He dreams he is a young Asian woman. Diminutive. Pretty not beautiful. Not distinctly of Indian or Pakistani heritage but notionally from that region of the world sometimes known as the Indian Subcontinent.
And yet in his dream he isn’t actually the young woman in question. Not as such. More, he is her in the third person.
Whilst the dream lacks structure he experiences a resonance throughout the day. An intangible notion of being someone else. It’s a novel experience but one that returns periodically.
Earlier in the day he had a fall.
FALLING FOR AMY
He trips. He falls. Gives his head a solid thwack..
He hasn’t hurt himself. Damaged anything except pride. Pride goes before a fall. Mother of course. Despite the thwack he feels no pain. Just a little dazed.
He has landed on a grass verge. Bone dry turf the colour of wheat.
The dog poo the colour of dog poo he missed by the width of a blade of parched grass, is not bone dry.
A young woman with a pronounced lisp and hair the colour of Tizer comes to his rescue.
‘Oh goodness me’ she says, ‘are you okay?’
She speaks with an air he finds condescending. As though she implies he should not feel foolish on her account. Nevertheless she is quick to help him to his feet.
He hopes she does not think he is drunk.
‘Bit early isn’t it?’ she says with a smile.
‘I haven’t been, you know…I’m not?’
‘I know’. She points at a broken paving flag.’Council’s ripping ’em up next week, putting Tarmac down instead.’
He is staring at her hair.
‘You like it?’
He loves outrageous hair. ‘Yes’ he nods, ‘love it.’
Not condescending, he thinks. Kind. Funny.
‘Amy’ she says.
In three short weeks he knows far more than kind or funny. He knows: she thinks it’s cool to quote Orwell. That she can drink beer faster than he can. That Amy is an only child who hates weddings and football, narrow-mindedness and cream crackers. He learns she has a spiritually she finds hard to define. Moreover he thinks Amy has a beautiful soul.
He dreams of her often. Yet only through the eyes of a third-person.
TOO MANY BEERS
When he wakes after another of his newfound third-person dreams he recalls his main character. The same young Asian woman. A feisty advocate working tirelessly in some nebulous capacity fighting injustice.
Amy tries to look interested. ‘Cool’ she says.
He runs a finger through her latest crazy hairdo, a day-glo green a shade more luminous than highlighter-pen green. ‘Amy’ he says, ‘when were you born?’
‘On a Wednesday.’
‘And before you ask I don’t have a favourite colour, number, a favourite animal or pop group, country or part of the world, or pet, at least, not since I was in Year six.’
‘But can you tell me where is – was Indo-China?’
‘Colour. Pale blue. Animal. Aardvark. Pop group. S Club Seven. Number. Obviously seven. South-East Asia. Ditto Indo-China is/was South-East Asia, oh and favourite pet. Hamster!’
Life takes on a simplicity living with Amy. A sense of freedom pervades his being. A disavowing of convention heralds an end to stultifying inhibition. Through it all Amy remains a perpetual fascination. One he must explore and explore… ‘What do you recall…’ he says one morning, ‘from childhood, a memory which has stayed with you. I don’t mean a specific event, like first day at school, or an epiphany, like when the reality of death sank in, I mean, a thought. Something you imagine no-one else has ever imagined?’
‘When I was ten I imagined being a thirty year old me looking back at myself at ten thinking about being a thirty year old me.’
He sits up in bed. ‘You were a time-traveller.’
‘Got myself a first-class return ticket.’
He frowns. Amy reaches for a blister pack of Paracetamol on the bedside table.
‘How many beers was it last night?’
‘Four’ he says.
‘I had five and am still as fresh as a Daisy.’
Weekday nights are dry. A pact soon fashioned out of necessity. The plan is to travel and they know casual bar work and occasional catering jobs do not add up to two plane tickets to South-East Asia if frittered away on booze.
‘What are you looking for?’
Amy stands on a collapsible stool, stretches her five foot five frame to reach the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard. ‘You do keep your stash of analgesics up here don’t you?’
‘No one says analgesics.’
‘Where are they?’
‘I think we’ve run out.’
She gets down off the stool.
‘But you always have plenty, how come we–’
‘–’If I was a time-traveller’ he says, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing.’
‘What wouldn’t you change?’
‘If I was a time-traveller I would still fall on that grass verge. Even land face first in that dog shit if it meant you helped me up. I wouldn’t change that for anything. Us meeting. Falling in love.’
‘The headaches,’ she says and immediately phones his GP.
A fortnight later they return to an out-patients clinic following a hastily arranged magnetic resonance imaging scan. They sit in a waiting room staring at a jumble of leaflets in perspex racks pinned to the wall. Dog-eared posters. Polite notices.
Indistinguishable odours invade their silence.
A nurse calls them into an ante-room. A doctor follows them in. Another doctor is seated reading notes.
‘Please sit down.’
Awkward pauses. Long words lacking poetry. Apologetic smiles. Head shakes. Sorry. Sorry. Surgery. Yes surgery. Soon. Yes very soon.
His third-person dreams now feature an old man. Late in life the old man discovers a talent for painting. His melodramatic imagery; nineteenth century sailing ships battling through tumultuous seas, make him the toast of Edwardian society. Virginia Woolf falls in love with his painting. He falls in love with Virginia Woolf. Such vicarious joy he tells Amy and yet he feels his conscious mind has subjected his subconscious mind to a falsity, and as a result the dream narrative seems forced.
He wakes early. Amy is already in the bathroom. In the basin a mass of newly shorn pale blue locks; budgie-blue she always says to make him smile, followed immediately by; two shaven heads are better than one.
He stares at stubble where the glare of sodium lighting shimmers a silvery-blue sheen.
He wishes, but does not say, Amy had not shaved her head. Then recalls his latest third-person dream.
A young man diving for pearls dodging hungry sharks and murderous pirates.
Perhaps, he says excitedly, the blow to his head has unlocked memories hidden deep in his psyche? Past lives now revisited in the third-person. He is being reborn. Again and again. There is no tumour. The doctors have got the scan all wrong. Merely seen a shadow. Not Indo-China he says, let’s go to Tibet!
Amy sits by his bedside. Cerebral activity remains at a minimum two months post surgery.
Her hair is bubble-gum pink. She holds travel documents in her hand. Destination Lhasa, Tibet.
He is dreaming, she hopes. Dreaming of her in the first-person.