There is a strange eye thing that happens when you wake up. Sort of like an old film. A pinpoint of focus in the middle of the frame, gradually growing until it takes up the full screen. It was this phenomenon that met me as I found myself glaring at a pale blue television screen. A small TV, black and white, the reception unsettling and distorted.
I glance across the room and see what appears to be my wife, asleep on the other side of the couch. But I rub my lefthanded ring finger and there is no evidence. I attempt to stand, in an effort to fully take in my surroundings, but find my balance compromised. I fall back onto the couch and a light cloud of dust rises in my wake. I rub my chin. I have a beard here. It’s uneven and unkempt.
Unable to move, I glance at the wife, or woman, sleeping next to me. Her cheeks are hollow, her blonde hair decidely unblonde. Her eyes sunken in. Unhappy.
I move off of the couch, like a snake, pulling myself over the armrest and sliding into the bathroom, which I notice is very small – and very close. I pull myself up to look at myself. When this happens, this transfer of realities, I try not to look at myself immediately, preferring to examine my surrounings first. But, having seen a ratty couch, a ratty woman and a ratty television, I think I have seen enough of my surroundings to do me just fine. I flick on the light, and the buzz of a sad flourescent light blinks to life above me. A pale blue light cascades onto a very sad face looking back at me from the mirror. The hair is thinner, curlier. The beard is thick around the chin. And the same sunken eyes that were stuck onto the front of the woman’s skull.
I am in a trailer.
I stumble outside, falling down the metal, retractable stairs. A fire can be seen in the middle of a series of other, unremarkable trailers. Hearing voices, I walk to the fire. Several similar looking men – with the same plaid shirt or variations thereof, the same beards, the same lack of socks – sit around the fire.
“Hey Vinny,” one says to me. For once, I’m not offended by being called Vinny. This is a name I feel like I have sought. I feel respected. I nod.
“You done with Suzi?” asks another. I nod.
The second bearded man gets up and staggers to the trailer. Is it mine, the trailer? No, it’s not. It’s Saturday night on the Reservation – this is what this trailer park is called – and Suzi is the entertainment.
I sit on a kitchen chair that was seemingly stolen from someone’s kitchen 50 years ago. It is yellow and stained and metal. I look at the fire.
“How was she?” asks the first bearded man.
“Good as always,” I mutter, automatically. A sinister feeling seeps through my gut. I am becoming more aware of my body. There is a limp on my right leg. A gunshot. Fifteen years ago. An episode involving a bar and an attempt to stop a fight. A hospital stay. A horrible band doing a concert on the Reservation to raise funds for my stay. A heightened respect upon release.
My eyes are dead. I feel that. I look at each and every one of my gang with suspicion. They look at me the same way. But somehow I have organized the gang into a force. There have been “jobs” on wayward truckers, some 40, some 50 miles away. There have been newspaper stories about a band of theives, dubbed The Robin Hoods by some young journalist. That is us. Our jobs have resulted in the members of the gang owning everything around us. It is no longer a trailer park. It is a compound. I look up to notice that, instead of in a row, the trailers are all in a circle, blocking easy entry or exit.
“What took so long?” asks Tommy, one of the younger members.
“Fell asleep,” I say. I want to tell them about the dream. In the dream, I am living in Chicago and am separated from my wife. I am struggling to live. I am afraid of talking to my wife. I want things to work but feel powerless to fix anything. My wife, in the dream, wishes I had done everything three years ago, and even if I try and fix it now, it is dubbed “too late.” I decide not to talk about the dream, not because it is insane, which it is, but it makes me so sad that the words cannot form in my throat.
I stop thinking about the dream long enough to hear the boys laughing. I instinctively pull the gun from the back of my jeans and hold it before the fire. The laughs end. They all think I might shoot one of them.
“OK,” I say, “let’s talk about the next plan.” I have already devised a plan in which there will be tremendous risk. A truck stop holdup. It will end badly. But it already has, so what’s one more?