I know you will think this is silly—just typing this email, I am aware it is silly. (Have you noticed how computer screens function like the proverbial “cold light of day”? How they cast a withering blue light on one’s anxieties?).
Nevertheless: I have to cancel drinks tonight. Apologies.
I had a dream last night that freaked me out. In the dream, my boyfriend caught me cheating. Well, not cheating, exactly, but having drinks with an ex-lover, someone I had cheated with, in the past, and was consequently forbidden to see. The “having drinks” detail was how I knew the dream concerned you, that the ex-lover was you, though he looked like this wild boy I used to be crazy about, Jacob; he even wore Jacob’s army jacket with the silver buttons and all the plaid patches. And that drinks detail is how I knew my boyfriend in the dream was my husband, though he didn’t look like Ray, he looked like Nicholas. I probably never told you about Nicholas. I dated Nicholas when I was twenty-two; he had a cowlick that curled down his forehead, like a tiny, curved horn.
In the dream, Nicholas was extremely upset, so upset he couldn’t catch his breath. He ordered me to leave our apartment because he said he couldn’t stand to look at me. I walked to my sister’s, knowing, as I walked, that Nicholas was most likely searching through my email for all evidence of the army-jacket dude whom I understood to, in fact, be you.
At my sister’s, we watched the Golden Globes. Rachel toasted me a frosted strawberry pop tart. But Rachel was extremely judgmental (as she is, in real life, and was, when I cheated on cowlick boy, so many years ago, and more recently, when I cheated on Ray, with you). In the dream, I kept imagining Nicholas reading all my emails to Jacob-who-was-really-you, and crying, and forwarding them to himself for further perusal. I tried to distract myself by watching TV, watching the movie stars in their gleaming, light-reflective dresses, but I was distracted from my distraction because Rachel kept glaring at me. “Don’t get crumbs on the couch,” she said.
Yes, I know this all sounds ridiculous. But isn’t it more foolish not to identify a sign as a sign? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that my dream was a portent. Wouldn’t I feel stupid afterwards, if I had a drink with you and came home to Ray freaking out, crying, and telling me to leave, just like Nicholas did in the dream, no doubt so he could then comb through my email? Wouldn’t I feel like I’d received fair warning, received it and then casually blown it off?
And even if my dream was only a sign of guilt about having a drink with you, isn’t that in itself a sign that I ought to feel guilty, even if all we are doing is (to use your words) “touching base”? Which reminds me: what does “touching base” even mean? Base as in a baseball game? Base as in home base? Why the verb “touching”?
All I know is, I woke up from this dream feeling (despite the fact I had slept for almost nine hours) fucking exhausted. Like I was at the bottom of a very steep hill I now had to climb.
So, all this is to say, sorry Ted, but I can’t meet for a drink tonight. And I know this long explanation is likely unnecessary, and I know you are currently rolling your eyes, but I want you to understand—what exactly?—I suppose, for once, me.
Kim Magowan is the author of the short story collection How Far I’ve Come (2022), published by Gold Wake Press; the novel The Light Source (2019), published by 7.13 Books; and the short story collection Undoing (2018), which won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her fiction has been published in Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com