Someone somewhere some time told me that dreams are only interesting to their owners. And that may be true for some, but I’m constantly fascinated with both my own dreams and those of others. I would love to share my current developed-in-the-shower treatise DREAMS ARE MORE THAN JUST A FLEETWOOD MAC HIT, but alas, it’s late and this story is long.
I apologize for any grammar/punctuation/spelling errors…for an individual with elaborate dreamscapes and scripts, I receive a remarkably small amount of sleep. My attention to detail suffers most. I’m in the market for a proofreader/dishwasher, if you know anyone.
I. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Imagine the most picturesque landscapes, the sort of stunning views found on vintage postcards and posters for old westerns. That was all I could see in every direction, in this house of almost entirely windows.
“Didn’t the Puritans think windows were a sin? Or am I just imagining that?” I looked at A. for confirmation.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t confuse reading Hawthorne with actually knowing history.”
I wrinkled my nose in feigned disdain.
Here we were, somewhere far away. And we were alone. No roommates, friends, ex-boyfriends, bar groupies, arch-nemeses…just us. If we didn’t have sex now, it was never going to happen.
FINALLY. Wasn’t that why we were here?
We drank some wine and squabbled over music choices. I pretended to care about anything that was happening at that actual moment. My mind was two hours ahead. Well, maybe one hour if I played my cards right.
I stared out the window watching the peach and salmon sunset, reminding myself of my friend’s solicited advice.
“Be forward. “
“Pretend that you don’t care.”
“Sleep with his friends instead.”
But most importantly. “You’re the one with the all of the power.”
Now was the time. I hoped I wasn’t drunk. I took a deep breath and steeled myself for a hopefully not-so-awkward seduction situation. But when I turned around, there he was.
It was a rapid-fire onslaught of moments that my brain could not process.
I was kissing his neck. His shirt was disappearing in my hands. I discovered his skin was neither smooth nor rough, but pebbly. He was struggling with the zipper on my dress. His hands were smaller than I imagined. He really could take off my bra with one finger. His hair smelled like coconut. I was certain that my skin was peeling off of my body because every nerve was aware of every one of his cells. Our shoes were gone, along with all of my clothes and OH MY GOD THIS WAS REALLY HAPPENING.
But those fucking windows were everywhere. They revealed that the sun had never set at all. The sky was lit up as if it were high noon. That was what made me stop for a moment, just seconds away from shedding my underwear. The brightness of everything was hurting my eyes. I felt thirsty and wilted. And when I looked at the sky, I saw what was really happening.
Planes were falling everywhere, into the hills, sand, and trees around us, littering the ground with fiery confetti.
“Is this really happening?” I turned to A. hoping for words of reassurance, but his blank face brought no comfort.
I moved closer to the windows because I could not look away. With each step forward, I saw more and more destruction raining from the sky. Objects I could not identify. Maybe they were satellites or space detritus. I wanted to tell myself that it was just a series of elaborate celebratory fireworks. But when I pressed my ear to the glass I could hear the screams and chaos outside, the voices of thousands reaching a fever pitch.
I just sighed and continued to watch
II. Napping with Nico.
I was lying in the sharply pruned grass at Laurelhurst Park. The sun was creating pink-orange kaleidoscopes on the insides of my closed eyelids. I was too tired to read or even eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers.
The camera panned out and I could see the swans languidly drifting across the surface of the pond, repressing their secret rage. Those swans would kill you if you looked at them for just one second too long.
I laughed to myself. “If my dream is a series of camera shots, I’ve probably been watching too many movies.” Yet I am always the last to see any film.
A tinkling rendition of “Pop Goes The Weasel” trickled through the waves of children playing and horseshoes hitting their intended targets. The ice cream truck was coming.
I toyed with the idea of buying an ice cream. My last meal materialized above me, a sad bowl of wilted lettuce with light organic cigarettes on the side. A treat was overdue. Some sort of rainbow popsicle or a mint-chocolate delight. I rolled over onto to my side, half-heartedly feeling around for my wallet. When my hand found nothing but acres of blanket, I reluctantly opened my eyes.
And there was A.
“I’ve been waiting for you to wake up,” he said.
“I’ve always thought your voice sounds sexier on the telephone, “ I countered. I hoped that only I could hear the waver in my voice. I couldn’t remember if I was wearing my NOTHING SURPRISES ME/EVERYTHING IS COOL mask.
He smirked and then leaned into kiss me. His mouth was hot and dry, a familiar bouquet of syrupy cinnamon whiskey and cheap cigarettes. So many nights I had brushed my face across his sleeping mouth, hoping to get just that tiny waft of what lived inside him.
But now I wanted more. I wanted to pull his ribs apart and climb inside his body.
I wanted to see it all through his eyes.
MORE AND MORE!
I wanted to know what it was like for him to want to fuck me, right there in the park, in front of families and swans and croquet-playing steampunks.
“This is like that night on Belmont last summer,” I thought.
I could see that moment exactly as it happened, the streetlights coloring the clouds a feverish hot pink. My voice betrayed me, announcing “I don’t want to go home without you.” We kissed and kissed and kissed next to my locked-up bicycle. I could feel my clothes turning to molten metal, trickling down my legs like some warning (or invitation) from my body. I wiggled my legs to double check that I still had underwear.
“You are the best-smelling person I have ever met,” he murmured into my mouth.
And that instant, when his words passed over my tongue, down my throat, and into my eager lungs…No, it was the moment that his words entered my blood stream and begin filling every cell of my being. That tiniest speck of time was when I lost all of my resolve, when I was fully resigned to whatever fate he wanted to deal me. Of course I would pretend to myself for months that I was fighting him off, that I didn’t care, that surely at any moment I would walk away from him while feeling absolutely nothing.
I knew then that he would break my heart in the not-so-distant future.
My eyes snapped open. This was the not-so-distant future. The worst had already happened.
NO NO NO this was not the who and what that I wanted.
“You’re just a ghost.” I delivered this message calmly and coolly as I pushed him away.
And true enough, my hands passed through his skin into his dry, cold thorax.
“There’s nothing in there!”
I could already feel dust and ash collecting under my fingernails.
I rolled onto my back, waving my hands above me. The sunlight turned the dancing motes of ghost dust into a cloud of blue-green-purple sparkle.
“I won’t ever let you come back,” I thought.
I remembered my childhood trick of conjuring the presence of loved ones by saying their name five times, backwards.
I knew who I wanted and I wanted him there right now. But my brain couldn’t sort out the letters of his name. I really needed to start sleeping more. It was affecting my ability to think clearly. I couldn’t focus at all. Just when I thought I had sorted out the order of this simple spell, I would start thinking about his smell: violet candies, watery beer, sunshine, and distant campfires. And then all the letters would fall out of order again.
If only I had brought a pen and paper to the park.
III. Dress Sexy at My Funeral
“Latin’s spelling turns amour to death: amor, a mort–since love will stifle breath, informing us of what our death can cause: pain, tears, and losses, hell, profound remorse.” —Blason D’Amour
I was drinking whiskey in the seashell pink bathtub of an alternate version of my actual bathroom.
“Life is getting really good,” I said to myself. Immediately I felt guilty. Such smugness could only attract crisis and pain.
Ah, but life really did seem to be getting good. A montage of all of the recent delights (both simple and nuanced, carnal and pure) passed before my open eyes. The winter had been a cliche of darkness and discontent. The spring sunshine made it easy to believe that something better was just around the corner.
As I took another sip of whiskey, my phone began to buzz for my attention. I dried my hands off slowly before answering it, stalling because I knew the caller wanted to tell me something terrible.
It was an acquaintance calling to tell me that A. was dead.
I felt nothing, not even relief.
“Funny,” I thought. “This is nothing like the last death phone call I received.”
The acquaintance continued to speak, but my mind was elsewhere, imagining a chalkboard full of lists. Grocery lists and work deadlines, oft-forgotten errands and upcoming social obligations.
I was snapped back into the conversation at hand by a question.
“So will you? I know it’s short notice, but since you were his best friend…” The caller trailed off, obviously uncomfortable with my silence.
“Will you speak at A.‘s funeral?”
A bolt of annoyance struck my forehead.
“No, I cannot do that. We are not friends and I don’t even like him. There must be some some sort of misunderstanding.” I swallowed the worst adjectives and epithets that were rapidly filling my mouth.
Suddenly, I could see the caller’s confused face, pink with grief and all of its necessary errands and tasks: phone calls, ordering food and flowers, even ironing so much black clothing.
“Please. Please. You are the only person that can do this.”
Already feeling guilty about my apathy, I agreed to do it.
I am always best motivated by guilt.
Fast forward to the funeral. I was wearing a salmon satin dress, standing at an index card-covered podium. The cards were virtually black with my smeary crazed notes. I was sweating under the bright lights. But my conscience told me that it was really my endless stream of cheery lies that was making me hot and bleary-eyed.
I cannot remember my speech, but the audience loved it. Both laughter and sobs punctuated the appropriate moments. My mom always told me that I had inherited the gift for smooth talking a crowd from my father. The audience of barflies and school teachers applauded my closing comments. As I was about to collect my cards and make a quick exit, another nameless acquaintance emerged from the crowd.
“Don’t go yet! There is something that we have to tell you.”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow. Hadn’t I done enough already? I knew there would be a catch to this unfortunate favor of deifying an overall unsavory character.
The acquaintance continued in an entirely apologetic tone (and at this point I began to suspect that it was a long-time friend, in a strangely realistic mask).
“Well, the thing is, A. isn’t technically dead. He’s just in a strange state of…I don’t know…let’s call it ‘limbo.’ If you just tell him that you forgive him, that you still love him, and maybe just kiss him to prove it, he will be alive and well again. Maybe a bit groggy and disoriented, but alive nonetheless.” He removed his glasses in an effort to stare me into submission.
Avoiding his gaze, I walked over to the open casket. While A. looked waxy and his body seemed completely still, his cheeks were fetchingly flushed. And there did seem to be something lurking behind his peacefully closed eyes.
What would I do? I realized that I had been dreading this moment of truth and temptation for months. Of course in the beginning, I had secretly hoped for it. But eventually I wanted to avoid it any cost. I had assumed that this situation would unfold in a bar or coffee shop or maybe even at a house party. Not in a lily-scented funeral parlor. I suppose I always expected that there would be an audience. But no one here was on my side.
I closed my eyes and reminded myself of the long list of “good” times. There were long breakfasts and dance parties. Rapid-fire jokes that never seemed to end. Summer-long slumber parties and Best Birthdays Ever. But then there was the constant stomachache-inducing anxiety. My fear of being abandoned at parties. Jokes that secretly hurt my heart. Sleepless nights next to him wondering JUST WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT.
I was trying to add up the columns of good and bad, because surely a final score would make the right decision obvious. But the numbers went on and on and I couldn’t remember the scoring criteria. This was a situation where showing one’s work was critical to a valid answer.
As I rummaged through my purse for a pen, I could hear my phone buzzing, from two rooms away, deep in the pocket of a large wool coat. I knew that it was J. And maybe he wanted to hang out. Or maybe it was a funny photo. Or yet another hilarious-only-to-us inside joke.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the audience. “But I have something very important (and better) that requires my attention right now.”
But I wasn’t sorry at all.
I walked at a brisk clip past the crowd of stunned and silent faces.
I threw open the door to the outside world, pleasantly surprised by the lavender sky. Something better really was waiting just around the corner. And that corner was closer than I had imagined.