And that’s the thing: there is no way of knowing, not when there are words that exist beyond words and ways to say everything but. Once, I heard that this world cannot be trusted: that we are lovers in the eyes of a deceptive god, that the prayers on every heartbeat go skyward to someone that laughs them off. And somehow the math gets done—the counting down of percentages, the numbers meaning more than what they are, the concept that this all means something, that when I wake from dreaming all that will be left is the time left before I am told that this is really love. If we are to believe the whispers as something more than the tapping of fingernails on glass—things said before alarms go off in the morning and we part ways, you, still sleeping, me, clumsy in my waking, dry mouthed, hair wet from the expulsion of smoke between the strands, we need to believe that nothing is real but the shaking—the rattle on long afternoons that keeps me wondering.

Once, I dreamed I was a butterfly. Once, I dreamed you here. Once, I dreamed you gone. Once, you dreamed us characters in your favorite show: you, the heroine, me, a small part, a face that could be cut from the credits and never talked about again—a trivial fact, a do you remember. You dream about heart attacks, about blood, about slowing, about stopping.

Later, I will run. My foot will curl outward like tea spilt on the edges of the book by your bed. My breathing will change—the heartbeat will quicken. I will skip the prayers and I will lie to myself: my head in my heart like the blossom of a dying flower closing in on its stem.

It ends with counting: the pulling of limbs from our bodies, the making of a propeller, the making of an umbrella, the making of gods and death and the hope that there is something to be bargained for here: that if I said the right thing I would know, that knowing is something that needs to be known. That what I need to know is if you’ve ever asked yourself this question, if you’ve ever seen these eyes and knew that the answer was yes, that the answer was always yes, that my dream after your dream was me dead and you gone and the reality of if you love me not.

Suddenly you wake up and I wake up and we wake up and here we are, solid and unmistakable, silent as the afternoon.

Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently teaches at the University of Alabama. He is the author of So You Know It’s Me, a series of Craigslist Missed Connections, Level End, a chapbook based on videogame boss battles, and Leave Luck to Heaven, a collection of lyric essays about 8-bit Nintendo Games.