in a bar


[In dreaming] I was in a bar with Miles, my brother, when it was time to leave and a woman in a lime-green dress said goodbye, told me to come back, said it was good to see me. I hugged her, told Miles I’d see him later. As I walked out, I looked back at the door and wanted to return.

“Why didn’t I hug him?” I said, knowing he had left, knowing I could never hug him again. “Did I hug him enough?” I asked myself, standing in that empty parking lot in front of a dive bar and noticing the way the asphalt was broken in places, cracked, for some reason thinking I might not be able to go back there. Might not be able to find him to hug him again.

Did I hug him enough? Did I tell him “I love you” enough? Did I do enough?

Shifting, the dream brought me to an unfamiliar house where a number of people were staying. I didn’t know most of them. Each slanted glare they gave me seemed edged with threat, and I wanted to take Miles and run—take him away from there, because it seemed dangerous.


Miles at my cottage in Jensen Beach, Fla.

Someone shrieked, and there was a woman before me. She was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Was she me, another version? She looked like me but didn’t feel like me, and I didn’t touch her as she sobbed and raked her face with her hands.

Neither of us could look around the corner. Miles had lifted something to his head, and we were both terrified, but I looked, thinking, was it a gun? Was it the gun he used the day I lost him? 

Instead he was holding crayons, drawing on his body in all different colors as if creating a mural. He drew yellow and blue on his face in ragged lines, furtive as if with no purpose to his art. Relief flooded through me, but at the same time a niggling sensation that something was wrong. That Miles, my brother, was gone or maybe a version of him was gone, just that earth version I’d become so familiar with.

[In wakefulness] Much later, after I woke from the dream, I vacuumed in the dining area of my cottage. I felt a hand on my shoulder, felt him standing beside me, but I knew his body was gone.

Even so, my brother stays with me every moment, holding me up, his presence so palpable I can almost hear his voice. I feel him rooting for me as I work on my writing, and set my goals for getting my MFA. I know he’d be proud.

Every day, I hear him whispering in my ear, “Keep going. Keep going. You can do this. You can get there. You can do this.”

I will, brother. I will. I promise.

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