THE MAN
OF MY
FEVER DREAMS

by
Jamie Rosen


The Alien Night Club
1:14 AM, Wednesday Morning

     The music was hard and pounding techno-industrial, just the right sort to keep you from hearing your own thoughts, which was fine by me.  I was coming off a bad break-up and didn't much feel like hearing them anyway.  I let my eyes roam the room again, taking in the predominantly black-and-chrome-clad clubbers with drunken disinterest.
    But why would you be interested in my story?  Let's try a different one.
     Noel.  That was his name when I met him.  He had slicked-back hair and the palest grey eyes I'd ever seen.  We knew each other for a while, casually, and then lost touch.  Wow, what a story, eh?
     But what if it was Noel sitting in that bar instead of me?  No, scratch that.  Let's pop over to the mirror universe for a minute.  What if it was Noelle, his female dimensional counterpart, who was sitting at the bar on a stool that was too high for her, that kept her feet dangling well above the mysteriously sticky floor.
     And what if she, in turn, encountered my counterpart from this bizarre gender-reversed world.  Let us call him Jim, just for fun.  What would Jim look like?  He is tall, for one, because this is fiction and I can make him tall if I want to, even if I myself am not.  And let's make him handsome, but not dark --  face it, pale is chic, especially in these circumstances.
     So tall, pale and handsome Jim approaches our heroine, Noelle, and asks her to dance. Being a little spitfire, she drags herself up to her full height, all five-foot-one of it, and opens her mouth to turn him down -- but finds herself saying yes instead.  He is, of course, a good dancer, and more than makes up for her alcohol-inspired clumsiness.
     There are no "slow dances" at industrial clubs.
     What should our protagonist and her newfound friend do next?  Part company?  Have wild sex in the back of Jim's car?  Return to a 24-hour coffee shop to sober her up and continue a conversation started in shouts over the volume of the club's sound system?  Well, they must do something, whatever it is, and we'll fast-forward to the next day.
     Noelle wakes up in her own bed with a hangover kicking her teeth in. Sweat is beading on her forehead and she can't move.  Instead she falls back to sleep, a sleep wracked with dreams of: a) a long-forgotten incident on the school bus in grade on; b) Star Trek characters; c) the lover who left her only days before; or d) none of the above?  When she wakes up it is early evening, her hangover has dissipated and her sweat has evaporated into the general atmosphere of her room.
     She must see him again, and not just because the necessities of conventional plotting demand it.  Does she think that she may love him? Yes, sure, why not.  This one night, really a morning, spent with the mysterious Jim has left her enraptured, enamoured, ensorceled.  She must speak to him again.
     Next Saturday, she returns to the Alien, hoping for him to do so as well, but alas he does not (that would be too quick and too easy for our purposes.)  She doesn't drink at all, wanting to know if he really is as stunning as she remembers, but all is not lost by his failure to appear -- she can drive herself home tonight.  Remember, drinking and driving is no accident.
     This same sad story of abandonment is played out again the next week, and the week after.  She gives up, more or less; habit drives her to the Alien for the fifth Saturday in a row, but she indulges herself, relying on public transportation to get her home.  And lo and behold, on her fifth drink who should walk in?  Why, Jim, of course.  We're keeping our cast to a minimum, not including extras.
     She sees him immediately and approaches him almost as quickly.  Does he remember her?  A casually cruel author would answer no, and conclude with Noelle realizing the futility of something or other.  If you would find such an ending to be a (or perhaps the only) satisfying one, feel free to stop reading with this paragraph.  I make no judgement on this issue, simply offer alternatives.
     You are reading this, so obviously we should select a different path for our narrative to take.  Any suggestions?  Ah, how does this strike you: Yes he remembers her; he has in fact been hoping to see her again but nebulous reasons have kept him from the Alien for weeks and they did not exchange numbers after fucking and/or talking.  He is perhaps even happier than she, which she finds a little off-putting but puts off in the back of her mind.  They talk again (for the first time?) and tonight they do steam the windows of his car (again?)  He drives her to her apartment (he abstains from drink if not from sex) and spends the night, although he disappears before she wakes that morning, leaving behind an extremely apologetic note on her pillow.  Her hangover is much better than the last one, and by mid-afternoon she is almost well again, although she has lost the note.
     The next day, let us say, her car breaks down, and the mechanic charges her an exorbitant amount for repairs that will take too long.  So public transportation it is, for the time being.  And her weekly love affair with Jim persists for the next month while her car is in the shop, each time beginning with his arrival as she is slowly getting plastered and ending with his departure -- sometimes while she is still awake, sometimes while she is asleep -- before the morning comes for her with its attendants, headache and nausea.
     Do you see where this is going?
     When her car is repaired she drives to the Alien and sips on colas and waters, waiting for him to arrive.  The hours pass, the music pulses, and she gets progressively more: worried, impatient, upset, and depressed. Finally, as the bartender whisks away her latest glass of soda, she asks him:
     "Do you know where Jim is?"  She hopes that his semi-regular appearances have familiarized the bartender with him, but (she is not stupid, just awkward) realizes this may not be the case and so she adds, unhelpfully:  "The man I usually meet here."
     The bartender shakes his head.  "Sorry.  I've never seen you talk to anyone here, lady.  You just get here and get drunk, then get up and leave. Except sometimes you fall asleep and I call you a cab."
     Should she open her mouth to refute this accusation?  The half-opened mouth is somewhat overused.  Her specific actions are irrelevant, anyway; it is the more general, internal movement on which this turns.
     For Noelle realizes, too late, that Jim is not a man.  With the aid of enough alcohol and loneliness she has hallucinated him, made him up out of whole cloth, much the same as we invented Noelle herself a few pages back. A lie made up by a lie, made up, for all we know, by the lie of you and me.
 
 


 
 
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