SHE FELT GUILTY when she dreamed of the man who’d killed her husband. But she’d never minded that her husband was dead, and she never blamed him for the killing. It was just one of those things. This dreaming, his face in her sleep, was another of those things, but this was her doing, and she felt something close to sorrow every time it happened. She was sadder that he was in prison than that she’d dreamed of him at all.
If she could tell anyone about the man she loved, she would have told them he was a sailor, that he was gone to war, away at sea. She would tell how she would stand in the window and watch the wind in the trees, longing for his return. She did stand in the window, even when her son—her murdered husband’s son—was home in his room, his own teenage problems to deal with. She stood in the window and waited.
She visited him sometimes in prison, on his birthday, on hers. She used to take her son on holidays but it was getting harder. And she liked to visit him alone. She thought of it as shore leave. At night, alone in the dark, she imagined it anew, her the marooned lover, he the sailor back from a long journey on slow, calm seas, the two of them in throes. It always ended with her in tears. There would never be any conjugal visit—they had never been in a conjugal way, and they never could be.
Sometimes, if she stood in the window long enough, she would suddenly blow into motion, the stillness too much. She would grab her keys, sometimes forget her purse, her license, and she would crash out the door and into the truck and down the road, gravel and dust ballooning behind her. She would drive for hours, run the gas tank nearly dry. She never went anywhere. She just drove, eddying in the town or drifting down the highway like it was pulling her along it, an asphalt current and her powerless against it.
She was driving toward some future where he is free, where her son understands her need for this man. Or toward some alternate world where he’d never defended her, where she’d never married her husband, where she’d married this man instead. Surely, around the next curve, over the next hill, this world awaited her. If she could just drive fast enough, if she could just look hard enough, dream with enough conviction. And she would close her eyes, screaming down the highway, waiting for the dream to come.
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by Josh Koehn
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