory.
In a flash of remembrance, you recall the young boy lying face-down at the joining of two streets, his body encircled by a pool of water. Water spouted from his mouth in spurts.
Palpitating like a dying fish, the boy gradually expired and no one and nothing sighted him, except for the roving, roaming, unblinking glare of a security camera, a mechanical eye less observant than the boy’s absent eyes, null yet charily and everlastingly perceiving.
Where is the boy? You must find the boy. Find the sea-boy. Embark. Look questingly for the sea-boy. Embark.
The objective now is to find the illumined juncture, the crossing of two roads illuminated in your dream, and to see if there is a dead boy lying, a boy lying dead on the tarmac. Embark. Your voyage begins at the Starbucks on Diversey Parkway.
Copyright 2019 by Joseph Suglia