She stared off into the clouds but I knew she wasn’t talking about the clouds. Still I wasn’t sure what to say. I looked at the green river flowing far below our dangling feet. It looked like a shiny rope pulled tight against the earth. It looked like it was pulling tighter every second.
“Like, how could any of this be real?” She continued, now leaning back and glancing down the train tracks streaming off in either direction from our perch on the bridge. “How did we even get here?”
I shook my head and spat. We both watched it fall. The wind pushed it first in one direction then a little back. It fell for maybe ten seconds before it smacked into the river. The tiny sound gave me goosebumps. I’m not afraid of heights, but it was still chilling.
She spat too then. It was smaller than mine, and more watery. It slipped from her little lips like spider silk and blew in the wind before it finally broke away and flailed downward, more confused about its fate than my mighty hork.
She giggled and so did I.But it didn’t last. The silence was too dense for us to compete with. At least that’s how I felt. It was admirable how she kept pushing her sentences out. She was like a mother bird nudging her fledglings from the nest. Somehow she knew they would fly. The other possibility was too bleak to imagine even on a day like this.
The sun was high and I was sweating. Every now and then a cloud would drift by and offer some fleeting shade. She would look up at them and they would move on and I would start sweating again. She didn’t seem to be sweating, despite her efforts to thwart the silence.”Have you ever had a dream that you thought you would never wake up from?”
Now she peeked over at me. She squinted and pushed a brown lock out of her face. “Not like a nightmare necessarily. Just a dream that went on too long. Like nothing was happening, just you doing something you might do while you’re awake but never really getting anywhere.”
Now that she was looking at me I couldn’t look away. I didn’t remember if I ever had a dream like that, but I nodded anyway. She pinched a small smirk and continued.”Like you were walking down the hallway of a hotel. The ugly rug smelled like ancient cigarettes. And you kept peeking in the doors of the empty hotel rooms. None were locked. And room after room was clean and neat, beds perfectly made, with bright sunlight flooding through the windows. You passed a maid’s cart but saw no maid.
“At the corner you turned and kept walking, opening every door you passed, all the same. It’s like you were hoping one would be locked, like that might mean that someone else was in the dream with you, someone who could tell you why you were there and when it would end.”
She paused and tapped her bottom lip with a sharp little finger.
“I think dreams like that are the scariest. Like in a monster dream, you would probably wake up from fear. You would feel the monster somewhere behind you, just beyond the corner you just turned, maybe sniffing around the maid’s cart, clawing at the towels, wondering how much farther ahead you are. Maybe you would hear it’s strange shuffling as it got closer.
“And you would wake up, scared, but relieved it was just a dream.”
A cloud passed over the sun and she shot it a scornful look. I put my hand on the train rail even though I knew no train would come. It was warm from the sun. I looked back at her and she was staring into the sun. I had already forgotten what her eyes looked like. I kept watching her, waiting for her to push another thought into our strange world. When she did I wasn’t ready.
“If there’s no monster, then you just have to wait for something in the real world to wake you up. But that might never happen.”
It was a ridiculous thought and I decided to tell her so. But when I opened my mouth nothing came out. The silence was too dense,