Henry Sane

Posted on September 19, 2011

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Dreamless

Another night without dreams means another night without sleep. Simply put, it’s that blank unconscious world—that empty space where you don’t dream—that leaves me uneasy and paranoid, to the point where I just can’t go back voluntarily. Wish I could explain it better. But it’s been this way since I was a kid.

It was around the time when it’s hard to tell if it’s really late at night or really early in the morning when I fell out of bed, dead tired, not yet sure how I’d pass the time and keep myself awake. I felt the redness of my eyes intensifying as I stumbled into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of leftover champagne and ate a banana muffin. In great need of fresh air and a cigarette, I pulled out my pack of Turkish blends and exited my apartment to the narrow corridor, toward the open area by the parking deck where I always went to smoke. The “future cancer ward,” a passing neighbor once dubbed it.

I checked my watch to find it was nearing 5 a.m. So it didn’t surprise me to find Taiwan Jerry in the corridor, crouching outside his door, smoking from his pipe and reading a thick novel in a language I didn’t understand. From his awkward squatting posture, he looked up from his book and smiled when he saw me approach.

“Not gone to sleep yet?” he asked in his pleasant way.

“Nope. Couldn’t dream,” I said.

As often happened, he looked at me as if he didn’t understand. His vocabulary was limited, after all, which is why our conversations usually never went very far. I always tried to stay patient with him though.

“Dreaming?” I said. “You know what that is?”

He furrowed his brow as he looked to the pavement for the hidden answer. At last, his brain’s mechanisms flickered and he nodded in understanding. “Like—uh—when you sleep,” he said. “I remember. You say—uh—you say you have trouble before.”

“Yeah, it’s rough,” I said, exaggerating my emotion to help him understand. “How about you? Do you have dreams?”

He took a second to translate what I’d said before replying, “Yeah. You—uh—”

He laughed at himself as he sought out the right words.

“You—uh—want? Want to—borrow?”

I felt we weren’t on the same page all of a sudden.

“No, no,” I said. “Dreams. You know, like when you sleep, you see these pictures in your head.

Sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s places. The weird visions when you sleep.”

I never realized how hard it was to define a dream in simple terms.

“Yeah, yeah!” he said, laughing jovially. “I know! Dreams! You want to borrow?”

I looked quizzically at him, finally admitting that I didn’t understand. Again Taiwan Jerry pondered over the situation, taking two or three drags from his cigarette before responding.

“Wait here,” he said at length.

I did as instructed, losing myself in the hypnotic circling of a moth by the corridor’s nearest overhead light.

“Here you go,” he said before fully reemerging into the corridor. “My girlfriend’s. She doesn’t like. Not enough—uh—not enough color, she say.”

It took me a moment to comprehend what he held in his outstretched hand. But there was no mistaking it. It was a cat. A little gray-and-white cat wearing a thin black collar with a little bell.

I looked at Taiwan Jerry’s beaming face, then back to the cat, then back to its beholder.

“Jerry,” I said, laughing, “this is a cat.”

“No, no!” he insisted, laughing with me. “Dreams! You want to borrow?”

The cat barely flinched as Taiwan Jerry stretched it closer to me, insisting fervently that I take the little bundle into my arms. He had pushed the furry creature firmly into my stomach when, from inside, his girlfriend called him in her demanding voice with the language I did not understand.

“Here, here!” he said to me urgently. “Take!”

Before I realized what had happened, the cat was suddenly in my arms, placid and barely awake, and Jerry had disappeared into his apartment, shouting the unknown language behind the closed door.

“Hey!” I shouted. “What am I supposed to do with this thing? How’s this going to help me, huh?”

Hoping to bring Jerry back out, I tried knocking on his door, only to find that my heavy bangs were overruled by the commotion on the other side.

Somewhat defeated by this weird scenario, I decided I’d give up and go back to my apartment, where I set the cat down on my sofa and laid next to it, having suddenly been overcome by delirium. Hoping to fend off sleep, I turned on the TV to watch cartoons, but I zonked out within minutes, the little cat purring uncontrollably by my chest.

And so I slept, soundlessly, for nearly a dozen hours.

And I dreamt. Like I’d never dreamt before, I dreamt. First I played bingo in a haunted mansion, then I signed autographs in a Canadian airport, then I cooked an omelet for my third grade teacher, then I watched some hyperactive teenagers shave off Dali’s mustache.

They were the most powerful dreams I’d ever had, absurd as they were.

When I awoke, I felt more refreshed than I had in ages. I got up, stretched, poured myself some milk and fried some bacon. All the while I pondered over the vivid scenarios I’d just been happily subjected to. As I sat down on the sofa to eat, I finally remembered the little cat, and Taiwan Jerry. And I thought about all the realistic details involved in that beautiful sleep.

I could hardly contain my smile.

“Next time I’m over that way,” I thought, “I’ll have to remember to thank Jerry. Him and his little cat.”

***

Henry Sane is an avid enthusiast of literature currently pursuing a degree in English at Columbus State University. His work can be found in previous or forthcoming issues of Jersey Devil Press, Medulla Review, Quite Curious, Milk Sugar, and Down in the Dirt.

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