NOCTURNE - CHRIS BENTON
I lost everything and was in jail for nearly two years. When I got out, I felt like a man who was dead and forgotten, I felt free, floating in a world that was a little too fast and a little too loud. The halfway house they sent me to bore the name of Saint Barry Transitional Residence...Saint Barry...some suicidal pastor maybe, or a drunk who grew wings.
The inhabitants of that crumbling three story Victorian were for the most part calm, continuously mesmerized by the long laughing cracks in the floors. My room was on the second level, four metal bunks; occupied by men whose eyes I needed a shovel to find and a woman with a burning flag of hair and a gaze as cold as a February moon.
My bed was the top bunk, already baptized with the piss of sadder monsters. I climbed up top, my bag filled with underwear, some paperback thriller and chips. I unbuckled my belt and re-buckled myself around the bunk’s arm that nearly kissed the wall.
On the third night of my stay at Saint Barry my bunk buddy, Tarnell, started screaming at his dreams from under me, “GIT OFF ME BITCH, GIT OFF ME!” He fell off his bed, strangling himself on the floor. I watched from my perch and nodded sympathetically at his demon. I usually slept about twelve hours a week and when I swam too deep, my dreams were just as merciless. I would tumble for centuries and when I was finally still, there was a tiny red leg resting on my chest.
My room began to groan and tell Tarnell to shut the fuck up. Some guy named Gary sprang off his bottom bunk and began beating the ever-living nightmare out of him.
It didn’t take long for our friendly night watchmen Andy and Tommy to arrive to drag Gary and Tarnell out of our room. I could hear both of them screaming curses from two warring planets. The rest of my roommates watched the entire episode on their elbows before collapsing back into the debris of their dreams in unison...except for Miss Cold Clear Eyes.
Half an hour later she climbed like a cat onto my bed and drowned my head with her hair. It smelled like I imagined it would smell, it smelled like smoke.
“Gary was on the right track you know, but there’s an obvious crack in his cure.” Her whispers were hot and pure; I needed more for the rest of my life.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your belt; I’m talking about the end of bad dreams.”
She slid off my bed like a ghost and left me with my belt and another night without sleep.
The next day I found her smoking under the dying dogwood beside the entrance of our sanctuary. I could still see the echoes of her beauty despite her destroyed nose, and the scar on her forehead that kept smiling at me. I sat beside her and asked if she had a spare smoke. She gave me the one in her mouth, a half-dead menthol, but I felt privileged. I tried to taste a sliver of her soul and tasted cold shit instead.
“What did you mean last night?” I asked her.
“It takes love to end bad dreams.”
“Sounds like bullshit.”
“Trust me, my ex beat them out of me and I slept for two months in the darkest heaven. When I woke up, I felt like a girl again.”
She turned to me and smiled and her mouth was the door to hell. I didn’t ask her for her name. I didn’t need it.
That night, she climbed back onto my bed and unbuckled my belt from the bed’s arm. I was afraid at first, but a few minutes later I sank into a vast dreamless sleep.
BIO: Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides. He can be found on Facebook.