We traded memories through the night, starting with branches of personal history and working backward until we reached the primeval muck that fuels a life. Propped on an elbow, she described a recurring nightmare in which she wore a curly blonde wig that chewed through her head until she woke up in tears. In return, I offered my boyhood fear of mannequins, how my father had to cover my eyes whenever we went into a department store.

She recounted the day her friend across the street moved away after the boy’s father committed suicide, and for several years she did not know what this meant, only that it was a terrible crime. When she finally understood what it meant to kill yourself, she began to avoid balconies and driving down two-lane roads.

Draping herself in a chair by the window, she bit off the filter of a cigarette before lighting up. When she was six years old, her father moved their family halfway across the country because he believed their old house was haunted. “He thought it was a Civil War ghost,” she said. “But I didn’t start believing in ghosts until a few weeks ago.”

Years later, I would discover her stories had bled into mine. While making a sandwich or gassing up the car, my mind would wander to the night my mother held me when I was seven years old, stroking my hair and saying it wasn’t my fault our dog was killed by a delivery truck because I left the gate open. Then I remembered we never had a gate or a dog, and my mother would never say such a thing if we did.

Sometimes I am still jolted awake by a dream about a flesh-eating wig.

This is the fourteenth episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.