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One of the reasons Gloria and I have been struggling is because we don’t see each other that much anymore. She’s been spending a lot more time at church, helping run this council and volunteering for all sorts of fundraisers and charity events, and I’ve been working on my new screenplay. I don’t think I mentioned it yet but that’s what I want to do with my life. Write films. I’ve made some money at it but not enough to quit my job. I’ll tell you more about that later.

Right now I want to talk about Jack. This is the Jack I mentioned before, the one who dated Gloria before I did. She left him to be with me. I guess you could say I stole her from him, if you want to be negative about it, but I didn’t do it on purpose. I mean I didn’t set out to do it so much as it just happened. You can’t help who you love in this world.

Not surprisingly, Jack was unimpressed with what I considered fate. He didn’t give up on Gloria easily, and even after I proposed he swore he would win her back eventually. For a long time I worried about him, about his resentment, but after we were married he faded from our lives. In time I forgot about him.

Then, three years ago, Gloria took a job at the same company as Jack. She didn’t bother telling me he worked there until deep in the interview process, long after I could mount an opposition campaign. She claims she didn’t know about it herself. To make matters worse, three months ago she accepted a promotion that means she now works for him directly. Can you believe that? I mean, honestly. Has Jack really been plotting his revenge for thirteen years? Or is this another one of life’s infamous coincidences?

Either way, every time seven o’clock arrives and Gloria’s still not home from work, I grow a little angrier. Wouldn’t you? She sees him every day. She sees him more than she sees me. And then when I ask about her day, how things are at work, Gloria tells me I’m being obsessive. But all I’m doing is asking about her job. We end up talking about Jack by association. He’s her boss, for heaven’s sake.

Isn’t he?

Or am I hallucinating that, too?

I keep hearing the old man’s voice, the guy in the bathroom. I keep seeing his ruddy face and hearing his ominous words, but we all know I can’t say for sure if it really happened. Just like no one else saw the blue orb. I clearly hallucinated that. And once you accept you are hallucinating, how can you say, really, when it stops? When you have a bad dream at night, it ends when you wake up. But when you’re talking about a real-life, daytime hallucination, how can you ever know for sure when you are back in true reality again?

There’s a very good chance I hallucinated everything in the church today: the blue orb, the old man, the improved sexual equipment.

Which means I could still be hallucinating. I may not even be writing to you right now.

And you may not be reading.

Think about that feeling you get in nightmares, the blazing, irrational fear. That’s exactly how this feels. If you can’t trust what you see with your own eyes, what you hear with your own ears, how can you trust anything?

If my brain had a reboot button, this is when I would push it. I need to shut down and regain some kind of balance. What I really want to do is go to sleep and make all of this disappear. But as soon as I close my eyes, I imagine the car is moving, like I’m no longer sitting in my driveway but fleeing across the desert, followed by a couple of gunslingers. I imagine my car slamming into something, and then I’m falling, my life flashing before me. I’ve had this dream before. I can’t remember when. It’s as if I have the dream and then forget about it.

Everything you know is a lie, the old man said.

But what does that mean exactly? Even if this very moment is a hallucination, there must have been a previous moment that was not.

My heart is racing. I can feel blood pulsing in the tips of my fingers, in my ears. The world seems to shimmer. Everything is blurry. I’m breathing too fast. It seems insanely hot in this car.

I wonder if I jumped out the door and ripped off my clothes, if I tried to rip off my very own skin, if anyone would try to stop me. I’m not sure it matters anymore. For the first time since my dad died nine years ago, I feel like crying. If you can’t have faith in the most basic information about the world—facts you take for granted every minute of every day—how can you live from one moment to the next?

I have to go inside. I don’t know what else to do. I’m scared to death that I’ll say something crazy to Gloria, that she’ll finally realize how lost I am, but I’m even more afraid that if I sit in this car by myself any longer I’ll drift so far away from solid ground that I’ll never be able to make it back.

Do you think Gloria would listen if I tried to explain how I feel? If I told her I’m seeing things? How do you explain to someone that your mind isn’t working right without them automatically thinking you belong in a mental hospital?

It seems absurd that I would ever keep anything from her. There was a time when the two of us were so close it seemed like we communicated telepathically. Even the first moment I saw her, when she stood in front of me at that fraternity party and asked for half a giant Twinkie, somehow I already knew she was the one. It was strange and wonderful, almost as if I’d met her before. But lately it feels like someone has turned off the connection, because we’re never on the same page about anything. And the worst part is I don’t understand how it happened. Gloria doesn’t seem like the same person to me anymore. She would probably say something similar about me, and maybe she would be right, because more and more I think I really do belong in a mental hospital. Like right now I am thinking that.

And I’m also hearing numbers in my head again.


I think they must be special numbers. Something very special is happening to me, like a gift, and all I have to do to receive this gift is finally let go of my fake life, let go of Gloria and my stupid job and everything that has been holding me back, and embrace the one, true reality.


Those numbers are like a path for me to follow. They lead somewhere very important, if only I could—

A loud, thundering sound shakes my numerical world, jumbles everything, and my eyes flutter open. The sun is white and overpowering. What the hell?

“Thomas,” someone says. “Are you going to sit out here all day?”

It’s Gloria. I’m in the car. Gloria is standing outside the car looking in at me.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“I don’t know what happened.”

“It looks like you fell asleep. Why don’t you come inside? The neighbors are going to wonder what you’re doing out here.”

“Okay,” I say. “Give me just a sec—”

“It’s all right. I’m going back inside. Just don’t be too long, baby. Okay?”

Shit. I was dreaming all that.  Maybe I’m not going crazy. Maybe I’m just exhausted and getting worked up over nothing. Maybe I can go inside and talk to Gloria and everything will turn out to be okay.


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