CECIL COURT COPELAND
"There's a man hanging in there"
"You want me to take it down, I'll take it down". Those were the
words, the exact words. They're imbedded, as it were, in my memory. As it
were. "You want me to take it down, I'll..." It was silly. It
was a mask hanging over the bed. A white mask. She said it reminded her
of death. So I took it down. Then she said, let me see if I have this right,
she said, "I'm afraid of dying and the mask reminds me of death."
Alright, so I took it down. I said I would so I did. Then I sat down on
the edge of the bed and said, "Look"-no wait, I said-"Listen.
You're not afraid of death." She said, "I'm not?" Then I
said, "No." That's exactly how it went. "You're not afraid
of death" "I'm not?" "No." Just like that. Then
I told her it all had to do with the fact that a part of her life was dying.
Not her. A part of her. I didn't tell her what part because frankly
I didn't know. She looked at me for twovery long seconds and said,
"I think you're right". Then she rolled over and went to sleep.
I felt good. I had actually helped her realize that the white mask was not
so scary after all. And that death wasn't death at all but only a part of
her dying. I got into bed, turned out the lights, went right to sleep. Damn.
Then I had this dream. No warning, no reason, just all of a sudden there.
We're at some resort cottage, standing, just outside. She walks inside and
comes out screaming, "There's a man hanging in there" So I grabbed
and held her in my arms and said two words. "Poor baby". I said
it twice. "Poor baby, poor baby". I didn't know what to do. I
felt bad for her. The damage was done. What do you do when things are already
done? Just after I finished saying "poor baby" the second time
she looked up at me. She's ok, I thought. Even that quickly, she's ok. But
then she turns towards the cottage and says, "There's a naked
man in there". I looked at her and with my face only I said, "What?"
And with her face only she didn't answer. Our eyes were locked together
now. Then out of the corner of my vision-periphery-I saw this nude figure
shoot across the ground and out of sight. As fast as I saw him that's how
fast he was gone. I wanted to say, "Who was that nude man?"
But I couldn't. And he was gone. I'll never know for sure who he was. Which
I accept. But why did she first say, "There's a man hanging
in there"? Those were her exact words. "There's a man...hanging".
Oh well, it was just a dream. A bad dream. I woke up sweating. I thought
since I had woken up she would too but she didn't. She was still
sleeping. Peacefully. I tried to go back to sleep myself but couldn't. Something
was wrong. Everything in the room had changed into something else. The stereo
speaker was the black head of death. Some clothes hanging from an open door
was a floating ghost. I thought, for some reason, that I was going to die.
Then this horrible thought came to me: I was already dead. I was the man
hanging in the room. But then who was the naked man? That must be me too.
Maybe I hung myself and the naked man running was my soul fleeing from my
body just dead. Maybe we're all two bodies. These were the thoughts that
came to me as I lie awake in fear of my own death. Then I began to feel
I was rising above myself, and suddenly I was inside the stereo speaker.
I was being watched by death's head but I was death's head. I was some clothes
hanging from the open door. A ghost floating in the dark. I was merging
with all these death objects in the room, even as I lay absolutely still
on the bed. My real body was down there on the bed. Frozen. Petrified. Lying
there, the only real move I could make was to slide my right hand across
the bed and grab the nearest thing I could find. I found a human wrist.
I slid my fingers around it entirely and held on tight. I remember a phrase
I muttered. "Man is master of his own division. Man is master of his
own division. Man is blah blah blah." I just said it. I don't take
responsibility for what it means. I only know this. When I woke in the morning
I was alone. There was a note on the bed beside me. "Had to run. Went
to bed poor. Woke up rich. Thanks for the bracelet"