Short Story: Phantoms And Dreams (900 words)

“Another thing about being nineteen, do it please ya: it is the age, I think, where a lot of us somehow get stuck (mentally and emotionally, if not physically). The years slide by and one day you find yourself looking into the mirror with real puzzlement. Why are those lines on my face? you wonder. Where did that stupid potbelly come from? Hell, I’m only nineteen!” Stephen King, On Being Nineteen

PHANTOMS AND DREAMS

I lean back in the car enjoying the sensation brought on by at least half a bottle of red wine previously consumed. The music on the car stereo is exceptionally compelling tonight. The words seem to echo through me and through my life as if it’s already over and never will be over at the same time. The roads are icy, but I don’t care like I usually would, I trust the driver. He’s my best friends boyfriend and he’s proper and sober.

“I dreamt something strange last night,” I tell them when I hear Bowie’s Changes come on. “I was sitting by a very small computer and I was going to some very bothersome meeting and David Bowie had just died.”
“Oh come on,” Joe bursts out, “Freddie just died, relax!”

Then they are silent for a while, Joe starts to sing softly to Changes and for a while I join him in the song. “Just gonna have to be a different man / Time may change me / But I can’t trace time,” we bellow from the top of our lungs. May is silent.

“You dream the most absurd dreams,” May tells me when we stop singing.
I just shrug my shoulders.

“I was a mom and I was living in Sweden, of all places, and there was some damned sorrow, but I don’t know what that was about and David Bowie was dead.”

Joe parks the car in front of his house and we go into the house. When we’re taking off our jackets inside he raises an eyebrow at me while he’s helping May to put her jacket on the hanger. “It’s ridiculous to think of a world without Bowie,” he says. We sit down in the living room, his parents aren’t home so he pulls out a couple of beers and puts Ashes to Ashes on, carefully laying the needle down on the right track.

We sit there for a while listening, but then he pushes my shoulder and smiles, “so what happened?”

He’s charming.

“In my dream?” I try to pull up the images from the dream but they are slowly fading away,  almost lost in the part of my brain that keeps dreams like this obscure and almost in memory, but not quite. “I’m not sure,” I say. “I was sad and I felt a little lost, you know, it felt like a mid-life crisis, the Sartre kind, not the Camus kind.”

“There’s a difference?” Joe asks.
“You know nothing about what it’s like to have a middle life crisis,” May says, “and you’re always lost,” she adds.
I laugh.

“Well, I always found Camus existentialism a little happy, in a good way, I love Camus, I hate Sartre, but this was the Sartre kind of crisis, the ‘life has no meaning’ or ’hell is other people’ crisis. Camus always sounds like he’s perfectly happy rolling that damned stone up the damned hill”.

I drink a beer, wondering if I’ve had enough for tonight, but Joe gets up and changes to the CD and the music is too compelling, when Let’s Dance comes on I grab a hold of May’s arm and we dance for a while.

“He is beautiful,” May whispers to me.
“Who? Joe? Sure,” I say.
“No, well he too,” she giggles, “David Bowie”.
And I just nod, it’s an understatement if anything.
“I think he was then too,” I said. “In my dream, you know.”
“Dead?”
“Yes, well you know…”
“I’m sure he was,” she says and leans her head on my shoulder, “you dream the oddest dreams.”

“I think I was happy though, despite the sorrow and everything,” I say as we’re sitting down again. I plump myself in the couch beside Joe and May sits on the other side of him, he puts his arm around her.

“So it wasn’t a nightmare?” Joe asks and looks at me. He has a way of looking at you as if the next thing you’ll say will change his life forever. Always so intense.

“Sure it was,” I tell him, “come on man, David Bowie was dead!”

Joe nods his head but is interrupted by May who is suddenly straddling him and kissing him. I finish my beer and I stand up. I start rocking slowly to Life On Mars? singing the words softly, not loudly and when the “…sailors fighting in the dance hall” section comes I start to cry, the tears of drunkenness falling down my cheeks, or maybe it’s just some feeling I once felt, or will feel, coming out at the wrong moment. They do sometimes, you know? And I stand there dancing with myself while they make out on the couch. And suddenly I’m completely happy there, watching them go at it. I’m nineteen and I will be nineteen forever, no matter what happens, I’ll always be standing in that room, a little more than tipsy, dancing with David Bowie’s phantom.

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