Slumber Citizens (Excerpt from Chapter 5)

Slumber Citizen 01122 discovered 01097 during his lunch break. He had forgotten to bring his regular sack lunch consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a carton of low fat milk. So he took the elevator downstairs and made the short walk to the deli around the corner. She got in line just ahead of him. She wore a salamander-colored scarf double-twisted around her neck in a loose knot with the stringy fringes cascading over her shoulders. It looked as if her hair had been combed in a hurry without the benefit of a mirror. He shifted his eyes to the large menu behind the counter, arrayed with item descriptions color-coded in chalk, but then his gaze returned to complete the picture: bronze hair loosely bound with a barrette, large handbag made of upholstery material, resembling a carpetbag. He couldn’t see her face, but silently admired her stance, the way she allowed one handle of the bag to hang off her shoulder, her right hand holding the other in place, left hand resting on her waist. He caught a whiff of newly washed hair, sweet and clean.
When it was his turn to order he watched as she took her sandwich to the nearest table, the one by the display rack of chips. He observed the pointed tip of her nose, and the general landscape of her face. It was his turn to order and he felt beads of sweat forming under his collar because he hadn’t yet decided what to order from the dozens of looming choices, undecipherable in his muddled head.
“The Greek is delicious,” he heard someone say from behind him. She kicked her right foot back and forth as she licked mustard off of her finger. “Yeah?” was all he could muster as the items on the menu finally came into focus. He turned back to look at her, taken aback by her stare. “What’s all in it?” he asked dumbly, “I mean in the sandwich special – the Greek?” Placing her sandwich on the plate as she swallowed, she offered, “Come look.” Hesitantly, he ducked as if the ceiling was too low and walked over. She opened up her sandwich and displayed the meats, cheese and lettuce, half eaten. “Ah,” he answered, “looks good,” and returned to the counter, placing his order for the Greek.
She shared her small round table in the corner with him. She rattled off about each ingredient in the sandwich, the exact arrangement of the meats, vegetables and the type of bread. She was on fire about the deli sandwich, and how this specific arrangement happened to affect the taste. She sipped her root beer in between bites and snippets, as he took long swigs of orange juice. She told him that she worked at the Trader Joe’s down the street. See you again, maybe, she said. And he agreed.
During the long stretch of late afternoon and evening that day, all of Citizen 01122 got trapped inside of his mouth:
Top teeth mounted over bottom with tongue stuck in between. Top teeth overbear bottom so must push chin forward for relief. All of me trapped inside this contraption. I’ll never escape. I can never be free.
These are the waking day symptoms of nightmare – the kind you don’t share with anyone else because they stand outside the structure of your disease.
He didn’t take these symptoms as an effect of his brush with Citizen 01097, nor did he take them as the effect of a previous nightmare. He lived through them and hoped they wouldn’t return.

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