The Men in My Bed

The following is an excerpt from the final pages of Marco Aissu—somebody who was very close to the Archives, though not an archivist themselves. A few older members may remember Marco from the early 1970s to the late 1990s when he managed to stumble into our little saloon and became a regular quickly thereafter.

As many of those who knew Marco already know, Marco sadly passed away on April 12th, 2003 at the age of seventy due to a combination of both long-term health complications and grave illness. He is lived on by his granddaughter, Piper, who has recently given the Archives permission to publish his last words.

Some sections have been revised, altered, moved around, or changed for the sake of clarity and pacing, with help from his granddaughter and son being provided. However, the main points and messages have been preserved as dutifully as capable. For this reason, events may not be one hundred percent accurate to how they were portrayed in real life.

The men in my granddaughter’s dreams have made their way into mine.

We talked about dreams a lot when I would see her more often: what was seen and heard and said and smelled and felt during the night before. But she doesn’t see it as I do. She never has, ever since she could speak. She doesn’t understand what it means to dream, to glimpse worlds concocted within the boundaries of your mind, only existing in that theater behind closed eyes. She thinks that she's actually there, wandering in some blissful plane beyond existence. She says that the people she sees are there in her bed and that they take her to some distant land, far removed from the solemn mundanities of life.

I tell her that she can’t say stuff like that, that it carries the connotations of something sinister, a serious situation. Sure, seeing her friends is one thing, but seeing strangers she only encountered in a chance event on the street is something entirely different. I tell her that she’s only experiencing dreams, a process of one’s mind making sense of the day’s events, unloading weighted baggage. She tells me she knows. I ask her why she explains it as she does. She tells me it’s because they feel too real, that the skin on her hands can still feel the imprint of their fingertips, that the hairs on her neck can still feel the rush of their breath. She doesn’t understand.

It started a few months back now, this whole scenario, right around the time when I became bedridden. I can still remember how her face illuminated and popped with joy.

“Papa! Papa!” She came running.

“Hey, Pip! How are we?” I was still retaining that hearty smile and strong disposition. She jumped onto the bed, playfully attacking me. I pretended to act hurt.

“Hey, hey, hey, Papa isn’t feeling too good right now, remember? Now, can you tell me what the rule was?” My son said, gently lifting her off of me. He set her down on the floor, patiently waiting for his answer.

“No jumping on Papa while he’s resting…” Pip responded, a defeated air hanging about her words.

“Right,” my son responded before looking up towards me, “hey, dad.” He said. He understood more than she did. I gave a slight cough. He kneeled next to me.

“I’m fine, you know.” I said to him, speaking at a weaker, albeit more manageable, tone and volume. He sighed, looking down a little.

“Yeah, I—“ his voice trailed off, “I know. Seventy-seven and you’re not done yet, right?” He gave a weak smile.

“You bet.” I prepared my voice to enthuse again. “Now let me talk to my granddaughter.” I smiled back at him, and we embraced before he retreated to the corner of the room. Pip perked up again, her rosy little cheeks puffing out. I shifted myself around and patted an empty spot on the bed, which she eagerly jumped up to and sat down on.

“So, how was school?” I smiled at her, cocking my head as best as I could before barely managing to stifle a cough.

“School was good…” she made a funny face and started kicking her legs.

“Hm… do you have a boyfriend?” I teased her for her obvious obfuscation of information. My son gave me the evil eye.

“NO!” She responded fiercely, smiling while hiding the bottom half of her face under her shirt.

“Well, what is it then? Did the…” I elongated the word; she knew what was coming next. “Tickle monster get ya’?” I said as I began to lethargically reach over in a vain attempt to tickle her. She shrieked and jumped off the bed. A dull pain raced through my arms and into my body as it gave way to a coughing fit. Pip scampered away and hid behind her father.

“Alright, alright,” I said, coming to the end of my fit, “come on back.”

“No!” She exclaimed unhappily, “You’re going to tickle me!”

“I won’t. I won’t. I pinky promise, Pip.” I tried my best to raise my hands in the air without causing pain.

“Pinky promise?” She peered out from between her father’s legs.

“Double pinky promise, how about that?” I gave it my all to hold both of my pinkies out. She quickly emerged from her hiding spot and was back up on the bed in no time; a large grin had spread across her face. I coughed again.

“So, why are you such a little bundle of joy today, Pip? No school, no boyfriend… no tickle monster?” I didn’t expect a significant answer.

“I was taken to a far, far, far, far, far, far away place last night, Papa!” Her face seemed to light up this gloomy room.

“Oh, is that so? Well, what was this place like?” My interest was not entirely there.

“Magic.” The look on her face showed that she was still there.

“Magic, huh? Well I’ve known many magicians in my lifetime! Did you learn a card trick?” I gave a smile and looked up at my son; he weakly returned the gesture.

“No, Papa! Not like that!” She rolled over from her sitting position, again kicking her legs. “We went fishing and swimming, and it was so much fun, but then mommy had to wake me up for school.“ Her voice got sad as she completed her thoughts.

“We? Who, you and me? You and daddy?” My genuine intrigue was growing.

“No… a man, Papa, there was a man there.” She said trivially. I looked up at my son; he just shrugged his shoulders.

“He said he wanted to talk to you.” She was slumping off the bed. My attention was now held.

“Really? He wants to talk to me? Well… I guess I don’t have much better to do; why don’t you invite him over? Seems like a nice guy.” I was unaware.

“I can’t.” She fell off the bed.

“And why is that?” I was curious now.

“Because he only exists in our beds.” She enthusiastically replied, her head popping over the foot of my bed. My son checked his phone.

“Alright, Piper, we’ve gotta head out. Don’t want to be late for your recital, do we?” He started to put on his coat as Pip ran over to him.

“Oohp! Let’s remember to say bye to Papa!” He gestured towards me.

“Love you, Papa!” She smiled and ran out through the door while my son stayed behind. He walked up to me, purpose in his steps. He kneeled next to me once more.

“Dad…” He was holding back tears. He couldn’t finish his thoughts.

“I know, I know. I'm sorry.” I said simply as we hugged again. He looked at me as though there were still some words left on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t have the heart to let them go. Staring at me, he finally managed to get them out.

"Not again. Not yet." He was wiping tears away as he exited the room, and I was again left alone.

Over the next two nights, time seemed to arbitrarily wax and wane. Nothing came, nothing went; Pip and my son were too busy to visit. In fact, nobody showed up to give their greetings to an old man in his cot. That was until the third night. I had retired for the eve after a typical day of being bedridden and watching television when I soon awoke to discover myself in a most bizarre dream. My eyes opened, and I was seated in a small, aged wooden boat, sailing across a vast, calm ocean. Waves gently licked the sides of the vessel as before me stood a peculiar being, but certainly nothing too off-key from what I've heard of in all my years.

I took in his features: a slight, incredibly short, bald humanoid boasting stone-gray skin matted with thinner, brown hair, silently rowing us further out into the open blue, venturing endlessly toward a somber, purple-tinged sky created by a dying sun. I peered over the lip of the boat and stared deep into the blue, seeing miles down as it gave way to an open void somewhere far below. Feeling a sudden and intense sense of vertigo, I quickly wrenched myself back into a sitting position in direct view of the man. He looked at me, his bizarre form taking me a moment to process. His face seemed rather emotionless as his hands rhythmically propelled us further into nowhere.

I sat back and began to relax as the two of us kept staring at each other, alone in this world, his large eyes boring down into me. His lips pursed slightly as, from seemingly out of nowhere, a third arm began to extrude from his abdomen. I saw as it pushed beyond the hair and began to reach up toward the man's forehead, gently touching it with an outstretched finger. Suddenly, a streak of what I had assumed to be scar tissue began to light up with a faint off-white glow, and so too did the water around us. I again shifted myself to peer over the side of the boat after a couple of hesitant seconds to behold a breathtaking sight. Reflected there in pure clarity off the surface of the smoothly oscillating water was a scene from bygone times, maybe fifty-six years ago: the dance where I first met my sweet Marie. Not a detail appeared to be missing.

A noise came out of me that I had never heard before, even in all my many years of life: an involuntary sorrowful cry of shocked desperation. I couldn't believe my eyes. My Marie at twenty-three, with her sweet dimples and shy, red hair that lightly covered one eye. It was like my pupils had been windows into the set for the performance of a lifetime. As I let the vision envelop my mind, I saw how clumsy the both of us were, yet so beautiful and free, not caring if we danced on-tempo or not, and only thinking of each other. She was in that otherworldly yellow-white dress that flowed from side to side as we tumbled our way through the dance floor, more radiant and queenly than I could remember.

I almost plunged overboard staring at my life's mirage; only the nonsensical physics of dream logic kept me dry. All that fell in were my tears. Then, as the music started to fade, so too did the picture. I reached out to grab her one last time, to hold her before the end, to dance with her in this eternal ocean… but she was gone; I only made a faint splash. I kept gazing into that water as though my teary eyes would make the scene shimmer back into existence. But that fateful night was gone, again only to live on in my memories. Slowly, I turned back towards the man, a slight look of inquisition twinging his brow. Trying to speak, I let out only a faint whimper. His forehead began to dim as the finger lowered itself to his left forearm, once again lighting up with a faint glimmer. I let my mind clear for but a moment before once again peeking over the rim of the craft.

There, again hazily reflected by the surface of the glassy ocean, I glimpsed yet another snapshot of time, but not one that I had any recollection of. Peering down into that calm surface, I saw the delicate, young face of my mother, making faces at me while wearing an immature grin. We sat there under the cooling shade of that lonesome, old yew tree that grew so prosperously in our backyard, protected from the harsh summer rays. She looked at me and let her eyes go wild as she stuck out her tongue, prompting a burst of uproarious, childish laughter to emanate from just off-stage. I watched as her fingers bent into an unnatural position while her hands began to descend toward me. I had fallen victim to the tickle monster. She stopped before reeling back and proceeding to cup her hands over her eyes, her long seafoam-green sleeves dangling over her bright cheeks. Then, with a whisk of her hands and a quick


—The dream was gone, and I had awoken. I lethargically opened my eyes to be greeted by the soft streaks of afternoon sunshine cascading in through the blinded windows of my empty room, waiting for someone to come in and say hello. But that didn't much happen.

Over the next couple of weeks, Pip ended up coming down with the flu. She wasn't able to visit for a while, although my son and daughter-in-law still did, but that strange, short man in that old, oaken boat never seemed dissuaded. I saw him almost every night in my dreams, waking from my hospice bed and entering a realm beyond. There, adrift on those ripples of bliss, he proceeded to show me visions from my life. Places that were long forgotten or buried in the recesses of my mind; people who I cared deeply for at scattered points throughout my life, events that wound their way up a disjointed tapestry to this very moment. Every large thing, every minor thing, every memory I held precious and dear, able to live them all out if not just for one last moment.

There were pictures of friends, family, pets, and homes. Those Fridays at the pub, discussing the wild new discoveries of the week over a couple rounds of ale. Eating apples beneath that shady yew tree on a rainy day. All of the vacations I ever took, the miracle of childbirth, the day I walked free from those bricks and bars, and every single joyful moment I've ever experienced. I saw every party and good time to be had spanning my entire life, but never the hangover from the following day. All of the good times were devoid of any of the bad. The blooming without the planting, cash without the crime, love without the hate; glimpsing my Marie and the many beautiful conversations we had, wonderous experiences we shared, for one last, desperate moment. Each time I would cup my hands to grasp a shard of that magic mirror, yet I would only be left with a rapidly draining bowl of water.

I woke up late one afternoon after one of these recurring dreams—if you could call them that—to see Pip gleefully prancing in, a bouquet of flowers in hand.

"Morning, Papa! Daddy and I got some flowers for you! They're very pretty." A cheery smile spread across her face as she cleared the distance between the doorway and my bed, my son walking in just behind her. I coughed a bit.

"Oh my, thank you! Here, bring them to my nose so I can catch a whiff. Will you do that for me, Pip?" A similar grin began to unfurl across my face as she did what I had asked.

Arranged there was an assortment of jasmine, sage, lavender, and the works. I noticed a small, folded card buried within the colors and smells. Slowly, I reached out my hand as painlessly as I could manage, picking it out from the crowd. It read simply:


"Mmh…" I looked up at my son as Pip withdrew the tithes, placing them on my bedside table, "a gift?"

"Yes, dad, a gift." He said with a sigh. He already seemed unhappy.

"I see," I was tentative.

"Dad… I know you two have a rich history, but, please… he wanted to do something nice for you. Can't you just accept that? It's— it's not business anymore." He looked deeply disappointed in me as I turned back towards Pip.

"And I picked this juuust for you, Papa!" She was holding a rich purple daffodil, slightly wilted.

"It's beautiful, Pip. Where'd you find it?" I made way for her to hop up on the bed, to which she did so, pushed my hair back a bit, and placed the daffodil behind my ear, giving a slight giggle as she did so.

"The man told me where to find it, Papa! So I went into the woods in our backyard and it was right where he said it would be! And then I picked it, and then we got in the car, and then we ate, and then we came to see you, Papa! Don't you love it?" She laid down on the bed and began to kick her legs upward.

"Yes, yes, it's very nice. Say, I think I've recently met your friend, no?" I said, smiling at her.

"Oh! No, Papa, another man. We went up and up and up and up into the clouds last night! It was so pretty up there. He said you would like the flower, and you do!" She slowly sat back up, exercising masterful control over her muscles which I wish I still had. Before I could respond she was saying something yet again.

"Papa… is it true that you went to an art gallery with the man in the boat? That must've been beautiful!" Her eyes widened as she thought about the notion.

"Huh. Well, I suppose I have. That's certainly a new perspective…" I was a little baffled by this explanation of my past handful of nights, but I supposed it was a sensical one.

"Well?" Pip was now fully attentive, her eyes were that of a doe gazing up at its tender mother.

"Well… what, Pip?" I didn't understand what she was trying to allude to.

"Well what did you see, Papa? I bet there were lots of pretty colors." She seemed excited.

"Hah… I get it… well, I didn't see the Mona Lisa, that's for sure!" I thought I was funny.

"The… Mona Liza?" I could see the joke flying right over her head as a confused look washed over her.

"Right. Hm… well, I saw plenty of things." I was thinking of some suitable examples.

"Like what? Like what?" She was tightly gripping the blanket that covered me. I coughed some more.

"Well, for starters, I saw you, mom, dad— oh! When we took that trip to Saguaro—do you remember that? You might've been too young—uh… I saw my mom—that's your great-grandma—when she was your mom's age, that was nice… hmm… I… saw—" So many somber visions flashed before my eyes, but I wanted to keep them all bottled up inside of me. I didn't want to share my inner machinations so intricately, not even with my own granddaughter. But Pip cut me off.

"Did you see grandma?" She was slowly leaning in towards me. I coughed again, caught quite off guard.

"Piper, I don't think that—" My son spoke up from his corner, he knew that we were going into stormy seas. But I wanted to give her a truthful answer. But I cut him off.

"I— I did, yes. She was… majestic. Nobler than any queen. I—" Although I tried my best to hold it off, a few tears rolled down my cheek.

"Pip, could you come here for a second please?" My son looked worried as Pip hurriedly jumped off the bed and made her way to him. He bent over and whispered something in her ear before I saw her slowly nod her head and walk just outside of the room. Then he came up to me and kneeled down.

"Dad." He wore a look of stern concern.

"I know, I know." I tried to brush my tears away.

"No. You don't." He was earnest now. "I talked to the doctors."

"Oh, brother." I tried to turn away from him but he put his hand on me, his grip tight, stopping my advance.

"When the Hell were you going to tell us? Only a few more Goddamn months? Are you fucking serious?" He was getting angry. I let out a brief coughing fit.

"I— I didn't think—" I pitifully responded, trying to get any sense of pride to reach my voice.

"Oh, really? You didn't think? You didn't think! Last time you didn't think I lost you for over twenty Goddamn years! And then look what fucking happened! You didn't think…" He turned away, trying to hold back tears. I wanted to cry again, too, but I didn't let myself.

"Look, I—" I coughed once more, "just let me see my granddaughter, ok?" He looked down and shook his head, pressing his palm to his forehead for a moment before looking back up, restrained rage in his eyes.

"No." His fury was escaping through the cracks in his complex.

"What?" I hadn't expected such a blunt reply.

"I don't want you lying to my daughter, especially about something like this, and especially about my mother. I never want to hear you talk about mom in front of her again. You took it one step too far today, dad. Do you understand?" He was shaking his head while looking directly at me now, tears beginning to subside while his face mildly contorted with anger. I took a moment to think about this.

"… Okay." His grip loosened and I rolled slightly away from him. He gave a slight chuckle, clearly disbelieving me. I couldn't bear looking at him any longer.

"Sure, dad. Sure… You can say goodbye to her. We will be back here next week at this time… I— I love you." I felt him embrace my back, prompting me to cough a little.

He then promptly stood up, removed the daffodil from behind my ear, placed it adjacent to the rest of the flowers, grabbed his coat, and walked out the door. I rolled back over as, after a few seconds, Pip came running back in. She jumped up on the bed, gave me a bear hug, and said:

"Love you, Papa! See you soon!"

Then she left. I was again alone, wasting time.

Weeks again started to arbitrarily come and go, and hours quickly tumbled their way into months. This mundanity was only ruptured by occasional visits from Pip and company. My condition rapidly began to get worse and worse as the term 'chronic' became more and more accurate. The flowers started to wilt. Pip and my mutual friend in that boat started to fade from my dreams, as did our conversations about them. Somehow I had already burned through all of my worthwhile memories, as quick as a flash in the pan. The rest just weren't worth ruminating on so close to the end now. My son and I tried to make amends before the inevitable finale, though I can't blame him if he found doing so to be difficult. Then one evening—after a particularly rough day—I awoke to find myself in the basket of a hot air balloon.

When I opened my eyes, I immediately knew what was going on. I was peering over the edge of the wicker into an endless expanse of water below, the soft sound of a rush of flames occasionally tickling my ears. I was no longer in an art gallery. Turning around, I saw a handsome man dressed in a black suit with a purple bowtie and a green fez adorning his head, the sparkling yellow tassel dangling down just behind his right ear. He had silky caramel skin and stood at a solid—say—six foot-one with his pristine posture. Swaddled within his arms was a vibrant bouquet of flowers; I saw daffodils, peonies, and poppies bursting out. He pulled on the release valve as a short burst of flames erupted, sending us ever higher into the sky and abandoning the waves below.

"You were a florist, Mr. Aissu, is that correct?" He spoke cordially and with no obvious opinion splayed on his face.

"Yes, sir." I stood up straight, trying to match his disposition. I knew this very well could be the home stretch.

He nestled the flowers under his left shoulder, using his right hand to conjure a miniature diorama of an old hospital room resting in his outstretched palm. Just below the room was the bottom half of a luxurious house. The front door of this residence had been kicked in. My eyes widened, the bad had finally reared its ugly head.

"You cared for your flowers, didn't you? You kept them well-watered when they became dehydrated." He carefully reached his left hand over to the back of the holding palm and lightly tapped it as the diorama bounced slightly.

In the blink of an eye, the scene had shifted. It now showed a thick jungle, old footprints engraved into the mud. I began to feel sick as I felt my hands haphazardly crash down on that wicker lip. My knees buckled slightly as I found it harder and harder to stand while he shot flames with his spare hand into the envelope overhead.

We kept rising.

"But you, too, grew parched. Perhaps not because of factors within your control. Started to search for watering holes yourself." He again shifted the scene, now showing a neighborhood of similar houses, all of which had their doors broken open or removed entirely. In the middle of the street was an almost comically placed roulette table, half as large as any house there.

My jaw dropped as I tried to force pain from rushing to my head. I stumbled to the side of the basket, my whole body feeling as though it could tip over the edge at any second.

"But then your well ran dry." Once more the diorama changed to a new scene, the inside of a prison cell.

I had to keep myself from falling over. I couldn't speak. I felt tears streaming down my face, but I couldn't feel myself crying. All I could do was wait in anticipation for the fateful moment when he would pull a button or throw some unseen lever, prompting the sturdy floor of our airborne craft to drop out from under me entirely. He knew what I was, there was nowhere to hide. He had merely been toying with me this entire time. I could only envision myself dropping like a sack of flour out from the bottom of the basket, recklessly tumbling through the atmosphere until I crashed into the calm water below, soon slowly sinking down, down towards that great abyss waiting to swallow me whole. But that moment never arrived.

Instead, he quickly flicked his wrist and the diorama vanished entirely as he briskly grasped the flowers with both hands, holding them out toward me.

"You were a florist." The rest of what he said carried deliberately weighted emotion, but this line was delivered completely deadpan.

Then, with one swift motion, he threw the bouquet into the air. Suddenly, shades of all sorts of colors started to rain down around us as we began to creep into the clouds.

"Remember that." A slight smile peaked on his face before he was entirely obscured by cloud cover.

As we climbed higher and higher into the clouds, almost being entirely unable to see the balloon or basket around us, my ears began to catch the faint, sickly sweet sounds of laughing and music far off in the distance. I recognized the voice… It was my Marie. My sweet, sweet Marie, the two of us reunited at last. I could almost smell her perfume, feel her delicate fingers on my neck, and see her soft eyes gently peering through my soul. I was right… there…

Then I abruptly awoke in a cold sweat.

I didn't sleep for the next few days; my condition was deteriorating at a remarkable pace. I think I knew what was to happen if I did. I was afraid of the possibility, even though I had been staring down this barrel my entire life. As I was drifting in and out of consciousness, floating in this realm between, I was cognizant of events going on around me. It felt almost as if the past was nothing but a distant memory. I could see nurses and doctors coming in and out with my family members. My son, daughter-in-law, and, most heartbreakingly, Pip were there, making their regular visit. I can't say I remember much in my state, but I know this: their visit was brief, Pip was wearing a new green dress, and she whispered something to me, something that cut straight through the delirium. She said:

"It's ok, Papa. Go be with grandma in the clouds. I love you, and I'll see you sometime again. This goodbye is not forever."

Then, with a bit of something else, she and her parents were gone.

I came back fully around to consciousness at close to two in the morning, finding myself hooked up to a few auxiliary machines. This gave me some much-needed time to finish up the last of these entries.

And now, well, now I've realized that I'm fairly tired. I think it's about time I went and said hello to the missus; it's been quite a while, of course. I'm long overdue in retirement. I think it's time to finish that ride through the clouds with the man in my bed.

rating: +8

8 votes (+8, -0) 5★

rating: +8+x
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license