Places I’ve Slept

Patrick Faller
Feb 20 · 2 min read

Grandpa was a backwards man,
tugged hard at the stud pressed through
my cousin’s earlobe, deemed it
queer to do that to one’s self.
He called black men jigaboos,
poured me my first beer at ten,
made Christmas gifts of lightbulbs
and framed mountainous landscapes
he couldn’t recall buying.

One May, he fell asleep
behind the wheel of his car
on his way home from dinner.
I’d just donned my cap and gown,
earned a degree in English.
He’d driven some ways to take
a few pictures of my walk.
He’d been battling the effects
of a lifelong cigarette
addiction, emphysema,
lung cancer. He wasn’t one
to openly pray or beg
others to ply God for him,
or recognize in himself
the sort of queerness he found
so disturbing in others.

He didn’t die in his car,
didn’t pass while unconscious
the way he might’ve wanted.
He woke before colliding
with the fence. Blessed by a jolt
of adrenaline, he’d thrown
the steering wheel toward the road
and driven home. Two full years
longer he’d lived. When he died

I was working dinner shift
at a country club, running
from the floor to the kitchen
scribbling orders, drinking beer
at bars with strangers then
crawling home and letting cold
wake me after I’d fallen
out of bed to the carpet.

On a train to London once
I slept. While flying over
an ocean, and in my car
at a rest station. Each time
I woke up I was convinced — 
I feared — years would pass before
I could sleep without dreaming

I was a kid again, trapped
at home by the bleary yowl
of midnight freights lumbering
south. Soon after that, I slept
in a feather-bed beside
a woman bent on changing
me. When she couldn’t, I broke
her heart, broke things off, thought of
moving home, trying to find
sleep on the couch, in the chair
next the end table. But no.

Instead it was time I fall
asleep driving. Halfway back
I dreamt he was beside me,
handing me another pen
like the one he’d gifted me
after I graduated.

“You’ll write,” he told me. “You’ve found
the burning light.” I thanked him,
though I had no idea
what he meant by burning light.
But when I went to ask him,
he opened the car door, waved,
then rolled onto the highway.

Then I woke up. A light struck
whip-like the backs of my eyes:
a semi’s headlamps melting
the fog of sleep in an instant
as I pulled the wheel and filled
my lungs, righted the car, watched
the truck’s taillights disappear.

Patrick Faller

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When teaching, I aim to help students use writing to connect with their passions. When writing, I try to guide readers toward what they might have missed.