The Dame in the Diner Dream

Of all the dreams in all the heads in all the world...


Of all the dreams in all the heads in all the world...

The New Mexican mountains had all the jagged curvatures of a lie-detector test, and in the sunset on the other side I saw truth. Time to stop slacking in Sante Fe, put on my slacks and head back to the city that never sleeps. On the way there, I slept.

I dreamed in a hotel room that had never heard of fantasy outside a Pennsylvanian town that had never dreamed a dream. I knew it was a dream because it started with a friend giving me a ride. Yeah, I have a friend. But if I ever asked him for a ride, he’d hand me the Yellow Pages with a side of middle finger.

My ride dropped me off outside a restaurant that looked like a giant’s Christmas present, with red wrapping half decomposed by rain. I went inside. My friend drove off the eternal cliff into misty nothingness in the corner of my brain.

Inside the Christmas box was a diner, cold, grey, and blue like a gloomy Sunday. There should have a been a sign outside: “GLOOMY SUNDAY’S.” Subtitled: “COME IN OUT OF THE LIFE.”

I was meeting a woman. I didn’t know it when I walked in, but I knew it when I saw her blond hair three booths down, catching the grey. Blond like sand. Her hair caught the grey morning light like John McEnroe on tranquilizers, returning the gloom with perfect form and subdued temper, like she had a fire she wouldn’t unleash on a whim.

I couldn’t see her clearly. There was a fog over the lens of my mind. But I felt her as I approached the booth – she seemed as deep as the Mariana Trench and nebulous as love.

I sat down with her and we talked. About what? I don’t remember. The border patrol seizes our notepads when we enter Dreamville. I flipped open my menu and flipped it closed again. I’d already decided on scrambled eggs. She played with her menu like she was playing cards after a bottle of tequila. I caught other guests out of the corner of my eye. A waitress took our order. The kitchen staff was busy.

A woman in the kitchen caught my eye. Not my wandering eye. I only had eyes for my boothmate, promise. I’d prove it, but that border patrol with their hatred of notebooks. How’d Carl Jung ever slip his across? Probably called it a phallic symbol and started interpreting it. The border patrol would’ve paid him to leave.

Anyway, this woman. She could have been my mother. She radiated maternity like the sun radiates gold. She looked like she’d modeled for World War II propaganda. Her smile could’ve launched a million Colgate tubes. Her eyelashes could’ve batted Batman out of business. No guano. There was something blue about her – not the rainy blue of the diner: the slick aqua blue of images from sanskrit and the Kama Sutra.

She froze me on my squishy foam seat. My boothmate was frozen too. The woman came out of the kitchen in her apron. Military surplus khaki underneath. Her mouth spread, revealing a smile to make Colgate White Strips weep blood. There were tears in my eyes and tears on my boothmate’s cheeks. They ran down her soft, full cheeks like streams in the Sahara.

The woman turned all aqua. She was a Hindu goddess. She pulled out an egg and held it up for us to see, with a smile, and then she used it as a metaphor for existence and universal forces, life and love, and of course I didn’t have my goddamn notepad and it became a harrowing example of the damage done by border-crossing regulations.

We just sat there and listened, like two children who’d decided they were going to have to live on their own. Mommy had gone while they were waiting in the car. But here she was after all, and she still loved us after all, and it was all better, better than better, and just as I noticed my boothmate’s perfectly formed tear-seasoned tits I woke up.

I thought about it while I drank instant coffee, the hospitality industry’s way of saying, “Thanks for staying, get the hell out.” Boy, those were nice breasts!

I thought about it some more on the drive back to New York. What had the goddess said? What was up with the egg? Was the point the goddess, the egg, the diner, or my boothmate – or all of the above?

It was raining on the Interstate. I didn’t see the diner through the river on my windshield – or the egg beneath oblivious chickens on the backroutes; or a Hindu goddess peeking out from the concrete interludes of suburbia; or the boothmate of my dreams in the Hudson River bulleted by rain.

Months passed like silent gas: I knew they were squeezing out, but otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed them. But they stunk. That’s a shit metaphor – a lousy metaphor for three lousy, rainy, empty months so colorless you couldn’t have filmed them in black and white.

Then came a morning that froze me in an NYPD lobby with half a donut in my mouth, three-quarters of a coffee in my hand and my heart pounding away like John Henry on a railroad.

There she was – my boothmate, slouched in a waiting chair, texting away. Hair like sand; eyes like seas; flushed skin like a blooming flower; breasts like hearts fit to explode.
A skinny man with a shaved head and three days without a razor climbed up on a table. Papers scattered.

Someone shouted, “He’s got a gun!”

He raised his .38 as if to prove it.

I ran for my boothmate. She’s real, I find her, and Gillette’s nemesis is gonna blast her out of existence? Not on my watch.

At which point my watch, which was thrusting back and forth on my wrist as I ran, collided with a clown nose, which was on the face of a classically made-up clown, who had agreed to hold a new cake for his friend, who had just been uncuffed beside him and was facing an hour of paperwork.

I hit the clown in his nose, which turned out to be a balloon, which then dislodged from his nose, to his horror, and flew across the room, rocketing like a firework, roaring like a fart, right into the gunman’s face, knocking him backwards off the desk.

One of the cops leaped for him, but forgot the table existed. As penance it took the air out of him, and he went down, hitting his funny bone, which took its own revenge by activating his trigger finger, forcing his own gun to fire.

The bullet ricocheted off a steel panel and soared through the trapezius muscle – top of the back – of a young police officer who was coming in with a newly recovered bomb, which was still quite explosive and which saw its chance for escape as he dropped.

His companions took heroic dives to keep the bomb and the floor apart, but gravity came out of nowhere, like a poindexter Cupid.

The result was explosive. It blew out the front of the station and shot glass into the street like machine-gun fire.

The explosion took the life from a dozen people – but it also scared the shit out of a forty-something alcoholic in a rusty Toyota, who had his best friend’s six-year-old son in the back. He was going to ransom the kid.

He crashed his rusty Toyota instead, and we nabbed the bastard shortly after the ambulances showed.

I opened my eyes. The clouds were flames. The rain was rubble. Clown tears were removing his makeup and revealing his secret identity.

I was on top of my boothmate. She coughed. Her breasts bounced. My heart bounced with them.

I said, “Hello there.”

The clown was still holding the cake.