The woman regrets not listening better to the dreams her husband had shared with her almost every morning. He was a remarkably vivid, detailed dreamer, recalling every color, shadow, shape, and placement in the dream’s setting. She’d learned to cope by offering him a half-smile as he unspooled the dreams into the air in front of him, her trying to catch every fifth word so she could urge him on whenever he’d ask, “Oh, now where was I?” She thought it the polite thing to do.
Some of his dreams were repetitious, the ones where they were all in a building that was about to collapse and he, by himself, had to find a way to get them all out. Or the ones where his ex-wife appeared, and they were young, and he was trying to get away from her but he couldn’t because she was everywhere, replicating, and he was terrified. Or the one where he had to make a presentation of his architect’s model for a fifty-million dollar building 10 minutes from now, and he had nothing to work with but a few index cards, scissors, and some Elmer’s glue.
The problem wasn’t only that her husband’s dreams were a bit tedious in repetition. It was that after all the details were unspooled, he’d toddle off into his day, his imagination empty and ready for a refill, hers now full. She’d be left with the imagery inside her head, which would nestle deep inside of her and crowd out more important things, begging her for their meaning. Why did he dream so often about his ex-wife? Why did dogs always talk to him in his dreams, and not cats? Why did she only appear if they were in peril, and never in the recurring lingerie model dream?
The woman never wanted to put him off by saying, “Enough with the dreams!” That was too great a risk. If she’d said that, he would apologize, cheerfully of course. He’d probably insist on a hug because he’d bored her, which she’d accept because she’d feel terrible for having said it in the first place. He’d had a career in measuring things, too, and would eventually realize that she had been putting up with the boring dream tales for all the long years of their marriage. This would cause him great consternation, so he’d alter his behavior. She feared this, because most of his behavior for all these years had been quite grand, and she’d noticed how other husbands had successfully changed one annoyance only to cause a domino effect of other changes. Hadn’t her friend Betty finally gotten her mate to stop picking hair out of his ears at the dinner table, only to have him suddenly grow hypersensitive about his grooming, dandying himself up so much that he’d attracted other women with his wife standing right there?
So it was a critical responsibility that she shouldered – her words carried the power to change the him, and she didn’t want him to alter a thing except the dream download. The woman loved her husband as a butterfly loves a bountiful garden, and his kindness, and scent, and decency had settled pleasantly into her after all these years. Sure, he’d shrunk a full inch with age, and was sagging in places where he once had muscle, but this made him all the more cuddly. He was also totally bald now, which made her laugh. When she was a young career woman, she’d chortled to her friends that she didn’t find bald men attractive. And wouldn’t you know it, here he comes along, a man bald by 30 with a diamond ring and a powerful love in his heart.
So, the woman had learned to nod interest when he’d told her of the dream where he found himself driving a butter-colored 1962 Karman Ghia all the way to Jocotopec, slamming into not one but three topes because, in his dream, they weren’t marked very well. His coffee went flying onto the beige leather passenger seat, which was empty save for the latest copy of the Guadalajara Reporter, the coffee soaking the main headline: “Mexico poverty reduced by half.” Then, a mule crossed the road and he had to stop, and he watched it wander down to the lake to take a swim. Then he woke up, and that day, with painters arriving, she’d felt doubly grateful.
Then, he’d giggled when he told of the dream about a birthday party for his daughter, still five years old, dressed in a green denim jumper and blouse of pink gingham. He’d baked the cake for the party – German chocolate, of course, as this was his daughter’s favorite – and how his ex-wife was sitting there, dressed in her finest Jones New York black wool suit, the one with the red velvet collar, still stewing about all the attention he was paying to the girl. He had smashed a piece of cake in his ex-wife’s face and a coconut had issued from her left nostril. Or, was it a pecan? He couldn’t really remember. Then he woke up. The woman had hoped it was a coconut.
Kim Novak showed up in a dream once, dressed in the pink gown from the movie Picnic, and she was clapping her hands in anticipation of a dance with him, standing in a torn shirt, his chest scraped with claw marks from Rosemary-the-teacher’s desperation. Miss Novak had long been her husband’s fantasy, and he was thrilled that he’d finally had a dream about her. The woman, not so much. Still, after that dream, he’d reached out to her the next night and they’d made love, and he’d called her “Marge, the pretty one,” as his hands gently stroked her body. She so hoped he would dream that one again.
Then all of a sudden, it was over. He’d woken up one morning and, while regaling her with the details of how, in his dream, he’d picked all the tangerines off the tree, one by one, until the entire bodega was full of them, the brilliant orange tumbling forth and overtaking Lena, the maid, who ran screaming in terror at the attack of citrus. The woman had stammered, “Dear, really – I have a telephone call to make.” He smiled and said, “All right,” then wandered into his office to check his email. He was awfully quiet, and when she went in with his morning tea, his head was on his keyboard and he wasn’t breathing.
The woman took his ashes back to his native Vermont and tossed them into Chaos Canyon. She was alone that day, as his daughter couldn’t make it and his son was in Africa. As he floated away into the verdant valley below, she called out to him, “Farewell, Dreamer!” but no echo returned.
Her life was too quiet after that, and she so wished that she’d caught at least every other word of his dreams.
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