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Well After Midnight

Writing Sample

I am going to relate to you three dreams. I say dreams because they feel like dreams, or nightmares, but one of them is true. One of them has to be true to explain the condition I find myself in. And only you know which one, so I am going to ask you. Please don’t hang up without telling me.

In the first one, you come to my room. It is nighttime, well after midnight. I have been expecting you for some hours, but you phone me repeatedly telling me to wait a bit longer. You are coming, wait a bit longer. So much time on my hands, yes most of the dream is spent in waiting. And wanting. But this is a clue to its being real: so much of life, too, is spent in this state of expectation. Only a tiny fraction is spent in action, only a crash in the enduring rumble of thunder.

I patiently take out my pencils and paper, and I begin to draw a portrait of you. It must be to keep with me as I wait for you, because there isn’t really another explanation. I would never draw your face because I know I can’t do it justice. Your outset eyes, hard like oak, shining like madness, almond and undrawn. The liquid brown of your skin is impossible with graphite. Lips are softness, I can’t draw that. The slight nose and sable hair give me reference, but there are no firm guides to beauty. Smile or frown or placated: whatever I want it to be, it isn’t. I can’t draw your portrait.

Your body is much easier. The lines of your arms are thin and straight. The breasts are solid and easy to grasp. Your legs and your thighs, I have seen countless examples to contrast them to. I can draw the only possibility left, the only body of perfection I have ever known.

But I don’t draw your body, no, I draw your face.

You enter my room, but I am no longer drawing. I forget what happened in between, but I am instead on my bed listening to music. I don’t hear you knock; I don’t see you come in. I feel the sound change as you make your way towards me.

You touch me. And the waiting stops.

We talk about things, normal things, or whatever. I am sure you know better than I what we discuss. You are a woman and you remember everything. You don’t live in a world of dreams, but of hopes. You worry about a future that you never allow to come to you. No, you scare the future and you scare me. It must be the future that we discuss because you don’t seem to make any sense. There is no rationality when we talk like this. There is more rationality in dreams.

I feel like a cold man on a hot day, like a shadow has blocked the sun from me. But if you are my sun, what is it that has come between us? Why do you hide behind obstacles?

You tell me that we can’t be together any more. You say that it is hard for you, that you pain. You know that one day we’ll have to call it an end, that eventually we’ll have to go our separate ways. So why not now? you ask me. You say that if we go on, one day I will hurt you. That if you get too close--that you’ve come too close already--you’ll be even more hurt when we part. You say that you’re saving me pain. You say that it’s for me, that you don’t want to hurt me. In fact, you tell me that you love me.

And then you walk away from me. You leave my room, you leave me.

In my loneliness, in my room, I stare again at the picture I have drawn of you. I have found it below my pillow. The waiting your coming, which once seemed so hard, is a pleasant memory compared with the pain of wanting you now. I want you to come back, I want you to be as this picture. A face, not a body. I want you to tell me that daylight will come, that this has all been a dream. Because dreams don’t end this way. Not even nightmares.

The second dream is more violent.

You come to my room. It is nighttime, well after midnight. I have been wanting you to come for some hours, but have been unable to convince you to come. I phone again and offer you a bottle wine, and that does it. You are coming, I wait a bit longer. So many details to attend to before you come. I wish it to be perfect, yes most of the dream is spent in wanting. And hoping. But that must be wrong, because dreams are not spent hoping, but in living out future hopes. You are my hope and you are my dream.

You come into the room silently, without a knock and supporting a mute smile. I make my way toward you when I catch sight of you, it is difficult not to notice such a creature as you. I bring you back to my bed and I kiss you. Your lips are soft but your tongue is absent or distant. I pull back--not to pull away from you, no, I could never want that--just temporarily retreat to see what’s wrong. You make gestures with your hands, your face cripples and unwinds repeatedly in expression.

You are unable to speak, that is obvious. Your tongue is gone away and we desperately want to make one another understand. You grab my arm and the warmth calms me. I sigh and collapse into your lap. My head on your chest, I lift my hand and caress your face, which I cannot see. You are so delicate, and your features clear. There are the eyes, I can feel their bulging ebony curve. The cheeks and nose buried like soul covered in skin. I don’t know if you’re smiling or frowning or satiated. I want you to be all these things. Or more.

You push my hand away and pull my face up. You kiss me, but you don’t say anything at all.

You can’t.

There is a beauty in this silence. Between me and you, I never really know who should speak. Who I should believe. Your inability to say what you’re thinking keeps me from wanting to speak either. And there is no room for mistakes. There are no misunderstandings. There is no worry.

I think there must be love.

This is surely reality, wouldn’t you say so? Because we love each other, that is certain. How could a dream come so close to reality? I don’t think I’ve ever felt such love between us. I can’t resign that to a mere dream. I hope, my dear, that the love is real.

The third dream, the last dream, is the least tactile. It is the coldest and hardest to speak about.

In this one, you are already in my room. It is nighttime, well after midnight. I have been wanting you for some hours, but you repeatedly reject my advances. You will change, I will wait a bit longer. So much expectancy in your brimming eyes, yes most of the dream is spent in hoping. And needing. Is this a suggestion of dreaming? Why wouldn’t my dreams provide me with what I most need? You are there, in the dream.

I need you.

As much as I want you to fulfill my needs, you cannot. Or you do not. Your body becomes more flippant, harder to control. I pull at your heart, but you hold to it resolutely. I tear at your body, but you become sharp as steel.

I begin to bleed.

I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t even see the blood, but I swear to you that I am hemorrhaging. It is because of your patience, it is because you want more time. I can’t wait much longer. Hope has turned to desire. Now, there is nothing but need.

I need you.

The blood becomes visible, becomes a redness in my eyes. I am sorry that I ever saw you. And yet--this is what hurts me--I want to look at you again. And again. I will die for this longing. Redder and more bloody.

You leave my room in a crimson recession. The last thing I see is the picture of you that I have drawn. It is from the first dream, I suppose. But it includes a profile and a body. The portrait is complete and horrifying. All red. It is you in your most real. And the reflection in your eye is of me. Hysterical and powerless.

It is the reflection of a dead man.

I am inclined to believe that the last dream is the most real. One never dies in his own dreams. No, the dreamer always wakes up, just before the end. But I do not feel awake. I feel dead. I feel cold. And, worst of all, I am dreamless.

But, you, my dear, tell me what you think. Tell me in your own words, because I have exhausted all of mine, tell me what happened tonight, well after midnight.

 

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© 2002 by b.z.