On the deck of a ship made of stars and woven by the magic of dreams, you and I stood together. It was a cruise ship, and we were surrounded by other people. I always start conversations about important things when there are other people around. I wondered whether he actually listened anymore. Whether it mattered at all, that there were others there to hear. Maybe I created them as witnesses to my downfall, to my humiliation.
“It’s his birthday,” I told you. You nodded, and you smiled.
“He would have been sixty-six,” I told you. You bowed your head, and frowned.
“Yeah,” I said. You rubbed my arm a bit, a cursory gesture, a symbolic one with nothing behind it except the weight of a history that I remembered and you didn’t.
There was a cord tied around my chest, making it hard to breathe. It was tied to your wrist. I remembered how, when I was little, my parents would tie balloon strings to my wrist so that I wouldn’t let go and lose them and cry. But they’d tie them tightly, making a red stripe in my flesh. The cord on your wrist was so loose that it was almost falling off. Had it ever been tied tightly? I couldn’t remember anymore.
A wave rocked the ship, making me jump. You stayed calm, collected, cool, even though there were tears in your eyes. You said there weren’t. But there were. I wished they were there because of me, but I knew they weren’t. They never had been, even though once, a long time ago, I had convinced myself that they were.
When I woke up from the dream, I found that I had wet the bed. There were still strangers all around me. They were asleep, thankfully. I was on the bottom bunk, and I got up and stripped the sheet as quietly as I could. I hadn’t done anything like that since I was five or six years old. The smell of urine was as familiar as your scent but far less pleasant. I tip-toed out of the twelve-bed room, into the hallway, down to the back and out the hostel door to the courtyard. I threw the sheet in the industrial-sized garbage cans there. I was too embarrassed to leave it on the bed to be stripped and washed. I decided I’d rather be charged an extra four euros for stealing it.
The night was balmier in this foreign country full of guttural voices. Barefoot, I stretched out my arms and felt the wind cool the sweat on my body. It was the nicest thing I had felt on my skin ever since your fingertips had traveled the same soothing route when I used to have bad dreams.