It’s near black night when Dean wakes up on the living room floor. Cool air rushes his cheek, warm and carpet patterned, as he sits up. His dreams fade in pulses, and he blinks away the confusion of a short sleep. Matted, his hair sticks vertical in a tuft at the side of his head. His eyes dart petrified in the dark. Why is it so quiet?
The only light is muted green, soft from the VCR’s display, making sick and beige his young skin, the same color as his hair. It’s 12:00, midnight because no one has set the clock. Adults are supposed to know how to do that sort of thing, and because it hasn’t been done, he knows there are none. The finality of absence blooms a panic through him beginning inside his tailbone.
Tight red shorts, trimmed white and a matching ringer t-shirt. Tube socks, the kind with yellow and red stripes at the tops. One encases his calf, the seam sideways at the toe. The other is scrunched down and flaccid hangs from his small foot. Where did everybody go? His tears run soft trails down his face and tap the back of his hand when they fall.
We are all made to agree that while the sun sleeps, so must we. Something is very, very wrong here. There are things he must remember. He can feel it in his thudding heart, in his very genetic make-up. But he won’t remember. He can’t. He doesn’t possess the lifetime of conditioning to know for certain that all parents... go to sleep.
What if dead is the same thing as sleeping? If there are dead bodies in this house, it’s because I did something bad. No, they’re only sleeping. But they went to bed because they’re mad I fell asleep. They went on and had their fun without me, and now I’m stuck here alone forever.
It’s late enough the timer on the Christmas lights has turned them off. It’s early enough the sun may never rise. He turns the knob of the television to see someone who isn’t mad. He could hide in the light of it, from this punishment, this isolation. He’ll wake the TV up to know he’s not the only one.
When you’re lost, Dean, just wait where you are. Someone will come and find you.
This is where the patience to wait forever is born.
Dean is the last one awake.