Joyland

The Midwest |

Conversation at Four A.M.

by John Goldbach

He kisses her neck, while she sleeps, with little pressure. Staring at her, he thinks of the warmth and desire her face inspires inside of him. He feels foolish and happy loving her so much, overjoyed and sentimental. For a brief moment he entertains the possibility that she will die before him, maybe become terminally ill, or be hit by a car. His eyes tear. Feeling foolish, he wipes them. He kisses her warm cheek. She doesn’t stir. Again, lightly, he kisses her, not in order to wake her, but because he can’t help himself. Again, again, and again he kisses her—cheek, forehead, cheek, neck, ear, cheek. He lays his head, eyes heavy with the weight of alcohol; they close. The bedsprings squeak as she flips herself, repositioning. She sits up. His eyes open. “I had a terrible nightmare,” she says. “What?” “I had a terrible nightmare.” “About what?” “I was at some party somewhere, you were there, and I was raped in the bathroom.” “What?” he says, sitting up. “No one heard. There was a line outside but no one heard.” “It was just a dream,” he says. “Don’t worry.” “I don’t know how he got in the washroom.” “Did I kick the shit out of him?” “I didn’t get to that part,” she says. “Did you scratch him and kick him?” “I think I just wanted it to be over.” “You didn’t fight him?” “I don’t know.” “You would, though, wouldn’t you?” he says. “I don’t know.” “Really?” he says. “I’d fucking kill him.” “I know you’d do your best to protect me, baby.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Nothing,” she says. “But I know you don’t like to fight.” “Are you kidding me? This is different.” In the dark room, he grits his teeth. He says, “I’d kill him. Fuck the consequences. I’d kill him.” “You’d still love me, wouldn’t you?” “What?” “You’d still love me?” “If you were raped?” “Yes.” “I don’t want to talk about this. I’ll never get to sleep now,” he says, lying down. “Listen, it didn’t really happen, okay. Let’s try and sleep.”