She was wearing that red sweater again.

            For some reason I had the feeling that everybody owned one.

            I’m dragging myself into the classroom and noticing that some things seem more real than others. Sit down in the back of the room. Unzip my backpack. Pull out my notebook. It’s strange to think that I might not actually be doing any of these actions. I might be laying in bed back over the bridge just dreaming it all up.

            I know who’s to blame for all of this.

He’s always wearing a red sweater. He’s the one that took those sunglasses off of his face and gave them to me, telling me that I had to become the thing I fear in order to defeat it. I should have known that he was only quoting Star Wars. And he’s talking to me on the hill of the old elementary school playground, dragging that cigarette from his mouth like he’s James Fucking Bond. I don’t know why I listen to him.

            They say that a good way to determine whether or not you’re dreaming is if you can remember how you got to where you are.

            I never went to that playground. At least, not until the girl with the scheming smile and the old camera was there. I told her about the red sweater. I told her about the black boots that he wore because “everybody needs a defining image”. I told her about the wise-sounding words that he rambled to me day and night. But she didn’t help me. She doesn’t realize that this shadowy figure hiding behind dark sunglasses, the one to blame for every mistake people think that I’ve made, is always lurking somewhere in that neighborhood.

            He probably knows that I talked to her.

            He was probably watching from across the street, laughing to himself as he flicked his cigarette butt over the fence. I could always identify the smell of his cigarettes. I never figured out what the brand was. He bought the expensive kind, with smoke that smelled like an old black and white film. He told me that paying more for something useless meant that you were powerful enough to be wasteful. He said it was a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

            I rolled my eyes and hoped that he got lung cancer.

            Today in class, the teacher is talking about RNA. It seems unreasonable that this microscopic cell has any idea what it’s doing. Why is the teacher saying that the RNA just knows to deliver the genetic information? Why is the teacher saying that the cell knows when to split in two? It’s doesn’t have a brain. It’s what’s making the brain. I’m finding this so unreasonable that maybe I really am dreaming. I take notes anyway.

            You know that your insomnia is bad when you can fake lucidity this well.

            Somebody turned the volume down on the universe. It’s like I’m listening to that faint music they play in Fred Meyer, and all you can hear is the occasional Audioslave breakdown or a Led Zeppelin wail. Everything else is lost in the buzz that is my inoperative mind. Words that should make sense don’t. Words describing impossible things must be true.

            She liked my new pair of sunglasses.

            She doesn’t understand why I’m shaking my head every time I see a red sweater. She can’t comprehend why I swear at the mention of Thursdays. I’m trying to tell myself that all of those late nights I stayed on Skype with nothing to do but listen to his stupid rants about how to live were just my imagination.

            I’m hoping that I dreamt it up.

            Life is just a giant puzzle, he tells me. You’re good at those. You’ll figure it out. Pop some melatonin and try to tell yourself a story. A story that just might turn into a dream if you think about it hard enough. Just pretend that you’re really there. But I am really there. This dream isn’t some story that I’m telling myself. This is a memory. I can remember it too clearly. Are these even my memories anymore?

            He wanted me to get rid of her.

            He gave me his sunglasses so I could wear them myself. Become the thing that I was trying to defeat. It’s just a stupid metaphor, but I suppose mind games come easy to me. They always have. There’s nothing unusual about the red sweaters. There’s no conspiracy. It’s not like wearing a red sweater is a sign that you’re friends with him, right?

            I tell myself the same thing about the smell of those cigarettes.

            It’s Portland. Half of my high school smokes. It’s just chance that I’ve caught four different people puffing out the same smell that reminds me of him. The smell that reminds me of the words that roll off of his tongue as if he’s speaking the word of God. He can’t be that smart. He’s probably just quoting philosophers without a clue what he’s talking about.

            I suppose his confidence is the only reason I listened.

            Everything is out of order. Everything is a mile away. The teacher keeps talking but for all I know this is yesterday’s lecture being replayed in my unconscious mind. It’s hard to keep track of what’s happening when your past is just a little different every morning. Has the insomnia made me forgetful, or has it made me smarter than I ever was before? He probably would have told me it was an improvement.

            Everything I did wrong was an improvement.

            I smashed the sunglasses with a hammer.


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