***Sneak Peek of SONGS OF THE MANIACS***

A Moment

Victor and I are sort of friends, then we are sort of lovers, and later he has his hands around my throat. It is that kind of relationship.

He is choking me and I am coughing and he is saying, “If you want to escape from all of this, you have to work with me here.” I start to see a blackness like an ink spot seeping into my vision from the corners of my eyes. “I know we can do this. Together,” he is saying.

His voice is faint. And getting fainter. I gurgle and cough. Even this seems distant.

Something is lodged in my throat, something cold and hard. Victor’s tight clasp on my neck is forcing the thing in my throat to edge up my windpipe or my esophagus or whatever.

I am choking and, at the same time, the blockage in my throat is coming loose.

Far away, a woman coughs. I guess this is me.

Victor continues to squeeze my neck. Drool from his contorted mouth drips and splashes on my cheeks. The spittle is cool. This turn in our relationship is an unexpected one. But so was sleeping together.

I could get fired for this. If I live.

I am staring up at the ceiling out of the middle of my eyes. Around the edges, the ink spot is spreading. Are those real stars I am seeing? Of course not. Those are stains, a splatter of stains on the ceiling that have seeped down from the floor above. Where have I seen that pattern before?

My memory is not what it once was.

But I can remember everything that happened today. Every detail. The way the day began with a morning in my office like any other, warm and well lit and lightly salted. Celia and her dreams. Justin and his photo. How the breeze turned cold and raw, ripping the palm fronds from their trunks and pitching rain against the window glass. The storm, Victor’s cotton bathrobe, the quiet. The brown pelicans above the hard-packed beach sand. The toss of blue-green waves. Sasha. Ben. The noise and the smoke of the bar. Francis and the gun and the lawn man. The stink of cheese fries and that suffocating smell of gasoline.

The thing in my throat.

“When your dreams are more real than your reality?” Victor is speaking in a distant whisper. The air feels suddenly ice cold and the black folds in on itself and becomes even blacker. “Then which one is your real consciousness?”

I am limp in Victor’s hard grasp. My head sags forward. His hands have loosened their steely grip, but it is too late. It looks like this is it.

But wait. Are these the kinds of thoughts you have when you are dying? Most of these thoughts are fragmented. Random. And heavy with undisclosed meaning. Someone else’s meaning.

How disappointing.

Here I am, limp and blue, dead in the arms of a violent lover, and all that flashes before my eyes are little pieces from other people’s lives?

This is just so me.

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Songs of the Maniacs