It turns out my brain is the time machine, not the dishwasher, after all. It's not a matter of coming back in the future to a world full of clean dishes, but rather a matter of visiting the past to relive a memory or take something that I might need. Sometimes, like last night. When Loch is away I dream about him. I hardly have time to miss him and he'll hardly have time to sleep. But now like clockwork comes the inevitable dream. I don't even know why I'm in this one but I'm wearing a yellow t-shirt and black shorts. Lochlan was sitting outside the camper writing out our budget on the back of a payroll envelope and listening to Circus of Heaven when he asked if I liked it.
I like the slow part of this song but the Tomato album? Not honestly.
Add an R, Peanut.
Tormato, Peanut. I can't teach you classic music if your head is in the clouds.
Where else would it be? Also that isn't classic music. Classic is Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
Classic rock, I mean.
I like Zeppelin and Floyd already. You know this.
Then you're most of the way there. I'm just helping round out your knowledge base a little.
So in the future Ben will be surprised?
Who is Ben?
Exactly. Because we don't know him yet. This is how my dreams work.
At least until I am pulled right out of them, physically lifted right out of the quilts and into Ben's arms. Still mostly asleep and unable to figure out what he wants until he cradles my head against his face, waking me up with kisses before pulling me all the way down toward his dreams. I can please him in my sleep. He pulls my hair into his fist, keeping control of my head, choking me on his body, gently forcing me past my comfort levels, bringing the night right to the brink before lifting me back up into his lap for a spell. I shiver when he does this, because he throws the covers right off. It's not long before he pulls me down onto my back beneath him, because he's already pushing the limits of his self-control and doesn't want me to get hurt.
At least physically.
Do you want to take this down to Caleb's?
We don't get a lot of chances now.
You've held out for a really long time. You did good, Bee. No one expects you to go so long. Even Loch.
Not so long.
Almost six months.
No one's going to blame you if you want to.
I shake my head and ask him if we can go back to my dream now because we were just about to meet him.
Your dreams are right here. Everything you want.
Ben, I can't do thi-
I'm not. I-
Say the word, Bee-
He stops and stares at me in the dark. I don't even know what the look is but the act of convincing has stopped completely. So have all the words, apparently as he resumes his efforts in silence, making sure he goes to the other side of control where he almost has some but not really, ducks his head down against the top of mine and keeps going forever. Through the rest of the night and into the windy sunrise. I hold on to him even as I try to shut out all the bad things he wants for us, how his penchant for living in the moment does nothing but ruin lives and futures and worst of all, dreams.
In my dream I go inside for lemonade and when I come out there's a strange boy sitting at the picnic table across from Loch. He is tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed and brooding. He's in all black even though it's warm and sunny and he's sitting in the shade even though the table is in full sun. He looks at me curiously but he doesn't smile.
Bridget, meet Ben. Just be careful though. He's a bit dark and really marches to his own drummer.
I see that. Nice to meet you, Ben.
Do you ever feel like a freak, Bridget?
All the damned time.
How old are you anyway?
Okay, yeah, no. That's too young. What the fuck are you doing?
Long story, Loch says it but he still isn't paying attention while Ben and I stare at each other with some sort of instant bond that screams equally mutual weirdness and predilections for danger together in perfect harmony.
Yeah, well, I'm not interested in getting arrested like the rest of you so I'll be back when she's like twenty-five or something. See you around. Good luck in the show.
Come see us when we get to Atlantic City?
You're going to Atlantic City? I've been there.
What's it like?
It's dark. Be careful, little Bumblebee. Or wait for me.
I nod. You won't remember me by then.
Sure I will. How could I forget?
You forget everything.
No, I don't. It just means I don't agree with it if you think I forgot.
That's a weird personality ticket to have, Ben.
No it's not. Look at all of yours.
They're not my fault, they're Caleb's but I don't know that yet.
Are you from the future?
Then you know you're going to fail.
The thing you want most.
I look at Lochlan but he scribbles furiously.
No, not him.
What do I want then?
That's a terrible thing to tell a child. That they're bound for failure.
You said you weren't a child. You can't have it both ways.
Yes I can. That's why we're going to join the circus.
You should stick to the freakshow.
You think so?
Hey. Don't discourage her. She's a child. Lochlan finally looks up and is horrified by the conversation we have damned near weekly at this point.
I know you'd like to keep her that way forever but it's too late, Brother. She's going to go somewhere that makes her end up even darker than you. It's inevitable.
Loch sits back and stares at him. She'll be with me, thanks. She always comes with to me.
I wouldn't put my faith in things that are so small.
This is the biggest thing in the world.
Then maybe you should protect it better. Her, better. Because the dark is coming for her and it's coming for you and whether you like it or not it's real and it's worse than this.
Maybe you should come back in ten or fifteen years and we'll see.
Done deal. Take care.
And I woke up again, bathed in sweat with Ben still moving against me even as the new light comes in through the windows to burn his skin. Our hair plastered to our foreheads, his hands slip on my hips, grasping tightly, painfully. He says into my ear that I don't have to fight against something that's not even there. And all I want to do is cry but I know he's only advocating for me in the best way he knows how, which is not at all.
Don't give me the silent treatment. I told you I wouldn't fix you because from where I stand, there's nothing wrong with you.
There's nothing right with me either.
Why did he teach you to talk in circles, Bridget?
Because he knew it would be the only talent I would always have at the ready. Because it's fun to walk the tightrope or do acrobatics but in an emergency you can't pull out tricks like that. You've only got your wits. And he said I'm too much of a dreamer for even that so I am to use my words.
Is that why you don't talk when you're upset?
Ben gets up from the picnic table in my dream and leaves, heading straight into the bathroom where I hear the shower turn on. I roll over into the damp warmth of the sheets, pulling the nearest quilt over me, a place to hide where I can close my eyes and wish for sleep without dreams, men without preoccupation and girls without memories.