Jackie, you’re okay. Think of him as Daddy. Don’t worry. You’ve held your pee this long inside you. You’re young enough, Jackie, your skin unpimpled, your breasts miniscule discs he hasn’t spotted. He likes you still. You’re okay.
Today, you are headed to Westport in a silver convertible.
Today, he’s dancing with his shoulders and you’re going to visit his friend’s mistress. She’s rich and rich, Sue Two, dubbed so because his friend’s wife is Sue One. Someday, Jackie, you will grow—maybe into someone’s one or two.
Not like your mom.
You haven’t peed. Not a drop. Inside you still, all, and no one knows.
Jackie, you’re okay. Don’t call him Daddy.
Eyes on the road.
Dream for prolonged hospitalization. Recurring night terror: eighteen wheels, massive, on the tractor-trailer; my head, small, on the pavement. No one’s tied me or bludgeoned me yet, but I lay down to rest, and now paralysis has settled over me like a glaze. Just one wheel over my head, and it’ll deflate like a green chestnut in a nutcracker. Do I welcome it, wearing my red wedding dress?
The reason for the outing wasn’t clear, but you did not go pee after rising or before departing, and you wore a red flannel shirt, inherited from the daughter of a family friend. Holding your bladder, wearing that shirt from the decade before you were born, pre-pubescent, you were a hit.
Natural beauty. Just you and Dad, and. Such a hit.
Heading down to Westport, one fall day.
He was handsome, handsome, and years later your mother told you this was why she married him: other women wanted him. And for a time, before you transgressed into puberty, you were his little girl. He said this over and again, no matter your wincing, no matter your aching. Little, and his. You.
Dream for prolonged hospitalization. Recurring night terror: variation on iron maiden: concrete and coiled wire, what forms the floors, which are the ceilings, in our parking garage. In this dream, I am married, and Michael stands nearby. Someone has wrapped the wires round my throat, poured the concrete. My head on the fourth level, body hanging through to the third, here in the parking garage of our building, in the building of our marriage, late in the year 2016. The concrete around me has stiffened and cracked, and I have been here for fifty-one years, since the building opened. I’ve just realized it, and now I worry how do I eat; where have I been peeing; who cleans my clothes; how rigid and punished is my neck, my throat, my chest, on down? Michael, once standing nearby, now errs—has forgotten or not seen me. A convertible—silver?—initiates and reverses toward my stoppered head, on the fourth floor.
Who has forgotten, who has seen? My ransom, rapacious, is such that I cannot be sure my legs and arms, dangling above the third floor, flail at my will. Haunted is another word.
He danced with his shoulders. He was a handsome man. You were self-conscious, but if you had a picture now of as you were then! Naturally. What was inside? All the urine. You could hold it for days, then. Mom shouted that you had to go first thing every morning, but what did she know. True, you suffered bladder infections and worse, but it was there inside you and he took you to visit his friend’s mistress.
Jackie, don’t worry.
You thought of him as Daddy, and he took you speeding down the Merritt Parkway. The silver convertible not his—he was a salesman, always pretending otherwise.
Dream for prolonged hospitalization. Recurring night terror: iron maiden, first rendition. For the twenty-first century lady, feeling every moment her gender, this large, hollow bullet, lady-sized. Weighted at the pointed bottom. I step right in, rest my feet on that weight, and watch the tiny door swinging shut before me. Open grating at bullet’s top, to let in the water—my face fastens behind this, and I see out to what I’ve left, and the chamber’s slim-fitting so I can’t move my arms or unhinge, once I’m in. In this dream, does someone help me undress? Does someone clasp, then clip me in? That could be someone’s hand, there, wearing a wedding band. No matter. I’m in, and quickly the bullet launches, and I plummet from inside to the bottom of a body of water.
The water preferably Long Island Sound. Each time, I’m drowned before I wake, snapped and sealed inside that maiden’s chamber someone (perhaps me) has catapulted to the bottom of the sound.
What happened there in the home of Sue Two? What happened? There was a boy there, Sue Two’s adopted son. And your dad’s friend Steve, also a salesman, was there. Why were you? There was sun, and you knew the lady was very rich, didn’t need or want to marry Steve. And she only had to go pee when she did. What happened?
You went to Steve’s mistress’s house. She was named Sue, like his wife, and she was called a mistress and you knew it was a wicked but a true thing to be.
And Sue the Mistress had an adopted child, and her hair was still long, and she was lovely and her house was yellow and large and she was rich and you had not peed.
You went into the bathroom there—you did!—and it was diligent and certain, her bathroom. You went in, and you closed and locked the door, but you didn’t go. You flushed the toilet and washed your hands, lest someone was listening, but you didn’t go. You didn’t.
Don’t worry. You didn’t.
Dream for prolonged hospitalization. Recurring night terror: humongous, long-handled scissors, rusty blades. The lower blade, which leverages up, inserted between my legs, reaches to the recess at the center of my clavicle. The blade quivers beneath this tender spot, and a bruise bubbles and bleeds at the surface.
The upper blade, which leverages down, can snip through the flesh of my belly, crush my pubic and pelvic bones, render me in two. The severity of it glints above my eyes. I rarely wear clothes. I can see it—the top blade—without moving, my eyes only roving down, because I cannot dare to move, for then the bottom blade would start to twist side to side, saw slightly down and up. The dullness of these blades brutal enforcers, and who holds the scissor—can squeeze the blades together and sever me left from right, rip my whole from the vaginal cavity? Someone there, larger than the night.
Daddy of course.
When I tell Michael this dream, I leave Dad out, but he still winces.
And you can’t be sure, but that may have been the night he saw you changing your pants in your bedroom, the lights off, and he came in when you wore underwear concealing firm labia and the anus you had always known, and a t-shirt shielding those miniscule plates, your new breasts, and he turned on the lights and he said, Always close the door when you’re undressing.
Was it that night, after the day he took you to Sue Two’s?
Probably before bed, you peed. Truth be told, you didn’t ever make it an entire day. But this is not what you remember. This is not what you need to remember.
Eventually, everything changed. Undeniable, irrevocable break. But that which we had expected to shatter remained intact. In this dream, I turned away from someone in the snow. Everything I couldn’t say was also falling, and the hospital glowered before me. I sat watching my own lips in the mirror. Disappearing? The hospital: brick pocked with broken stained-glass windows, its doors firmly shut. Whoever was in the snow had been there many ages, and four times before dreaming this dream, I climbed from bed to urinate—hygienic, sane, and only a little afraid.
Jaclyn Watterson is left-handed, vegetarian, and of choleric temperament. She currently resides in Atlanta, and gardens in fair weather on a small balcony. Her first book, a collection of fictions and horrors entitled Ventriloquisms, won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction and will be published by Willow Springs Books in Fall 2017. Jaclyn’s recent work appears in The Spectacle, Split Lip, North Dakota Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Loose Change, and many others. She tweets irregularly at @jaclynwatterson