Kim Magowan ~ Subject: Regrets


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.