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The Alarm

Because I don’t believe in alarms, I awaken to words. I get dressed to the good news breaking. In fact, clothing haunts my every move, and the thought of what’s hanging in my closet is enough to keep me from facing the day. Colors conspire and buttons undo me. Terrorism, for me, has been about getting dressed and covering up the truth.

I have heard that the angel of death wears pale cotton fabric from to toe to throat, with a red skullcap that hides a shaved head. No one noticed the bearded man in the crowded bazaar until he started shouting at the top of his lungs about Heaven. For a syllable, the place of prices went silent. But it was too late. The suicide bomber had blown his life over to God.

I haven’t had a nightmare like that since I began hand-washing my life and hanging it out to dry. In my sleep I am not handicapped and I alter the world to suit, literally, my desire: I skip outside into the dead of winter wearing nothing. I watch others preach in dressed-up words only to fall on their own swords. Red ink spills from their mouths onto the white snow. This is how a dream dies: clothed and in the snow.


Scott McWaters is an instructor in the English Department at the University of Alabama.