UNITED STATES—This was the part of our story where, sunken in the depths of despair over what I had done, I should awake and instantly shed the lead blanket of dread and be flooded by joy, knowing it had been a dream, trailing the Russian from the smoke shop and inexplicably, irresistibly, bludgeoned him with the hammer that kept reappearing in my hand and then reappearing. The street was still dark, holding onto the last minutes of night.
I looked back, fearing a light would go on in a window. There was the victim crumpled on my sidewalk. Why? All because of some twisted righteous vengeance against the attendant at the smoke shop who’d bought my complicity too long with some Jasmine Dawn edibles thrown in as a freebie with my Mellow Demon bud. But he had beaten the hell out of a kid for no other reason than an amorous overture that the Russian took as an extreme insult to his manhood.
I looked back, and no light went on nor feet scuffled in the apartments. I looked ahead and feared that oaf security guard was catching up to me. I breathed more easily with each passing stop. I let my feet do the thinking for me. And I calmly walked away with the hammer inside my jacket; I could feel its hard contours rub against my ribcage.
After perhaps a half mile, I took consolation in that fact that no sirens had blared over the slowly wakening city.
This is a dream. It has to be, I repeated to myself.
Then with a sharp broken fingernail, I drew blood from my forearm. Both the pain and the salty taste of the warm red plasma proved real. This had happened. I had killed a man and this would not be so easy to expunge from my record. But, I consoled myself, this was the special period, and pretty soon some new challenge like, “What was the name of your first pet?” would trigger heart palpitations. It was funny how one moment I could be racked with remorse over my direct involvement in the permanent crossing out of a name on the roll call of life.
At all events, the victim of the hammer’s steel snout had not been the Russian, but perhaps they had also done something wrong. Perhaps, I was doing them a favor, yes, I was doing them a favor. My stomach did not feel well. Oh, the indignation of being out alone, far past curfew, and speaking in a loud clear voice that had been shushed by so many teachers and librarians.
“Beware of people who want you to be quiet,” I told myself.
On I walked and the sun came up. Somehow I had forgotten about my stomach pains, and I started feeling like myself again. I hadn’t been myself, that was it, that could be very useful in my defense. But why was I thinking of my old self. The new and direct self, that had emerged during the special period, the new self perfectly at home with embarrassing truths didn’t give a hoot.
I walked all the way to the beach and took the hammer, that kept chafing on my ribcage. I threw it far from the shore. The sizzling sound of the shore cleansed me. The melancholy cries of the seagulls affirmed the tragic nature of life, which I had championed when I loosened that hammer on the skull of that person who had not been the Russian. It had been a deaf mute who handed out cards on the street and in busses. That had a few words in sign language around the edge. Those cards fanned out of his hands as his body lay inert on the silent street.
Somewhere on the walk I stopped being haunted by the resemblance of the face, that was not the Russian’s at all, but mine, down to the last dimples on the side of the mouth, and the nose a little too long. I swear too you… it was me. That is why I am not me, and the hostile woman with the dog thought I was a cheat and fraud when I talked. She had given me (him) ten dollars and her boyfriend got mad at her, and they broke up over him (me).
“Happy 4th of Halloween,” I said, as the sea swallowed the guilty hammer and the surf roared in my ears.
The special period, it turns out, was a very good time to commit murder.
To be continued…