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I have nightmares, Lisa said. All sorts of nightmares.
    
They stopped walking. Lisa looked at him deeply.

Can you fall asleep, Ben? Or do you think? Do you just hate and hate to think like me, like I hate to think? Sometimes I just hate and hate to think. So, then I want to sleep. But I can’t sleep. But sleep is good because I don’t think then. But the dreams, the nightmares. I have nightmares. So, I hate to sleep.

What kind of nightmares?

The worst. Aren’t all nightmares the worst?

 He pulled her closer.
They had been together from dusk. He had taken her through their old haunts and old friends, and others, familiar faces with broad smiles and without names, had greeted them everywhere. And now, on her doorstep in the early morning hours, she slid her hand behind his head and held it still as she enveloped him.

When she tilted away, her eyes were closed. Her lips lingered over his, an infinitesimal separation. The night air was cool. She eased away and turned up her collar. She opened her eyes to the blue-black sky and let her gaze search from star to star. Without a word, she was inside, alone, her hands behind her, her back flush against the door knowing full well that was the last time.
outside, amid the rubble, stands a mound two
soldiers high, made of bricks and mortar, and

cement and steel twisted up with everyday life,
where tables and chairs and beds and blankets

tumble carelessly, askew in the hot sun that beats
ceaselessly against a refrigerator toppled on its’ head,

and upon on a sewing machine halted mid-stitch,
the needle poised above the hem of a flowered dress
high above the river, from the edge of the cliff, one can
see the rafters in their inflated crafts, in the blue and
red and yellow ovals, bright and iridescent and suspended
atop the furious strip of gray as they wend below, lifting,

twisting, careening as their vessels sprout sodden arms that
grip scarred paddles, paddles that swing quick and deep  
into the foam only to then be held still and wide to the water,
a thousand rudders to navigate the rocks and avoid the

hard realities that rise in the shallows and are revealed  
without warning, some only to scream haplessly like
funhouse monsters, while the others lie dangerously quiet,  
unseen under the surface, until at river's tail the rafters

lift their oars in triumph amid the mirror-like calm, life’s
vagaries conquered for the moment
A crowded café, bustling, boisterous, filled with jocular
talk and the ardent gossip of young men and women,
a salesman’s smarmy sincerity, and the deft, placid
intonations of desire over two cappuccinos with skim milk,

and she is there, in the corner, against the brick wall, sipping
unadorned Earl Grey, and then a zoom focus, her presence
enhanced, the room falls away, and the chatter quiets into a
cushioning white noise, background to the film he has constructed,

and with the leads filled, the location set, the supporting cast in place,
now, the script.
In a stairwell, steps below the sidewalk, he huddled over a small flame that licked from a coffee can. He positioned himself to block the light to the street, and every so often he held a hand above the flame and quickly opened and closed his fingers. He stamped his feet in the snow, each time sending out a muffled whoosh when a shoe hit powder. He wiggled his fingers over the heat, and his mittens crackled when brought too close to the fire.
    
Across the street, a limestone building, a hotel, small, elegant, rose several stories high. Inside, on the ground floor, behind the belted velvet drapes, a cocktail lounge gleamed. A glistening mahogany bar ran the length of the room where guests disappeared into overstuffed chairs that were neatly placed in pairs and set against the arched, crystalline windows.

Inside the coolly lighted room, he watched a young woman with silky hair and sleepy eyes as she ran a finger around the rim of her drink. The woman glanced once at the silent snow falling in the dark. In the stairwell, he listened to the whisper of the fire and the beat of ice crystals as they fell against the steps.
I just want to say, right from the start, that I loved her.

Not in the neon bright light, two a.m. sparkling pavement, uptown New York City way. No, much more in the ice-cold Dos Equis’ beading in the summer dusk sunlight way, and in the way the sound they made when slid to us across scarred wooden bars.

Or maybe in the way she laughed when her fingers became tangled when she held a pool cue, and the way she didn’t care when she missed the ball completely – and then laughed some more.

But mostly in the way when faced with the poet’s choice of cowardice or courage, how she scratched furiously along the page, her thoughts spilling shamelessly across the white until she rested and read the words she had written, and when she knew she was no closer to immortality, the way she reached for another page.

In that way.
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