I have a truly horrible dream which invariably occurs on the nights I am Lenoreless in my bed. I am attempting to stimulate the clitoris of Queen Victoria with the back of a tortoise-shell hairbrush. Her voluminous skirts swirl around her waist and my head. Her enormous cottage-cheese thighs rest heavy on my shoulders, spill out in front of my sweating face. The clanking of pounds of jewelry is heard as she shifts to offer herself at best advantage. There are odors. The Queen's impatient breathing is thunder above me as I kneel at the throne. Time passes. Finally her voice is heard, overhead, metalled with disgust and frustration: "We are not aroused." I am punched in the arm by a guard and flung into a pit at the bottom of which boil the figures of countless mice. I am awake with a mouth full of fur. Begging for more time. A ribbed brush.
A truly, truly horrible dream, last night. Don't even want to talk about it. I am fresh out of bed. Urinating. I look down. Just a lazy stream of early-morning maple-syrup urine. Suddenly the single stream is a doubled, forking stream. Then a tripled trident stream. Four, five, ten. Soon I am at the node of a fan of urine that sprays out in all directions, blasting the walls of the bathroom, plaster shooting everywhere, contents swirling at my feet. When I awaoke--alone, Lenoreless, hence the dream--I was really afraid I had wet the bed, the windows, the ceiling. I may murder Jay over this one.
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In this dream, which every now and then still recurs, I am standing publicly at the baseline of a gargantuan tennis court. I'm in a competitive match, clearly: there are spectators, officials. The court is about the size of a football field, though, maybe, it seems. It's hard to tell. But mainly the court's complex. The lines that bound and define play are on this court as complex and convolved as a sculpture of string. There are lines going every which way, and they run oblique or meet and form relationships and boxes and rivers and tributaries and systems inside systems: lines, corners, alleys, and angles deliquesce into a blur at the horizon of the distant net. I stand there tentatively. The whole thing is almost too involved to try to take in all at once. It's simply huge. And it's public. A silent crowd resolves itself at what may be the court's periphery, dressed in summer's citrus colors, motionless and highly attentive. A battalion of linesmen stand blandly alert in their blazers and safari hats, hands folded over their slacks' flies. High overhead, near what might be a net-post, the umpire, blue-blazered, wired for amplification in his tall high-chair, whispers Play. The crowd is a tableau, motionless and attentive. I twirl my stick in my hand and bounce a fresh yellow ball and try to figure out where in all that mess of lines I'm supposed to direct service. I can make out in the stands stage-left the white sun-umbrella of the Moms; her height raises the white umbrella above her neighbors; she sits in her small circle of shadow, hair white and legs crossed and a delicate fist upraised and tight in total unconditional support.
The umpire whispers Please Play.
We sort of play. But it's all hypothetical, somehow. Even the 'we' is theory: I never get quite to see the distant opponent, for all the apparatus of the game.
"I was only thirty-four when I died,’ Bird said to me. ‘Thirty-four!’ At least I think he was saying it to me. Since we were the only two people in the room.
I didn’t know how to respond. It’s hard in dreams to do the right thing. So I stayed silent, waiting for him to go on.
‘Think about it – what it is to die at thirty-four,’ Bird said.
I thought about how I’d feel if I’d died at thirty-four. When I’d only just begun so many things in life.
‘That’s right. I’d only just begun so many things myself,’ Bird said. ‘Only begun to live my life. But then I looked around me and it was all over.’ He silently shook his head. His entire face was still in shadow, so I couldn’t see his expression. His dirty, battered saxophone dangled from the strap around his neck.
‘Death always comes on suddenly,’ Bird said. ‘But it also takes its time. Like the beautiful phrases that come into your head. It lasts an instant, yet they can linger forever. As long as it takes to go from the East Coast to the West Coast – or to infinity, even. The concept of time is lost there. In that sense, I might have been dead even while I lived out my life. But still, actual death is crushing. What’s existed until then suddenly, and completely, vanishes. Returning to nothingness. In my case, that existence was me.’