He always falls asleep before I do. I bury my face in sheets soft with washing. I smell detergent, think about soapsuds swirling through warm water, try to follow that spiral down to sleep. But I don’t.
It’s April now. Still cold, but wet and melting. I hear the spring peepers outside, picture the stream that runs by the roadside, try to follow it down to the bay, to dream country. But I can’t.
I hear him breathing, matted and milk-drunk. If a careless knee brushes mine, I imagine I’m standing next to a stranger on a subway. Some impossible, anonymous city. I can almost hear the scratch of charcoal on paper as I draw him in my mind: my stranger’s face. Sometimes then, when the sky lightens and the frogs fade, I can fall asleep. My dreams are vivid in a way real life isn’t any longer, and something’s always chasing me—zombies, a man with a knife—through places I haven’t seen in years. The shopping mall I haunted in high school, a parking garage from my old work. I dodge and fade into the anonymity of crowds.
There are ways, I’ve read, to direct your dreaming. Each night I tell myself: Don’t run. Let the monsters catch you. Fight or die.
But the body does what it does. I wake every morning, sentenced to the real world.