Bonnie and I work to straighten out the messes we’ve made, our fingers careful, never taking what the other was meaning to pick up.
“So you and Brad are made of dreams.”
“Yeah,” I tell her. “Yeah, I think so.”
“I think so, too.”
“If I’m made of dreams, maybe he’s made of nightmares.”
“I think so.”
“I want to know who made us out of them. Like, if we’re made of dreams, who’s our father?”
“Don’t you think it would be Tom?”
“Mm. God, I hope not. I don’t want to be Tom’s kid. I’m already his girlfriend and his ex-wife.”
“Maybe you should ask him.”
“I mean, he is the Sandman.”
“Don’t. Play. That fucking. Song.”
Brad rolls down the window of the blue Chevy my father drove and his never owned, and our father, who is neither, rolls his eyes. Brad is thin and young, his eyes gleaming blue, and I am folded into a space behind the bench seat that exists in Brad’s father’s truck but not the Chevy. I tangle my feet around jumper cables and a yellow and black rope. The cushion on the seat is blue Campbell tartan and itchy and cigarette-burned. The song plays faint on the radio, something Brad’s father would have liked and mine would have disdained.
The moment is tense when the window comes down, and my father, or his, or neither, grips the steering wheel of the truck that is the meeting point between the two men. The radio crackles with Brad’s touch of the dial. His wrist is slim and laden with dirty wristbands. He finds a tune fast, too fast for the desert, and a half-smile touches his mouth.
The fingers of our father’s right hand tighten, relax, tighten again, and he reaches fast into the void of space between them, where I wait, somehow removed. His hand, dark hair on his low knuckles, slaps Brad’s hand away with a vicious adder’s strike, and Brad’s smile fades in the air like an unfinished song while the snake hand of our father reaches, lightning-quick, to land the same blow on Brad’s left cheek.
Injustice tightens my chest and raises the blood of me to make me shake and feel like I can’t be fast enough. Never fucking fast enough to stop it when I see the moment blooming in front of me. His hands tensed, and I should have, now I could, Brad’s eyes tear, but if I knew his hand would, but here I am again where.
The silence that follows in the car is one of pure injustice in my heart. I feel heavy in my chest with it, almost like tears coming fast, but the weight of it is too heavy to allow them. Brad looks down, his face red. Our father who is not our father drives silent, through the desert, and the fine tuning of the dream thins to nothing in the early morning. I wake at 4 am; Brad time. He’s hard edges and sweat against me, his hair stuck to his face, nearly steaming in the February morning. His eyelids move to belie the racing of his eyes. His lashes are heavy, and they open and focus from nothing to me, pupils relating to my proximity, the softly wrinkling bed of them showing he recognizes me. I sigh. There are mornings he doesn’t.
“Evie,” he chokes. I pet his hair, and the smell of him covers us while my hatred and injustice settles low in my stomach and makes it ache. He smells like sweat and dirty laundry and the bergamot scent of boy. The white of his undershirt is a pale imitation of his skin, soaked close to him and clung tight as my arms in a nest of us. Where are we? I look around. Pressed into a twin bunk bed of the house he built inside me. Coming home meant never knowing where I woke up, ever again.
“It’s okay,” I tell him, breaking the statement into two pieces, my voice weak. I’m wearing my Chicago 17 jersey with red sleeves and it’s choking me. I pull it off, and wriggle him out of his clothes and the covers. We lay in the cold air of Eden in winter, our skin close. I think, over and over, the phrase, “His body full of nightmares.”
“You want Elvis?” I ask him. Fear crosses his eyes to focus them distant from me, lit with the yellow glow of the light in the hall.
“No,” he says. “I...I don’t want anything. I w. I.”
His tears come fast from under his tongue. He buries his face by turning away. A grown man doesn’t cry over nightmares of his father. I see his ear redden to the same slapped shade I was witness to a moment before, and I tug him back to me.
“It’s gone,” I repeat to him three times, his sobs pushing his face into my collar. I feel his tears run over my skin, a tepid rolling down my breasts that feels human and uncontained. Messy. Pinned to the mess of Brad, while he cries.