I had a dream last night that I was being hanged. I’m not sure of the offense but I am very sure that I was the culprit. There was a crowd that had gathered to watch and none of them looked at me with sadness or remorse about my death. What’s worse is that I could feel in my heart – a knowing- that whatever I had been accused of doing, I was not wrongly blamed. I had done whatever it was that had offended the crowd yet there was a small and inexplicable calmness in my last moments of terror. I was afraid of, yet relishing, the end of my life simultaneously. I woke up in a cold sweat at home, in my own bed and I gently caressed my throat for a few minutes, checking for the rope marks, because somehow my neck hurt. Had I been thrashing around the bed? The covers and sheets were on the floor. Its very difficult for me to shake these kinds of vivid dreams after I am awake. I won’t say that I have dreams about my demise all of the time but I have them often enough. Sometimes I’m behind the wheel and about to have a car accident with a tree or a bridge. Other times I am being shot at and I can see the bullet coming toward me and I cannot avoid it connecting with my flesh. I wake up in a little bit of pain and a little bit disappointed. At the same time though, I feel like these dreams are cosmic warnings of some kind that the day will be ominous and dreadful. At some point I am going to commit a horrendous act in front of a crowd of judgmental onlookers. I feel like somehow, I will be exposed in front of everyone for my sin and there will be a relief in the pain, yet ultimately a violent death will follow. The knowing. I don’t die, obviously. Not in the dreams or during my day. But the day typically does not bode well if I have been roused by these horrible thoughts. I struggle for perfection in hopes that the dreams will end but I fail every day. I will forget to put my napkin on my lap or I will call someone by the wrong last name and I m haunted all afternoon. This kind of paranoid start is not good for me because my face is very expressive. If I am even remotely offended or upset it is noticeable. Everyone watches me out of the corner of their eyes to see what my face looks like. I know they do this even though I never catch anyone doing it. The only disarming thing that I can do is smile, with my teeth, wide and big. People relax around me when I smile like I used to smile when I was a four year old kid. A silly carefree smile, big and stupid. Smiling means you pose no threat to people and in my office I have to smile at everyone all of the time. I smile at strangers and I even smile at people that I hate. By the time that I get home my face hurts from all of the smiling. When I can not smile, people feel the need talk to me about it. People who normally ignore me. Elizabeth will ask me all day long, what’s wrong sweetie? You can tell me, she says. Or Patricia will say to me, are you okay? They all seem to ask me in unison over and over on a loop, Are you feeling well, my dear? All I can do then is lie. I know they do not want to hear my real answers. Of course they do not want me to say that I had a dream last night that I was being executed again. They do not want me to respond with, I am afraid now because of that nightmare and I just don’t fucking feel like smiling right now if that is okay with all of you. They wouldn’t like me if I did that. That reaction, my true one, would not resolve anything. The truth is they just want to know if they are in any danger or not. They want to know if I know they stole all of the sugar packets from the break room and took them home for their oatmeal. And if I know all of this and I am refusing to smile at them does it mean that I disapprove of their petty thievery If I don’t smile, I might tell. If I don’t smile they wonder did I overhear their racist comments about the Janitorial staff? Did I write down the names of who was laughing? Was I going to rat them out for taking an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch instead of an hour because the bartender was slow with their mid day mojitos when the company rules clearly state that we cannot have alcohol during lunch time? When I am terrified like this I have trouble smiling at all. No one really cares what the reason is, all they want to know is if they are protected. I cannot go to work like this, I am well aware.The only thing that relaxes me is masturbation.I always think of the same thing every time I need to relieve some stress. To get myself in the mood for self sex I never change what I think about. The object of my affection is always the same. I have to masturbate so that I can smile at work. This keeps everyone else calm and happy. I always close my eyes and think about Her whenever I have to do it. But I imagine what she must have looked like at 17. She always has to be 17 in my mind. I imagine that she is a little thinner around the collar bone and around her chin. I imagine instead of parting her hair off center that she parts it right down the middle. I imagine that she is scantily clad, some kind of tight tank top and mini skirt and extremely high high heels that she wobbles in when she walks. This is almost enough a scene to get me going. But there has to be a scenario. An image is not enough for me. The scenario is usually that I have to help her in some way. I’m fixing my lipstick in a public lavatory in a mall for example in this particular fantasy. She comes in, straightening her crooked tank top. We don’t know each other. I smile my toothy grin of friendliness and she asks me for a favor. To fix something. To help her with an earring or a bra strap or a belt. I like helping her with her belt in my head. This time she doesn’t have on a bra because I am in a hurry. I have to be at work in less than two hours. I oblige her request, whatever menial task she asks of me in every fantasy, I am never in a hurry to get away from her, even if I am in a hurry in real life. I get on my knees to help her, like a mother would. When I pull her belt through the loop she finishes brushing lipstick off her teeth with her finger. She does this in a way that makes me feel like I owe her. Like I am her servant and she is ignoring me because I am nobody. I am practically invisible. I like that feeling a lot. Her hand runs across my hand and her dark brown hair sweeps across my face. In my fantasy it always smells like strawberries, not like coconut, which is how it smells in real life.She looks in the mirror and sees me stand up behind her. She pauses and stares at me and I play bashful. I am very good at this. She always tells me how beautiful I look and grabs my hand without asking for my permission and drags me into a dark place. In this fantasy it is a stall in the ladies of a crowded mall. She gets down in front of me, always on her knees in some point in every fantasy and in this one without saying a word she pulls off my panties and buries her face between my legs. She grabs my hips and I can not break free until she is satisfied. People come in and go out and we don’t make a sound. This is her payment to me for ignoring me all of the time. This is the way that she apologizes. I think of this, or some version of this, every time I masturbate.I breathe in hard and deeply after I climax and it feels like I have smoked a cigarette when I am done. I feel a little light headed and the scenario is funny to me so I laugh and that is how it happens. Instantly I have my big toothed shiny smile then. The smile everyone likes. I am not gay though. I don’t see anything wrong with being gay I am just saying that I prefer men. She just helps me smile from time to time when things go wrong in my life or when I am afraid. I have to excuse myself and go have self sex after board meetings if my idea gets shot down.Especially if my intelligence is insulted during the process. Don’t they know how hard I worked on whatever it was? But you can’t expect anyone to really care about you. I don’t do it that much, to be quite frank, it’s not like its a crutch or anything, I mean I only have to do this if I get a parking ticket or if anything goes wrong in my head like these wretched nightmares about my murder. So I find a quiet place, an abandoned office, a ladies room, my car, and I relieve my stress. I don’t make a sound. Then I can smile again and continue my day and no one asks me what’s wrong. It’s better than shooting at people.