The Poet R A CPAP Across the Universe

by Ked Kirkham

I pulled the blankets up, tight under my chin and stretched until I felt the limit of the bed. The breach had been short, a check of data: had I slept long enough? (5.18 hours), had I stopped breathing? (1.8 times per hour), was my mask in place? (mostly). Cursory. Disinterested.

Good enough for me. As NPR faded with distance, I pushed off into darkness.

Oxygenation had been a boon to my nightlife. Better than exhaustion. I still slept immediately, or “as soon as my head hit the pillow,” but sleep had become a vast place within which to live.

“No, none that I can think of,” I told the doctor when he asked if the CPAP was giving me any problems. “But man, my dreams are wild!”

I knew the road. It went up behind Primary Children’s on 12th Avenue. I drove and drove and drove until I was at the school. That I did not have a car perturbed me not at all, neither did the street grid of Ogden passing by as I moved. Nor Barbra Streisand, holding up two ceramic tiles to Officer Pat. I think they were Prussian Blue. Persian?

What was disturbing was I could not recall if she used a ‘T’ in her name. I spent much of the trip sorting that out, and this led to the inevitable Kianti-Chianti argument. When I smelled caramel macchiato with sea salt, I woke.

The correct word said correctly is very important to me.

I could feel the waistband of my underwear against my ass. Rolling onto my back, I found the front of the band was still up; clinging, controlling. It was no effort to change that. I freed it from its hook, pushing the clothing down onto my thighs, and rolled again to face the other side of the bed. Quickly, diving deep, I slept again.

The underwear got incorporated into my dream. Familiar people in familiar rooms, familiar circumstances of work and public transportation, my clothes missing. It was awkward. It disturbed me. I woke up.

These dreams don’t bother me while I am awake. I guess that is easily explained: I am awake; but they wake me up as if to get away from a conflict, or an argument, to take my balls and leave.

“Oh, yeah?” I say, “I’ll show you, I will just go awake!”

Childish, I know. I have been like that all my life, even into adulthood. One partner actually chased me out of the apartment, following me, accusing and haranguing me. When we were several blocks away I realized it was my place and turned on him.

“You jerk, I don’t have to leave, you do.” I took my balls and went home.

I washed and folded his underwear, put it on the porch with a note: “throwing these away on Thursday.” He came by one night, and I could see someone in the car waiting for him. For a while, in dreams, it was me, and there was always underwear to fold. I haven’t had that dream for a while, so we must be over.

Sometimes you have just got to cut the ties that bind you, trying not to cut any arteries in the process. Each time, I get better at it. I rarely dream of situations that remain unresolved. I don’t dream of smoking anymore, but that first year I was sure I smelled smoke and woke up. They were that real. I do still dream of a finger hooking my underwear and trying to move in. I never can see who it is, though, and I seem always to have to help.

I adjusted the mask to stop air bursts in my eye. And slept.

I was at the mall, watching a guy with a long white cane fumble with an open backpack, which was red, while I was speaking with a deaf woman (I think, what?) learning the bus routes. I tried to interpret for her sighted guide but knew my train was due. Someone had to sort this out and they could not understand me. I had to swim hard to make it back and catch the train.

Missing trains always wakes me up. I found the humidifier reservoir was dry. And I’d lost my panties completely.

Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series writing group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month, 6:30–8 p.m., 210 E. 400 South, Ste. 8, Salt Lake.

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