What I think of when I talk of dreaming

I woke with a start this morning. I climbed out of bed and walked to my study where I saw Yvette sitting on the settee. She was leaning back into the backrest and she was listening to soft music. I surmised that she had slept on the settee. She saw me standing at the door, as I leaned against the door frame, she smiled and wished me a good morning. She asked me if I had slept well. I replied that I had. I walked to her and sat next to her. The blinds on the windows were drawn and i could see a storm raging outside. She changed the track on my laptop and picked up Marija’s letter. She handed it to me and resumed her seat.

“Haven’t opened it, yet I see”, her voice has an inflection of amusement. I often hear this mild amusement in her voice when I am being, in her words “dreamy”. She looked at me questioningly and I found that I had no answer. Why hadn’t I opened this letter? I remembered the desire for preservation that had filled me when I received it and my resolve began to falter. I got my knife from the drawer and cut open the envelope. The letter was neatly folded and in Marija’s delicate handwriting, I could see words that, in my juvenile thrill, raced across my eyes. She asked after my health and if I was happy. She missed this country, she wrote, and she wanted to return. It was her promise, that one day, we would both discuss F Scott Fitzgerald’s This side of paradise, over a cup of coffee which she would make herself. She hoped that I had read it, but she hoped to hear me read it aloud. She missed my silent voice, the muffled way I sometimes spoke. I found that she had included her address at the bottom of the letter. I felt a stab of mixed feelings when I read that it was a rehabilitation centre in Estonia.

I was glad for her, she would get assistance when she needed it most. I must admit that professional help would be most effective. I understood my own problems with alcohol and it took me effort to overcome them. I didn’t have a broken heart to add to its heavy burden. I didn’t need a crutch, but she did and I was glad that she had found it. Sometimes, all of us need a light in the tunnel to help us to emerge from it.

Yvette looked glorious in the grey morning light and I could see that she was, in her own way, intrigued about Marija. I told her all I knew of her, but it was surprisingly little. The two of us went to the kitchen and we made breakfast together. Yvette was in her element. She put on “The twist” by Chubby Checker, (a song I remembered from Spiderman 3) and the two of us cooked eggs and bacon, without the mess. As the two of us sat for breakfast at the only table that could be called a dining table, she poured me some coffee. We raised a glass to each other’s good health and I saw her framed in the diffused light of lightbulb, the soft light fell across her lips and her eyes. I couldn’t help but stop and stare at her because everything about her was so existential and surreal that I was reminded of a Van Gogh painting.

We went out in the evening. She and I spent the day at my apartment, with her arranging my books and photographs. She laughed when she saw me as an adolescent. I was standing with my friends for a group photograph of the Audio-Visual department. I was dressed in my school blazer and she found my likeness to Harry Potter very amusing. She thought that I still had the eyes of a dreamy romantic. I am an older man now, and years have passed since that photograph. I remember my friends and I played hockey in our formals on the Top Field ( a strict no-no then) and we had the look of youthful boys attempting a somber look and failing.

Yvette bought me a tape recorder. She disappeared into a electronics store and I stood outside in the cold, wondering if I could find a taxi back home. Around us, the lights of the evening began to turn on. Neon lights from storefronts turned on in a burst of color. Couples walk hand in hand, even the night itself has turned into a twilight with a sky that is a pleasantly subdued vermillion. I hail a taxi as Yvette emerges. She and I step into the taxi and she directs the driver to her apartment. She wants me to have dinner with her at her place. She digs into her coat and takes out the tape recorder.

“Promise her that you will read This side of Paradise with her”, in Yvette’s eyes is a spark that I often saw in Marija. I promise both of them as I pocket the tape recorder. I think of the letter on my desk again as the taxi winds through the streets of the city that I now call home.

 

Promises

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is cold most days

It is cold most days now. Sometimes, there is a pleasant breeze and mild sunshine, but those days of summer which I loathed and enjoyed in equal measure seem to be farther and farther away. Often, in autumn, time seems to fly and yet, there is a stagnation in the air. I walked back home from the University in the rain, my shoes making small splashes in the puddles that had collected on the footpath. I walked back home and opened the door to a warm apartment. I am sitting at my desk now, watching the rain fall on the streetlights enjoying the silence.

 

I have found that I am far too irritated when I come back from the University. Something about company seems to repel me. I feel a sense of disgust with the way my colleagues carry on, with their pathetic bickering over some drama that they breed in their own lives. It is often who went out with whom, and who said what to whom. I had hoped that there was a certain maturity in medical students, but I was wrong. As of now, I am glad that my day at the University is over. I planned for a solitary dinner but Yvette wishes to pay me a visit. Yvette promised that her visit would “cheer” me up. I have to admit that her company certainly does cheer me up. She is a person who believes in the optimistic view that even on cold days like today, one can find warmth if only they looked for it. I don’t look for warmth, I get enough of it from my electric heaters and somehow, this arrangement suits the rationalist in me as much as it strangles the romantic that creeps up on me when I least expect it.

I have reduced my smoking and I am glad with my progress so far. Self development is usually a continuous process. As I am sitting, watching the rain, I think of Marija, and her Estonian apartment. She sent me a letter a few days ago, and old fashioned though the method of communication is, I find that it is fitting. There was no return address, and the envelope read my name and address and on the back, all it said was “Marija”. I recognized her handwriting immediately but I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it. It lies unopened on my desk and I can’t even bring myself to stash it away in my drawer.It sits on my desk like a paperweight that ties me to my desk. I watch it meditatively, and I am drawn to its pristine condition. It doesn’t bear the mark of a letter passing through letterboxes and delivery vans. I am enamored with her handwriting, I can picture her hands placing the letter in the envelope and I am feel the warmth of her hand writing across it. What went through her mind as she wrote my address? Did her lips say my name under her breath as she wrote the address. Was there a thrill in her as she wrote her name at the back of the envelope?

There is a knock on my door, it must be Yvette. The letter still sits on my desk.

 

 

Original

The romantic at the Dissection Table

The smell of formalin is so strong that I gag. There is an urge to vomit, but keeping my stoicism seems to be more important. I put on my mask and feel a sense of relief wash over me. I put on my gloves and get to work. My region of work today is the wrist and hand. I pick up my scalpel and begin cutting away at the tissue, carefully and soon, the motion is so mechanical and rhythmic that I can safely dream of the windy morning outside the dissection hall. I can see the trees in the strong wind, washed over by a bright sun. Autumn is indeed beautiful here.

I stand up to relieve my back and gaze out of the window, and I am reminded of a day very far into my past. It seems like a lifetime away. I remember the time I was in the ninth grade and I sat at a table in the biology lab, gazing out of the window. I could see the town below in the valley. Far away, there was a red car winding its way through the streets of the town I now call home in my sentimentality. I must have been gazing for too long, because I heard a voice from far away.

“Schuberg, get out of the class”. My biology master was angry. he was an old man, and one who took discipline very seriously. He was also the master of my House, named after some colonialist or other, and dazed, I walked out the door, cursing myself. I went to this balcony from where I resigned myself to the view. There would be punishment to follow, extra time in the lab, or a thousand lines which stated  ” I will never look out of the window during class ever again”. I dreaded this possibility, but back then, I was as much a resigned man as I am now.

I was still watching the hypnotic trees waving in the wind when I felt a voice from very far away. Instinctively I replied “yes sir” and turned, expecting to see my old Biology professor, instead seeing a familiar face that I couldn’t place because I was so lost in my dreaming.

Adara stood in hospital scrubs and gloves. I apologized and greeted her. I hadn’t seen her all summer and she had receded, much like everyone else I know, into some dark corner of my mind that I forget about. She greeted me and looked a little concerned. She asked me if I was okay. My intolerance for formalin is too well known. I stuttered a little before shaking myself internally to focus on her. It took a minute. She put on a mask and moved to the window and opened it. I was welcomed by a gust of fresh air. I looked at my watch and saw that I had been dreaming for almost half an hour. Adara stood across the dissecting table and looked at me curiously.

“The Professor sent me to assist you,” she said. “Are you sure you are okay?”

“I’m fine, Adara”, I stutter. Ativ Schuberg screws up his conversation again.

“I think we should go outside, for a minute”, Adara leads me outside, I follow her. I remember that I haven’t eaten anything all morning. My head feels a little light-headed from hunger. I take off my mask and step out into the corridor. “You haven’t eaten anything,” says Adara, her eyes narrowed. I don’t answer. I look at her confused. She says that she is too used to seeing men who forget to eat. Her father, a geneticist, also forgets to eat unless someone reminds him at least a hundred times.

Fifteen minutes later, I am tucking myself into some Borscht and bread. Adara watches me eat. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have behaved in this sheepish way, being led around by shrewd women into restaurants. I think my hunger placed me in a vulnerable position. I am thankful however, for the Borscht and thank her for reminding me to eat. In what I don’t say is a gratefulness that she bothered so much to take me across the street in this windy weather into a restaurant while I stood around dazed. The formalin is like a drug to me, I often find that I dream too much when I am in the dissection hall. I tell her that, apologizing again for being a liability.

“I’ve seen you dazed in the Anatomy Hall many times”, she says. The walls are made of glass in the various halls, and one can look into each hall if they so wish. “I knew you would be here alone, and I had this strange feeling that you wouldn’t have had breakfast”, she says, and I raise  an eyebrow questioningly. My focus is returning. Ativ Schuberg is well filled now, and his mental faculties are returning. “I know when you don’t eat,” she admitted looking shiftily at my plate. I am taken aback.

“I have seen you lose focus and go glassy eyed in the Cytology Exam last semester”, she reveals, much to my horror,” I stood next to you and you tried to help me. When you confused the trachea with the esophagus, I knew that you were going dreamy again and you were hungry”. It was true. I confused the wind-pipe with the food-pipe and stood there gibbering like a fool to my Professor, who too looked at me as if she saw the typical bachelor, unfed and careless with his eating habits and one who makes a greater effort in  making himself presentable than he does with nutrition. The Professor spoke to Adara later, after the exam to tell her off about her trying to help me and me trying to help her, saying that if the two of us had eaten well that morning, we wouldn’t be gibbering and idiotically looking to each other for help.

Adara, I asked, were you sent by the Professor of Anatomy?

 

She replied in the negative.

 

 

 

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