Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Deam State (Continuation of a novel) Bookends agency
Carla, Carla, Carla
Shortly after my first “dream State,” that early winter morning lying in the hallway of my East Side apartment, in that confused and frightened condition, I stopped having the dreams for a while, thanks to the love I felt for a woman. Francine, the bike rider "dream" had haunted me for months. I had thought I was going to lose my mind. Then I met Diana, and the dreams suddenly stopped.
I was studying writing at NYU and working nights at a pizza joint/restaurant on the Upper East Side named Delish. Diana was young and blonde, with large blue eyes and a smile that lit up my heart. The three years we spent together were the best and worst I’ve had. There’s something to be said for getting lost in ones work, but when that obsession becomes a woman, man you are in trouble. I was writing short stories at the time and they all revolved around our relationship, and usually featured an alluring siren pulling the protagonist into a deadly snare he eventually had to fight his way of, but was always doomed to fail. She was an intoxicant to me. I would lay with my head on her bare belly, taking in her smells, the aroma of skin, run my fingers through her hair and never get bored, look into her eyes for hours, or watch her sleep. I wanted to live in her, breath her, taste her, make her cum, look into her eyes as I came, have sex with her always, all night all the time. My school work began to suffer. The writing became less focused, rambling, as I attempted to capture elusive feelings I didn’t or couldn’t understand. I not only wanted to marry her, I wanted to crawl inside her womb and live there, poke my head out every so often to eat and maybe watch a football game, then crawl back inside. I began eating all the time and gained twenty pounds. Unwarranted jealousy filled me whenever she answered the phone or talked to a clerk in the grocery store. I began imagining her affairs, illicit, sexual, taunting me at every turn. I began snooping into her computer files and monitoring her emails. I even considered tapping our phone but couldn’t afford the electronics. Then she broke up with me. I couldn’t function. I felt like my brains had been cold pressed and left out to dry. It was all about me, me and me. What I was thinking, feeling, and hearing. Was my heart beating too fast or too slowly, why were my hands shaky, why couldn’t I walk in a straight line? Then one night, I was sitting on a bar stool next to Millar, listening to how awful his life was and it all lifted. Somehow the old version of me suddenly walked into the bar and settled back inside my body.
I still haven’t figured it all out, because I’ve had other relationships before and since, and never came close to being so completely lost in a woman. Looking back, I even thought she was better looking than she really was, because when I look at photos of her now, I just can’t feel that same magic. So was it just a phase I was going through? Were the dreams a catalyst that pushed me into a vulnerable and fragile state whereby I latched onto her for comfort and support? I think I’m getting warm. Anyway, past relationship mistakes is what drives me now. It’s always at the back of my mind, knowing I could go off that ledge again. As far as women go, I can’t say I’m sex obsessed or a dependant personality so much as a worshiper of women. I empathize with the more fragile emotional state, am aware of the “femaleness” of their bodies. The supple curviness, forbidden recesses and especially the roundness of the female hip, can drive a heterosexual male insane with desire. And I’m no exception. I guess what I’m saying is I’m a sucker for beautiful women. Where most men are intimidated, I’m invigorated by them. So when Carla called the next day, I knew I could be headed for trouble.
She was brief, said she wanted to meet me for coffee downtown near her work. I didn’t bother asking what she did. Actually, I didn’t ask her anything, my mind just drew a blank the minute I heard her voice. I took a bus downtown and waited outside a typical building by the South Street Seaport. Cool autumn winds blew dust around the corner of the building and I turned away to shelter my eyes. I looked up in time to see her walking toward me. She was stunning in a short skirt and calf high boots. Her skirt flew up in the wind and I turned away, not wanting to embarrass her.
We walked to a nearby, upscale touristy café and sat at a window table. I ordered coffee and she a cappuccino. I felt reserved, polite, not wanting to give her any impression other than business. She thanked me for meeting her, took a sip of her drink and started to cry. Quietly, at first, then she had a few seconds of real tears and nose blowing. She finally caught her breath with a heavy sigh and apologized.
“Don’t. You don’t have to,” I offered.
Gathering another breath, she removed the black leather gloves from her hands and started talking.
“The reason I called you, and I’m sorry for the first time we met, but you know how it is. I wanted to see you again because the police, well they’re getting no where. They have no leads, little evidence and I’m afraid my sister’s killer is going to go free.”
I looked at her and she lifted her eyes to mine. Bloodshot and red rimmed, they were tired, worn, but still had that spark.
“I don’t know what I can do to help,” I said, but that was a lie. I knew exactly what I could do, if it was possible for me to conjure that dream again. I just didn’t want to face it. I could see it even as she spoke. Flashes of the crime scene shot through my mind. Emma, lying against a brick wall, her lips slightly apart as her last gasp escaped, the limpness of her body as she released from this life, her dead eyes staring up through glazed pools.
“I would pay you,” she said.
I paused, looking at her clothes and purse. They were not exactly fifth avenue couture.
“What do you do for a living?” I asked.
She turned away. I could almost see a cigarette between her index and middle fingers as she placed her thumb between them and moved it.
“What does that matter?” She asked.
“It doesn’t. I just don’t want to feel guilty collecting my check.”
“Don’t worry about the money. I can pay.”
“I haven’t said how much.”
“You’re not going to fleece me are you?”
“That’s not the way I operate.”
“How do you operate?”
“I’m not sure why you called me. The other day I got the impression you thought I was a clown.”
“I never said that.”
“You didn’t have to. I’ve seen it a hundred times before. I try to tell people I’m a seer, and they want to run. Smiles turn to fright.”
“I’m not scared of you.”
“There’s no reason to be.”
She put the imaginary cigarette to her lips, and let her fingers fall to the table.
“How long?” I asked.
“How long what?”
“How long ago did you quit smoking?”
She smirked and looked out the window. A young couple walked by arm and arm hunched together against the wind.
“I just want to know if you can help me. Really, I just want to pick your brains a little. Can I ask you a few questions?”
“In your vision-“
“I like that. See you’re already becoming accepting of what I do.”
“Well, you say you saw the mugging. I want to know if you saw the muggers face. Did you report anything, any details to the police? Did they take you to a police station and fill out paperwork?”
“I didn’t go to the police. At first I didn’t think there was an Emma. I still couldn’t accept that what I was seeing was really going to happen. I found a few likely names in the phone book. I narrowed it down over a few days until I came to your sister. I knew it was her the minute I laid eyes on her. You see, I did see her that night. Her face, I mean. Not the killer’s. I followed her to work, to a bar afterward and sat near her and her friends. She was popular, your sister, people all around her. I caught up to her near the bar, offered to buy her a drink. She declined. I tried to use my charm. She rebuffed me. Finally, I took her arm, like this." I grabbed Carla's arm and gently pulled it toward me. She didn't resist, her eyes clued to mine. "I warned her to stay away from midtown if at all possible, not to go out at night alone. I told her she was in danger and I wanted to help her.”
My grasp on Carl’s arm grew tighter as I talked.
“I told her I was a friend. That something bad was going to happened if she didn’t leave town.”
Carla’s arms were up, off the table now as I held them. She jerked away, giving me a disgusted frown. I immediately raised my hands in a conciliatory gesture. Glaring at me for a second, she rubbed her wrist and sat back in her chair.
“No need for theatrics,” she said. “It’s contemptible and untrustworthy.”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry. It’s a gut reaction. I see bits of the dream when I think about it. I've lived with it for months.”
“And you never went to the police?”
“You know what the police do with someone who comes in and foretells a crime? They arrest him after the crime is committed.”
Again she looked startled. I remained silent. The small tree in front of the building moved as the wind picked up, forcing loose a few anemic leaves.
“I don’t know why I called you,” She said after a few seconds.
“That was quick. That’s pretty much how you felt the last time we talked.”
“It’s just too weird. I’m sorry. You’re stranger. A strange, stranger mixed up in my life in the worst possible way. There’s nothing…”
“Nothing, no way to…”
“Make it better?”
“Make you better.”
“I see. Thanks.”
“That’s not what I mean. The circumstances suck.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Okay,” she said finally, “My idea is to hire a private investigator and have him pick your brains, follow any and all leads.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, suddenly crest fallen, aware she had no intention of working with me directly. “Look, I’m sorry I grabbed your arms," I offered.
“And I’ll pay you for your time, like I said.”
“You said that, yes.”
Suddenly she wasn’t hearing me at all. She stood and put her black leather gloves back on her long fingers. “We’ll call you.”
“You do that.” I remained seated. “I’ll get this.” I pointed to the check.
She glanced down at it, turned and walked away.
My nerves were tingling. I felt high on adrenaline or caffeine or both. I didn’t know her, but every cell in my body wanted to follow her out that door. Like rusting unused bolts to a magnet, I was drawn to her. I jumped from my seat and walked quickly after her. As I turned the corner outside the cafe, I got a glimpse of her at the end of the block. I jogged up to her and started talking.
“You’ll be wasting your money, you know.”
She kept walking. I took stride next to her.
“I mean, you’d be paying someone for what I do anyway. You’d be paying me for what I already do.”
“Come again?” She asked.
“Look, I’m a detective. You’re going to pay another detective to pick my brain and act upon that information?”
She stopped and looked at me.
“I just think you’d be paying out twice what you should.”
“You’re a detective?”
“Yes,” I lied. “Well, almost. I’m taking the licensing exam this week.” I lied again.
“I thought you were a psychic?”
“I hate that word, but yes, I am a kind of psychic.”
“And now you’re a detective?”
“Soon to be licensed. But I’ve been tracking people down for years. It’s what I do.”
She looked up at the sky, as if searching for answers.
“Look, I recently had a break through," I continued. "By experimentation I was able to bring myself into a dream about a particular subject. That’s never happened before. Usually, the subject just comes to me and I have no say about who it is, but now I have the ability to focus on an individual and see them in a my dream state.”
“How do you know this dream is what really happened, not some fantasy?”
“I’ve never been wrong. I see it as it happens, or as it has happened. If I go back and look at a dream, sometimes I can control it, stop it, and see it from different angles. Even identify faces, license plate numbers. Sometimes I see a date; a number jumps out at me, like on a calendar.”
She seemed unsure.
“Okay, you think about it,” I said. “I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do, but really, I’d rather not go through another individual, least of all a detective. A middle man will just muck up the works.”
She thought a second, and then said, “I’ll let you know.”
“You have my number. Call me when you’re ready.”
“Okay,” I said. “See you.”
I turned and walked away wondering if I’d ever hear from her again.
In our society there are takers and there are those who contribute. Nine times out of ten, it’s a taker who sniffs out the life of a giver. I didn’t expect anything different in Emma’s case. As I looked into her background, the more I discovered, the more I admired her. She’d gotten a degree in economics from NYU and was working toward her masters at the time of her death, all the while holding down various jobs. Most recently she’d been a teaching assistant at her ala mater. Because teaching assistants generally earn less than seventeen thousand a year, she’d been working as a part-time short order cook at Café Classic, hence the memoriam poster I’d seen on the wall there. I figured I’d start at the café and work my way over to the school. I wasn’t going to wait for Carla to call, nor was I going into a dream state if I didn’t have to. I’d had enough bad dreams and bloody noses to last a while. Hopefully, when Carla did call, I’d be ready with as much background information as I’d need to get a running start on the case. That was when the phone rang with a call that would change everything.
Posted by Chuckh at 12:21 PM