“Neither Here Nor There” | Rebecca Marino

Inside a moving hotel elevator, I’m painting pink strokes on the wall. It feels like I’m painting glue on thick fabric. I’m in a hurry because the first floor is fast approaching. Right before the door slides open, I bring the thin paintbrush down to my right side, trying to hide it from whoever is waiting to step in. I can’t see the person, but I know it’s a man. We stand in silence until he leaves. The doors close again, and again I bring the brush to the wall, this time retracing the strokes, trying to fix it before someone else arrives. This repeats.

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The word “repeat” comes from a word meaning “seek.” The origin of the word “body” is unknown.

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Traced back to a German word meaning both body and corpse, it also means a person’s trunk. The body has a trunk. The body is in the trunk. The body is a corpse. The trunk is plunging into the river.

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Supposedly a dream that you are locked in the trunk of a vehicle plunging into water indicates that you feel you have no control, that you can’t escape something in your waking life, and that your life is sinking into your subconscious.

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But you could decide the car is someone else’s body.

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Dream experts say sex dreams are rarely about sex. They don’t say dreams without sex are most likely sex dreams.

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The first sex dream I can remember having was in middle school, long before I lost my virginity or had even seen porn. Standing outside of a McDonald’s, desperate for no one to be looking at us, I kissed a boy from the roller rink. Soon after, I dreamt, naturally, that we had sex on a pool table. Most of the dream was just knowing he was above me, or rubbing my hand against the green billiard cloth.

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I think of them as dry dreams. You don’t wake up sticky, but maybe later that day you’re washing the dishes or taking groceries out of your car or you’re in an elevator staring at the floor because someone else is there, too, and then you’re thinking of the dream you had the night before where you were trying to peel tomatoes with a spoon and you just know.

Last night: I was in an enclosed space—my whole body­ inside—with a desperate need for it to be tongue-colored. Stuck in a movement, up and down. Plump with a mission, and fear—a need to hide, failure. It’s looping, on loop. A man walks in and then gets off.

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I didn’t mean to pun when I said “river” but now I see it’s a body of water. The body, its trunk, is locked inside the trunk of the car, and the body is entering a body of water.

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I know it’s not my fault that my body is mostly water.

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Sometimes having sex with someone I love turns into a sex dream where I’m the body in the trunk of the car, struggling to remember that I am the river. Sometimes I make it out of both, gasping for air and your body so I can fill my mouth. More often the car cracks the surface of the river and splits everything black except a pinprick of color I can’t see. I focus on what’s almost missing and it shoots tall like a cursed boy quick-growing into a beast but it’s all made of sound and I know who he is and I go missing.

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Once, on vacation, inside our hotel room, I half watched you get out of bed, walk through the almost dark room and close the door behind you. Barely awake I couldn’t see what I saw. I thought, This is a dream. I thought, This is OK. Is this OK? I thought of our fight earlier that evening, how we yelled, how you often walked out when you were upset. I rolled to the edge of the bed and sat up, rubbed my face and then saw your hotel key on the dresser.

I somehow shook myself into some shoes and hurried after you. I rode the elevator to the first floor, almost tripped over the sign marked “Please excuse our renovations,” and didn’t find you. I ran outside and didn’t find you. I ran briefly in each direction and didn’t find you.

I rode the elevator back to our floor, hoping I’d find you waiting outside of our room. I didn’t find you. I walked back to the elevator, not knowing where else to go. A chime and a slide and your face, so confused. We walked back to our room.

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A person can’t disappear without a trace. To disappear, someone needs to know you were here, and that person’s body will always remember what’s missing.

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When I was about five years old, I decided to run away from home. I grabbed a blanket and a jar of peanut butter and sat underneath the car port for what felt like forever. Another little girl showed up and when I asked what she was doing, she said, “I live here.” I don’t know if my brain invented her, or if she was a weird neighborhood kid, or if she was a ghost, but I remember I wasn’t afraid of her. And I remember that she just disappeared.

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I’m inside the trunk of a car again and again you are sleepwalking into an elevator. When I wake, you aren’t next to me because I don’t live in our house anymore and you don’t live in our house anymore. I remember your face so much whiter as the elevator door opened and how I couldn’t know how scared you must have been to wake up not in bed but somewhere where everything was white with the dust of construction and how badly I wanted your body and my body together repeating like before I started disappearing when you touched me.

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But that’s over now, a stroke I trace over my bed sheets, looping.

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STEPHANIE GOEHRING is co-author, with Jeff Griffin, of the poetry chapbook I Miss You Very Much (Slim Princess Holdings, 2011/13) and author of the poetry chapbook This Room Has a Ghost (dancing girl press, 2010). Find her online here.

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