There are nights I turn into a sleeping wolf. Nightmares are only the mind saying you have something to be guilty of, and everybody is. Domesticate me. I want to be brave instead of beast. I want the moon to be nothing but a Xanax instead of a lozenge loosening my howl. The nightly rain isn’t subtle. It clatters around me in the dark and in my dream I am standing naked under a streetlamp. Waiting. For what, I do not know. God? His sparring partner? A lover? Either way, I grow hair. I bear a snout and fang and tail. American werewolf. Lonely lycanthrope. I’m haunted by a single thought: the only time I can be human is upon waking. There is blood on my paws. Take this rag: please, teach me to wipe this massacre off.
4 am. The witching hour is dead and effusing into a cobalt dim sky. I stumble like Judas from his own self-flagellation and reach for the Tylenol. Migraines come after seeing you die in my sleep. It’s what I fear about living here with you. You are passed out on the couch, snoring, an empty beer can on its side under your hand. A stain on the carpet. In my dream, you die young. You die because you contract a horrible disease that drives you mad. You go out into the world speeding, a daredevil lunatic hell-bent on reaching a space where you can find peace. You re-enter the world later this morning. You too reach for the Tylenol and wash it down with Busch. I can’t tell if I’m still dreaming. Whichever it is, I have heard some people receive visions while they sleep.
Upon waking, I recall the conversation I just had with Kurt Cobain, who has now returned to his pose in the poster above my bed. He’s taking a drag off of a Marlboro, arm wrapped loosely over his dreadnaught. He said I’m not guilty of being unique; I’m guilty of believing that I am. I run my hands under the tap and splash my face with scalding water. The heat tears me up and I wake. I’m laughing constantly at the devil: she’s nothing like she said she’d be. And of course, right on cue, my ex-lover walked into the dream with red-latex body suit and ram horns. She strokes me under my chin. Depression is another word for possession by a world that doesn’t give a shit. My ex-girlfriend nods in approval. I text her that morning to ask her if she’s alright. I don’t tell her she tortured me while Kurt Cobain chain-smoked. I tell her I love her. She doesn’t respond.
God rides a Honda Sportster; says it’s easier on the liver. I meet God in a bar within seven miles of a desert painted with saguaros and rattlesnake. God tells me I will forever walk this world alone, no matter how many men or women I grow to love. However, God says I can take a ride with him into the next town. In this nightmare, I say no: I don’t want to be a free-floating soul without anything to hold me down. I would rather have something with bone-scaffold, something with blood-course, something with flesh on it to keep me warm. God gruffly understands. God roars off on his bike, the side of it reading The Spirit. I wake up to the musty taste of whiskey in my mouth; I wake up to the smell of exhaust outside in the October air.
I am a young buck, my ten point crown laddering a short distance from my skull. My love is hunting me. She has a Remington .22 and is tracking me. I want to speak to her and say I love her. But every time I come around a tree-bend, she fires. I bolt away. She fires. I lightning whitetail under the eaves. I leap, free to get away, but instead I stay close. When she begins to reload, I approach her. I come up to her and turn my side to her. I want her to feel the freedom of my air-boned back, my sleek hide, my trophy eyes staring into hers. I put my snout to her face. She is still and I know then I am in danger. I turn my back. I let her know, by laying down, I will not run. She does what she came to do, and I wake, my tears lead-heavy.
I am a child again. I have a black balloon in my hands. I am going to a funeral. I think it’s mine, but I’m still alive. I watch from the hillside as my family congregates and weeps and prays for mercy over my soul. My black balloon bobs in the air. I watch and realize I am not me; I am the alternative me. My alternative me is my brother, dead at 3 minutes. I look like him at seven years old. In this dream, it was not alternate me who died: it was daily me. I do not fear what I do not understand this time. I realize sadness has everything to do with situation. I realize I don’t want to suffer anymore. I let go of the black balloon. It flees and arrives in the branches of a cedar tree. It bursts into dark slivers of every lie I ever told myself.
Samuel J Fox is a bisexual essayist and poet living in North Carolina. He has poems appearing in F.A.L.D., Maudlin House, and Horn and Ivory; he has essays forthcoming in Cold Creek Review, Ellipsis Zine, and Moonchild Magazine. He has been nominated twice for Best of the Net for 2017. You can find him on Twitter (@samueljfox) or at www.samueljfox.com.