"I woke up not knowing if I had ever fallen asleep. I felt for a moment that night had only passed within an extended blink — I blinked in and out of a dream. — I’m still tired; I’m always tired."
"What was this dream of yours?"
"I watched myself die. Run over by a car. But it was as if I were outside of my body, already dead — re-watching my death unfold, watching my body spill over the pavement like glass shattering upon glass."
A pause. The doctor remained still, sitting across from him, for a moment, and almost inappropriately considering herself his friend. She too remembered a similar dream, though it was she who ran over another, feeling the car bounce grotesquely as the bones of a man she couldn’t remember fully split and tore away beneath the wheels.
"Do you worry about your nightmares? Are you afraid that if you do fall asleep, these dreams will haunt you?” Steadily, she held her pen against paper, awaiting his reply.
"I cannot escape them," he exhaled. "— are you afraid of death, Mrs. Peurdoux?"
She lingered on his voice, absorbing the question, almost as if she had asked herself. “Death is not a matter of fear — it is a matter of acceptance.”
"Do you accept that you will die?"
She questioned whether or not she should answer, but the words fled from her lips like a prayer: “I accept that we will all die. If one fears death, it is because one has failed to recognize that death is our only release from life, which is a state of tension. It is something that sleep cannot reach, though the same can be said of our dreams. Accepting them is a way in which we may avoid worsening them. Our enemy until death is denial.”
There was, for a while, an empty silence between them: a vacuum where words once were. It was then that Mrs. Peurdoux noticed Rulfo was exceptionally handsome, that the bones in his face were well-crafted, and had grown into their proper places. They carried a weight of a deep, dull sadness: his eyes were tired and careful — in anguish and at peace, he looked from his hands to the window, where seagulls could be seen circling in the fog. And then.
"I made love for the first time in two years," he said. Mrs. Peurdoux continued to watch him, briefly becoming involved with the steady movement in his fingers, which have been victims to nautical stress. They were of a grace only fishermen could attain. And underneath his skin was the laborious smell of the sea: at first overpowering, then calm, like waves succeeding a storm, like sinking stones.
"What was it like? As you remembered it?"
"Better. Shadows swallowing shadows."
"Was — or is — this partner of importance to you?"
He reflected upon her question with a kind of patience for himself. He let it settle, let it burn out slowly over his mind. “— We went for a walk just after, late in the evening. We sat for a while on a bench just off the shore, under a low-hanging willow. I remember the shrub brushing over her shoulder, I remember watching her as she closed her eyes. I remember a love like that — it’s a love that eats up the world. And here I am, stepping into its cotton mouth.”