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For Andre

“The children have gone to tea,” he said, “By the way, they’ve disappeared up a pipe.” Unable to manage the distance between tone and meaning, she promptly fell into a reverie.
“Madame,” he said. “A crevasse has opened up.” 
They’d installed a fish tank to amuse the children, something found in Chinese restaurants. If you looked from the side, herds of sheep could be seen running in mechanical panic towards you, dust, armies of horsemen bringing up the rear, a wild west sort of thing. If you looked from the front, through the lens supplied, many creatures roamed and bobbed. Fish swam leisurely, at odd variance of size, leviathan at home among the geese.

I know why people scream out. Because they can’t wake. Drugs don’t put them to sleep, they nail them to the bed. I know why people scream. Because, in the tank, lay a hand just near the surface. I touched it and a young, half-naked woman jumped up, straightened her hair and commanded, “I need a lawyer. My name is Christ.”  I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”  But George was after her and out the door before she’d even properly draped herself. He turned before leaving. “Things are looking up."
I turned, trying to appear dignified as I patted down my shirt and unrolled my pants. “I hate to be ordered around,” I explained apologetically to a middle-aged black woman who looked up from her dinner. The falseness, the utter, shameful falseness of my words rang vespers in cluster tones.
I know why people scream out. Because they can’t be sure they’re dreaming. Because they don’t want to dream or sleep if this is sleep. They pull themselves together and say, “Excuse me where is the bathroom?” and find the door by sheer luck because they can’t unglue their eyelids. They take themselves into the bathroom where, as in a confessional, no help is to be found. But the light’s as searing as an interrogation cell.   
In effect, you’re still laying there, having only moved an inch, and you want to call out, “George!” And suddenly he’s lying next to you but this cannot be because how can it be and then you can’t speak because you have the tip of his nose caught in your mouth. And you hope, for a moment, that tears might come. Or the bracing air of wakefulness, the soothing peace of arms and sensible words. But mostly, he wants to sleep, as if this were a bed of pleasure. 
“Madame,” said the valet, “the cranks are here, the line goes round the block.”  “Have them leave their CV’s at the door. I won’t work with frauds.” “Of course,” he said, “finding a serious crank these days.. the numbers one must go through... the paper one must shred!” “Please, please go,” she asked gently and took another sip of absinthe and mustard, her signature drink. She stared through the window, piously wondering if geese really knew the way home, if they shared with her a sense of wonder at how well the whole thing worked. Time was drawing near to her monthly humiliation in the neighboring apothecary where she’d have to leap small buildings to obtain her sleep meds. “Damn them all” she thought as she looked out the window at the last of the petitioners, straggling away, sure that employment was beyond them, sure that the little god they worshiped had drop-kicked them to Siam.
Too late to go back. Even if you think sleep might reside there, it doesn’t. To dip into the river Lethe you have to run your ass off... forward, because each cupfull, as you stand there, indecisive, is the future and you can’t sleep in the future. All you can do is hope to catch up, even just a little, doesn’t have to be ancient history... a few hours ago will do. Unfortunately, you have to be an Olympian for that. It’s one fast river, Lethe, and no one’s planning a dam.