Sleep, my old fickle lover, found her way back to me and cradled me so. But then she was gone again just as swiftly as she’d touched my eye. I had no one to wake up to except the angels. The house was dark and cold and eerie in the late March night. The dream I’d just returned from seemed pointless to remember and I told the vision so by turning my nose up at the open journal resting on my nightstand. My mind was still fixated on the dream of Daniel. Not really on Daniel himself per say, but I was fascinated by the way I related to Daniel’s angels, the way they seemed to be reaching out me. Probably because they knew I would listen to them better than Daniel does. I like his angels better than I like him.
I got up and clumsily wandered to the bathroom in the dark, came back and looked blurry eyed at the digital clock. It was 2:44 AM. I expelled a perturbed sigh and collapsed back into the purple sheets. I tossed and squirmed for about twenty minutes, unable to fall back into the arms of slumber. Then the phone rang out through the blackness. Daniel.
“Hello.” My voice was clear and alert.
“What’s your last name?” Daniel’s voice sprang into my sleepy ear. He sounded more controlled, but still just as drunk as ever.
“You called me at 3 am to ask me my last name? Are you insane? Why do you want to know my last name?” I wondered in huffy protest. “Usually people only ask me my last name when they’re trying to stalk me.”
Daniel laughed nervously, then the gears in his head slowed and he decided to change the subject. “I know it’s 3 am, it’s late, but I’m coming home from Riverside and wanted to see if I could stop by.” He began trying to sweet talk me. He teetered to sound more grown up, like he was intentionally trying to deepen the sound of his voice. I was so excruciatingly tired that I paid it little thought.
I groaned and then unloaded. “You are lucky I was awake, otherwise I’d be blessing you out right now. What is it with you? What is your impolite fucking deal? Can you only hang out with me when you’re drunk? Am I your ugly last resort or something? How many other girls did you call before you called me?” I interrogated firmly. All reasonable questions.
“I didn’t call any other girls before I called you.” He lied. I knew he was lying. The bars had closed over an hour ago. What was he doing for an hour before he decided to grace me with the neon rave ring? I’m not stupid. I’ve played the same game with other people that Daniel was playing with me. I always lost. Either a good man or a good friend or a good something, I always lost by lying and rudely skating on other people’s kindness and hospitality. My heart began to pound faster, more heated in fury than in narcoleptic love.
“I’m sorry I’m always drunk when I come by.” He stammered. “I promise we can have some kind of intelligent conversation this time. I wouldn’t want you to think of retaliating because I only talk to you when I’m drunk.” He muttered sarcastically out of the good side of his intoxicated mouth.
“Why would you say something like that to me?” I asked briskly. He had totally raided my blog, that filthy, scandalous worm had infiltrated it somehow. It probably got to him that I read him so well, as unorthodox a man as he was, I still read him like he was a schoolyard sign for illiterate children. It wantonly flustered him that there wasn’t any kind of mysterious quality for him to hide behind when it came to me. He was irreverently transparent. His beguiling attraction to me was heighted to all new kinetic levels because I had him figured out.
But I still humored him. “Daniel, you don’t have to try to impress me or falsify a front of being some kind of philosophical conversationalist if that isn’t who you are. I want you to feel like you can be yourself around me; that’s the most important thing, I want to know who you really are.” I cooed sincerely. Then my tone stiffened abruptly. “I just hope who you are is not this drunk, lost little boy who creeps into my house in the middle of the night to get a fast flesh fix just because you feel sorry for yourself and need attention.”
I didn’t want to hurt him, his feelings or his heart. I only wanted to be straightforward and hopefully bring out a better side of him. I wanted to coax out the Daniel who’d been playing with me in the dreams. I was smitten with that version of Daniel, the more well-mannered and evolved grown up hiding behind his profane pan complex. This Daniel, the slippery when drunk Daniel--was robbing himself of his own divine potential. I empathized with this boy regardless. I knew exactly what he was going through. I was all too accustomed to the noxious lifestyle Daniel was living and I certainly didn’t envy his precarious footsteps. He was a walking landmine. I wanted to take him in whenever he’d let me, just so I could try to get through to him somehow, so I could diffuse him before he expired or crossed any more wrong wires. Archangel Michael had enlisted me to do just that. Problem was, much of what I had to say came from the contents of the dreams, and/or from conversations between the angels and I. Men who are born and bred in inescapable realism scoff at the legitimacy of my abilities and refuse to take the matter seriously until it’s too late.
“I can see myself marrying a writer.” I heard Daniel think over my asphyxiating thoughts.
“What?” I squeaked.
“I didn’t say anything.” He claimed rapidly on the other end of the line.
“You need to be careful what you think; about me or otherwise.” I warned. “I find out one way or another.” I paused and waited. I heard his teeth clamp and the sneaky lines on his milky forehead vanish. “And while I’m at it, do you not like it that I’m a redhead? Are you opposed to the idea of spending time with a redhead? Is that why you just use me like a redheaded slut when you’re trashed? Do you only come over here at night because the darkness hides the vividness of my red hair? Is my colorful soul too much for you to handle??” I tried to steady the anger sweltering on my tongue. I could tell Daniel’s face was grimacing on the other end of the line. Bursts of heavenly wind beat at my cheeks. Archangel Michael was swatting at me, trying to make me stop being a bitch. He failed.
“Do you not want me to stop by?” Daniel tried to alter the line of questioning.
“That’s not what I said. And you didn’t answer me.” I snapped, irritated. “If you don’t like it that I’m a redhead, then don’t linger about in my house and pretend to care about me and then walk out of here and berate me based on my looks. You’re just another demon of man to neglect the essence of all that I am. I bet you have no idea what I even mean by that because you’re calling me at 3am with one sad idea raging through your loose pants anyway.” I paused to breathe. My nostrils fanned out. “Take it up with God if you hate redheads.” I ordered. “I’m sure God loves redheads just as much as he loves ignorant idiots like you.” I closed my eyes and prayed to hear the receiver of Daniel’s cell slam shut so I could go back to sleep.
“I don’t have an issue with it.” He replied shortly. I knew he was making sewage faces and taunting me.
“You are so full of shit.” I snarled and squinted green eyes like a cat staring into the sun. “Are you sure? Because I sure the fuck don’t want to contaminate all of your perfect blondness with my gross gingerly untouchable disease.”
“So I can come over?” His voice curled like smoke with no room to float. I pictured him speeding in his silver car, making his way over the hump of the very same bridge I’d been cruising on when I’d realized I’d forgotten to give him my phone number. The agony of that mistake had further and further healed with each virile word he spoke, with each time I got to see his face again. I relented. Not to him, but to the angels.
“If you’re not here in 20 minutes, I’m locking the door and going back to sleep.” I said stubbornly.
I let him inside shortly thereafter. The house didn’t rumble when he walked in this time. He was just over six feet tall, skinny, but composed in his body. His blond hair hung down neatly on his shoulders, but his face was just as grizzly, untidy, and as prickly ginger as it could be. He smelled crisp, like bottled cleanliness. He was more subdued than normal. His posture had taken a hit and his shoulders were slumped, presumably because I’d gotten to him and made him question his spine. Good. Someone needed to.
I felt like a dork walking around in jeans and a green tunic at 3:33 in the morning. I don’t know why I’d bothered to put street clothes on. I should have just stayed put in my obscenely loud fleece pajama pants. I usually love my hair, but now I felt like I was hideous to him and it made me want to scalp myself. Maybe he’d like me better if I dyed my hair blond. I suppose it’s more his problem than mine, I had always enjoyed being the only redhead in a room before; I really didn’t want to let one naïve little boy ruin that joy for me. I suspected him to be the tasteless type who’d still be cracking crude jokes at my funeral, right after I’d died from being a fair redhead with progressive skin cancer. “That ginger skank is probably doing the ginger jive in her ginger hell right now.” I’m sure I’ll hear his evil little laugh echoing all the way to hell.
I was cold to Daniel for as long as I could stand it, arms folded brazenly, little eye contact, and even less touching. My words were short and selective. The frostiness gave me some kind of stupid rush, being standoffish offered the comfort I did not want to try to find in his arms. I really didn’t trust him, no matter how much I wanted to make him feel loved. I wondered if he was only here because he had no other place to go or because he had something to prove. The somberness on his face told me that he didn’t know if I loved him or loathed him. He acted less like a savage lion and more like a frightful baby deer, a deer about to be shot by an irate ginger snap. He was even more adorable when he was vulnerable and I was profoundly unnerved by my ruddy attraction to him. I purposefully kept my face aimed away from him. I felt his eyes measuring me like blue teaspoons and I hated it. I suspected he only came back so I’d write about him again, so he’d have some sick way to see how women react to him and his strange, unpredictable behavior. So he could see himself through my eyes. Being exposed to the inside of my head probably bombarded him with emotions that he explored very infrequently or had tried to repress with beer and weed. Maybe the exposure would serve him well, if he used my misfortune and angelic tendencies to become happier, to reconcile his bad habits. I predicted he’d continue to use me in the process.
I was right. We had the angriest kind of sex you can fathom. His lips were softer and impetuously racy. He kissed me differently, like he wanted to be kissing me this time. Or he was kissing me with vengeance in his heart, just to confuse me further and lead me on, straight into my own loveless death. He was more mentally into sex, or so he let me believe. The fluidity of his thoughts got me off. The unison and mirror of our thoughts got me off harder. Afterwards when he smiled in the glow, I rediscovered a different form of joy, a joy that only comes from making another person happy. He wasn’t in a hurry to leave. I wasn’t in a hurry to kick him out. Once he finally started to collect himself to go, I asked him to snuggle with me for five more minutes. Blue flames began to soar through his eyes and he smirked at me real devilishly and then agreed. His smile was slyly victorious, but I didn’t care, I wanted to let him win. I knew winning would please him. I wanted him to be pleased with life. I wanted him to be pleased by a few moments of life with me.
There was something inside of me that didn’t want to let him leave at all. I reasoned it would be bad for both of us if we ever separated again. He sandwiched my petite body back into his arms and began to talk serenely. I like to listen to him talk. When his thoughts bound out of his mouth, it helps him sort out the unresolved ordeals he’s been trying to avoid coming to terms with. He probably said things to me that he hasn’t mumbled to himself when he’s alone in many vacuous years. He makes me think about the more damaged pieces of myself that I’d killed and buried years ago. Years ago when I was alone in self-destruction, before I ever knew the chemical fire in his eyes and the lost child in his soul. Before I knew the grace of letting go and the grace of giving in.