There was a man standing over me, jabbing me with a stick. Still, I rolled over, and pretended the dream was real. But he jabbed me again, and I forced myself up.
“This ain’t the Ritz,” said the man. His uniform looked familiar. A beat cop, cleaning up his park. “Move along, bub.”
The place no longer smelled of fresh apples and wood smoke, but of tar and greasy rain. I was on a park bench, barefoot, and shivering under layers of salvaged clothes. Filthy wet leaves were scattered around the bench – my bench – and I reasoned it was late autumn. Months, if not years, had passed since I fell out of my dream. And then I smelled the naked animal that was me under the sweaters and pants. Dirt and sweat and soured urine. I clutched at all my clothes, and wobbled to my feet. The cop looked amused.
“Clean yourself up, Silas,” he said. “Get thee to a shelter.” He tapped me on the shoulder, three times, but gently.
“You know me?”
He sighed. “Every time. Yeah, I know you. Every morning for two years. Easier to get rid of the fucking pigeons than your scurvy ass. Winter’s coming and I don’t want to scrape up your carcass when it turns.”
“I was somewhere else,” I said.
“Me too. In a clean bed. You might want to give it a try.”
“This is the golden age of disappointment and stopgap blessings,” I said.
He shook his head. “You collecting fortune cookies for your underwear?” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a wrinkled buck. “This is for a cup of joe,” he said. “Spend it on anything else, and I swear I’ll… never mind, you know the drill. And then get to the ‘Y’, or Bully’s, you know where it is. I’ll be checking before end-of-shift. Believe it, bub. Now move along before you kill any more leaves with that stench.”
“I was on a journey,” I said.
“Aren’t we all? Coffee, Silas. Go to Bully’s and get cleaned up. If you were anyone else….”
“I was,” I said, but the words didn’t come out of my mouth.