The day started with a dream, a fluid and drifting dream of which I, the dreamer, was fully aware. It had taken about a year, but I had finally done it: the previously haunting burden of severe insomnia had been lifted, falling away to the power of lucid delusion. I took myself to the harbor every time, and once submerged I would feel the tight cap over my forehead, my eyes shielded from the murk by the rubbery rings pressed around them. I was a knife, the water forming around my body. I no longer craved breath -- it had escaped me back where the waves broke on the shore and the grass gave way to sand. Then I was part of the water, and I could see everything and feel everything moving through me, and I ebbed and flowed with the tide. I could feel the sun coming up, rising from the east, and I had a form again. My head broke the surface, and sweet, scented oxygen filled my lungs. I closed my eyes, feeling the light warmth of the sun on my face. It starkly contrasted the cool pressure of the ocean. I knew it was time to wake up.
My eyes fluttered open, and the room was dark. My sheets were dry, made up of something other than myself, likely with dry thoughts and dry preferences. I looked at the clock, with its red, glaring numbers, and it's 5:30 am. A storm had started in the night, and my body relaxed with the familiarity of water. I wanted to open the window and let the rain gush in through it. Instead, I swung my legs over to the edge of the mattress, stretching my arms above my head. My body felt too long, as usual, to be living in an apartment the size of this one. The same dark blue jeans I wore every day were draped over the back of the bathroom door. I didn't shower; I figured feeling the rain on my skin would be baptism enough. Besides, I hadn't kept soap for weeks now, not since I ran out last month. I hadn't gotten down to the grocery store.
Steel Mill Road was mostly empty at this hour, so I walked barefoot in the gutter on the side of the road to feel the pull of the runoff. A light fog hung in the air, masking the glow of the buzzing fluorescent sign on the side of the diner, a light which, under not-so-foggy circumstances, would have left pockmarks in my vision. Spots that would reappear each time I blinked, like a negative ghost.
The diner was dry, which was unfortunate but necessary for business, I guessed. Dry buildings attracted the people who didn't need the rain, unless they had no place to go but a coffee shop on a Sunday, in which case the rain would add to coziness and aesthetic. I sat at my usual spot at the counter, my place marked by a worn vinyl stool and a sticky ring of syrup.
This kid Caleb, skinny and buck-toothed with a nice head of hair, worked the counter in the morning. We spoke sometimes, and he'd tell me about his newest hobby, which was most likely another off-brand sport or some new invention he'd come up with. I liked small talk; I felt there was some stronger meaning behind it than most people believed. You can learn a lot about a person from small talk. You can at least make reasonable inferences, and there's a lot more freedom in inference than in fact.
Caleb was in the middle of a story about his newest idea for an interactive Halloween costume when a group of three police officers came in through the door. They were young, maybe thirty-two, complaining about the newest crime.
"It's a pool of blood, Jerry," said one, a stout blonde with a scraggly beard. "No body. Just blood."
"It doesn't make sense," said the girl, a redhead with tiny eyes and a fierce temper, by the sound of it.
I tuned them out, well aware of the sound of the rain coming through the door, which was still propped open by the last officer.
Instead, I focused on the taste of the coffee: hot, flat, and bitter. The opposite of the ocean.