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I dreamed I was about to die. It wasn’t surreal, I wasn’t astonished, I was in my dream. I must have anticipated the horizontal event as a culmination not the banal termination it is for I was in a sort of holiday mood.
I awoke, anxious to tell family and friends.
It was early, I didn’t eat, drank only water, I had a 7:45 appointment at the hospital.
I ran the tap to the shower thinking this is like the final cleanse, there is no final cleanse.
I sat, near naked, on the doctor’s cot. I was light-headed, had the sort of false lucidity that comes from drinking too much coffee.
“Say Ah’,” the doctor said, “how did you sleep?”
“I dreamed I was about to die,” I thought but didn’t say. I said “Ah”.
He told me to dress, left the room, reminded me to pay the receptionist on the way out. She ran my card through, handed me a soiled bill of health in return.
I wasn’t that late for work, they let me have a mid-afternoon break. I walked the near empty streets, stopped to look in the windows of a realtor’s, contemplated some dream houses.
The front room was spacious. Large grime-free windows let the light shine on hardwood floors. A man with the goatee and smoking jacket sat on a pink Queen Anne chair. A Queen Anne sofa stood near the wall to his right. The coffee table was from a different period. He folded his newspaper, placed it on his lap. “I suppose you want to tell your loved ones about the great event,” he said. “They’re all here, those who could make it that is. You’ll just have to find them.” He emptied the ashes from his pipe into a glass ashtray.
“I know you,” I said. “You’re – ”
He waved his hand as if to dismiss me.
All dream homes have many chambers. I wandered the winding halls, opened doors to apartments, found no one. On the third floor I walked into a bedroom with a balcony outside the window. A women’s nightclothes were strewn on the unmade bed. Of course I didn’t recognize those under- and over-things. I wasn’t hot, I’m mostly dry nowadays. I climbed onto the balcony, leaned on the iron railing. Robins pecked on the mown grass below. I pressed my arms against the bar, a sort of isometrics. For once I wasn’t worried about disturbing anyone. There was a bathroom attached to the bedroom. It was empty.
I left the house the way I came in. The gentleman was still reading his newspaper. This time he ignored me. I returned to myself outside the realtor’s window. I remembered little, it wasn’t a memory mansion, it was bigger than the house – 3BR, 2BA or the reverse – pictured on the realtor’s card.
I don’t remember if I ate, I wasn’t hungry when I returned.
No one looked up or said anything when I sat at my desk. Our office is run like a factory. Kaizen is spoken here almost as much as English.
The virtual whistle blew, everyone left, time to make up my time. I thought of ways to add value, I have no values, work is a way to pass the time. I opened my word processor, retrieved the last document I wrote in. It was my annual self-evaluation. What were my goals, what did I accomplish, did the gap narrow or widen, my goal is to pass the time until.
The vacuums whirred, sometimes they clean early here. I frowned, pretended to update a database. The janitor, a friendly sort, ignored me, said nothing as he emptied my nearly empty wastebasket. After he moved on to the next desk, I noticed a letter at the corner of mine. I opened it. It was in German. I didn’t understand it. It’s easy to look things up nowadays, not so easy in a dream: Ich spreche nicht und lese kein Deustch, not so easy for me to say.
I should have risen, walked around, the cord of the vacuum was in the way. I rubbed my eyes, peered across the room as though deep in thought. A portrait of the company’s founder hung on the far wall. His features were indistinct most likely because of the distance from me, the blear in my eyes, the faux-Renaissance style of the painting though he was born less than seventy years ago. He died a few days before I was to meet him – he made it a point to greet all employees who passed probation – I felt like I was a proximate cause of his demise. I’ll meet him yet, we’ll share a joint, not of marijuana but of meat, lamb perhaps, behold, I’m beholden to no one, why then am I here?
The motors stopped, I was alone. I went to the washroom, passed water maybe more, washed hands and face, returned to my desk to gather my things.
I stood at the side of my car surrounded not by empty husks or hulks but by the buildings of the office park, buildings whose windows were mostly lit, their rooms filled not only with cleaners but also with wage slaves and their betters. After many arduous hours designing the engine of a fast machine, the team decided to call it a day: unseen people germinating seeds that will grow into future and subjunctive fantastic fruit I’ll never taste.
I stand before the imaginary portal, false clarity gone, prepared to meet my fate not lucidly but as my own sodden disintegrating self, that is, I await not the fact but the act – pure, simple, brutal – of ending.
I dreamed I was about to die and yet not yet.
Clyde Liffey lives near the water.