The man dreams.
He dreams of how readily the hot, salty tears
Would flow down
the soft plump cheeks of his 10 years.
How the sobs would spasm throughout his body
With such force that he would be reduced
to a croaking, shaking wet mass in cargo shorts
and a Crocs hat—
All because he felt “left out”.
Wanted sympathy
Wanted the teachers to stop their ignorant
And look at him. Validate him.
He didn’t know then that people had cried
Over their son’s ravaged body
Lying stiff in a hospital bed.
That she had cried
Over the bloody mess staining the bed
A stark testament to her sterility.
And her worthlessness.
Children his age cried at the smacking hand
The relentless screaming
And the puckered bruises
Violent purple on their mothers’ eyes.
But he was 10
It’s fine to only think about yourself then, right?
Just like it’s fine to only think about
When you’re 15 and the homework you’ve neglected
weighs down your bed.
When you’re 17, porn blaring and brazen on the computer
Forgetting that you promised Mom a hug when she got home that day.

The man continues to think about himself.
Even today, as he dreams
Those once creamy white cheeks
Now thickly matted with itchy, scraggly brown hairs.
Slick with grease.
He does not think about that stranger
he saw at the coffee shop.
With the blue eyes and freckled arms
He couldn’t—
even consider himself worthy of his attention.
The stranger thinks the same exact thing in his own bed.

The man continues to dream.
The sticky, messy collage of images in his dream morph into
Then statements.
Then Declarations, Exclamations!—no
Why should he think of anybody other than himself,
even today, at 26 years old?
No one else bothers to think about the way
he feels. He has only himself.
He has a right to be depressed.
So what if he’s lived a privileged life?
How does the misery of others invalidate his own?
The misery evident on the moist stains comprised of
tears, sweat, and semen
on his unwashed sheets.

The man doesn’t want to dream anymore.
But he doesn’t want to wake up, either.
He just wants to scream.
He opens his mouth, sucks in air, but he can’t let it out.
It won’t come out.
It’s stuck in his throat, nesting with
all of his desires, his opinions, his assertions, his defenses, his beliefs, his values.
Breeding, a sick, ravenous cancer.

The man is crying now.
Crying in his sleep.
It seems like all he can do
All he has ever done
Is cry.
Cry for himself.
He drains himself on his pillow.
Until his body is a sponge
Squeezed, twisted, wrenched of all its water.
He isn’t dreaming anymore.
He isn’t awake, either.
Even though he gets up.
Showers off the grime caking his skin
Crusting his eyes
Greasing his ample supply of hair.
Even though he puts on clothes
Even though he furiously tries to spit out the
stagnant bile in his mouth into the sink with toothpaste.
He’s still not awake.
He’s convinced himself that he won’t be
Until he is loved, kissed, desired
By someone else.
Which, his mind tells him, will never happen.
And even if it did..

The cancer within him has grown
Grown into a thick, fat, bulbous tumor
That clogs up his veins, his lungs, his arteries, his blood, his mind.
The man tries to tell himself that it’s not true.
It’s not true, it CAN’T be true.
But he knows it is.
The truth, you see, is that the man lacks emotion.
Now, this does not mean he is sociopathic, or a mindless, empty vegetable.
He still feels hurt, sorrow, compassion, anger, fear, and, very rarely, joy.
He just can’t love, and he can’t hate.
To him, these two emotions, these two powerful emotions that have the influence to govern our very lives, our very existence
Are nonexistent.
The man wishes he could feel hate.
For the teachers who ignored him
The boys that ignored him.
Everyone who IGNORED him.
Because if he could just feel hate,
Even hate for himself
Just know what hate feels like
The strength, the power, the emotion
behind it.
Then the man could—
The man WOULD
feel love.
And then he would awake.


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