In Her Dreams
In her dreams a man and a woman walk hand in hand, hibiscus or bougainvillea somewhere in the vicinity, like teenagers at the first mystery of reacting to one another’s presence. How breathtaking the other one is, like the sea, like the salt wind, like the sun. She tries to save this into waking. She tries to believe one heart can change the world.
An old black man limps into the front of the shuttle bus on crutches. He has a kind face. She jumps up from her seat and smiles at him. “Sit down, please,” she says. “No thank you,” he replies, looking into her young gray eyes. “But if you want to do something useful, give me a blow job.” Her gray eyes widen. She moves to the back of the shuttle as he mumbles something about “useful” once more. She neither cries, nor can she shake this. She doesn’t believe he meant any harm, though he did smirk in the end. Being a man, perhaps he cannot feel. She does.
In her dreams she is loyal to the fairytales that a lovely girl or woman can be loved by everyone in the land, just for her beauty and her kindness, and that men and women would want to bring her gifts.
A fellow student from Greek philosophy, her best friend’s fiancé, has fixed her ancient computer once before. This time he brings her an old laptop. “I happened to have this in my parent’s garage,” he says. “It works good.” “Terrific. How much do you want for it?” “It’s a gift,” he says and grins. “Nobody’s using it.” “Wow,” she says and hugs him after he installs everything she needs. “Can I at least pay you something for your time?” “No,” he says, and adds, “You’re so beautiful.”
“I’m out on limb here,” he writes in his email, “but I do think you are sexy. I imagine you naked, with your eyes looking longingly into the distance.”
“How to get off the limb,” she writes back bravely, “is, you slowly back up toward the trunk and then climb down.”
It takes her six weeks to return the laptop because he’s always unexpectedly busy and breaks their coffee dates and doesn’t show up for class anymore.
He writes her chatty emails from time to time, including telling her how much he eventually got for the old laptop on E-Bay, including asking why she isn’t writing back. Finally she does write back, “because I’m uncomfortable writing to you. Have a beautiful life.” She doesn’t tell him how afraid she is of his casually entitled presence in her life while he is planning to marry her best friend.
In her dreams, Sheherazade’s king doesn’t fuck and kill dozens of virgins first before the clever Sheherazade hooks him on her stories and her own brand of sexual surrender, which includes her little sister in the room, first as story prompter and later as a somewhat superfluous witness to all the rest.
Her boyfriend comes carrying luscious red roses, strawberries, and a bottle of Chianti to celebrate the completion of mid-term exams. “Wow, strawberries,” she exclaims. Later they lie side by side. She inhales his beautiful skin as he caresses hers. “Would you close your eyes,” he asks gently, “and let me come all over your face?” She wants to make him feel good. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? But she can’t help wondering why. Why this?
Her poetry professor doesn’t like what she is writing. “It’s cynical,” he says. With all her youth and talent, he would prefer her to be starry-eyed. She, too, would prefer to be starry-eyed.
In her dreams she is walking on the beach with her boyfriend, plumeria blossoms tucked behind her ear, a string of shells hanging around his neck. She is looking into his soft dark eyes as the wind blows back his chin-length brown hair. He puts his arms around her shoulder as the sun is gliding down toward the water. Out in the world....
words: Beate Sigriddaughter, Colorado (website / glass woman prize)
image: 'Waiting' - Eliza Kelley, New York (more & more)
another story from out in the world: Redeye (#14)