Elaine often talks in her sleep but last night was a real shocker. The second day of our holiday had been a perfect sun drenched lazy day. I was wonderfully drowsy but awake, savouring happy idle thoughts, listening to the crashing of the waves on the beach nearby. Her head lay a little way from mine on the same pillow. I could just make out the outline of her nose and chin, and sound of her peaceful, even breath. Then the flimsy curtain fluttered in the breeze from the beach. A shaft of moonlight fell across her face and I saw the whites of her eyes.
I leant up on my elbow. “Elaine!” – A hoarse, shouted whisper. My heart beat pounded in my ears. The curtain fell back and her face was in shadow again. She continued to breathe. Then I saw her chin move and her mouth open. Her voice came out in a rasping hiss.
“Elaine is sleeping. As she must.”
Was this a game ? I wondered. It didn’t feel like a game. Normally the sleep talk was all endearing nonsense. “Then who are you ?”
“I am Eleanor.” Again, the hiss.
“Are you Elaine’s friend?”
“I have been with Elaine from before she was born.”
“Does Elaine love me?”
“Elaine loves everybody”
“Do you love me?”
“I loved you in June, July and August when we were on fire.”
“I fear a life of birch veneer and flimsy props, of saggy soft furnishings and your stale beery breath as you stumble home for a desultory feeble fuck.”
“Elaine!” I shook her shoulder.
“Elaine is sleeping. I am Eleanor. Elaine needs to sleep because she is tired from pretending she finds your jokes funny.”
I realised a hot tear was halfway down my cheek.
“Elaine does not want you to know when you bore her, because she loves you. As she loves her Mum, and the Queen, and Ruby.” Ruby was our labrador.
“So you find me boring?”
“I don’t find you at all.”
“I mean Elaine finds me boring?”
“Not all the time.”
“So some of the time?”
“Time and time again.”
“So what does Elaine want?”
“Elaine wants you?”
“But she finds me boring?”
“As she finds her Mum, and the Queen, and Ruby boring.”
“So what should I do?”
“I think you’ve done enough.”
“What do you mean?”
“You think you’ve done enough”
“I think what?”
“You’ve ticked your boxes, your trophy is on the mantel piece, time to kick back and decay. And you will be the fine upstanding victim when I rip away the cosy rug and send us all spinning.”
“Elaine!” I shook her again.
“Are you having a bad dream ?”
“Elaine is sleeping. I am only allowed out on nights like this.”
The curtain fluttered in the breeze and again the moonlight spilt across her face. The eyes were still wide open, the nostrils were flaring. Her jaw dropped and she inhaled sharply. I panicked. This was too much. She looked frenzied and possessed. I flailed around, feeling for the light switch on the bedside table.
“Choo!!!!” she sneezed as I turned on the light.
I turned back to Elaine and saw her looking around bleary eyed and blinking. She reached over and got a tissue from her bedside table, and then smiled at me. “Sorry babe, just a big sneeze” then she hugged me and kissed me on the temple before rolling over. I turned off the light, lay down properly, and told myself it was all just nonsense. Dreams are just shreds of life jumbled up. There is no point in trying to make sense of them, so there is no point in trying to talk to someone who is talking in their sleep. Any one who tries is sure to get in a pickle. I felt myself drifting under, and started to dream of snorkling with Elaine earlier that day.
I was jolted awake by a belch and a hiss from the other side of the bed.
“Stupid fat fuck.”
more by ALAN KILLIP
photograph by Petras Gagilas