Chris Pleasance: Day, dreaming

Day, dreaming

Friday is born with a yawn like a rose arch – pink petal teeth in a half-moon smile. Florence dreams her up: Made of cloud wisps and white silk, robes of marquee canvas perfumed with crushed grass, hair of fondant icing. Friday, June 12. Wedding. Flo dreams of flower arrangements and gold rings. ‘I dos’ and lace veils. Friday makes the flowers her ears and hangs the rings from them. She makes the veil her tongue and practices: I do, I do, I do.

Mansur dreams, too: June 12, Jum’ah prayers. His brother is coming, so Friday takes his moustache and his wife’s headscarf. Mansur dreams of his sister-in-law’s cooking, so Friday eats: Chicken coated in mast and grilled. Kabuli pilaw and olive salad. He dreams of mosque. Of the minaret’s call and the feel of the mat under his freshly-washed feet. He kneels, so Friday kneels with him. He prays, Friday listens.

Other dreamers come, and Friday takes them in too. They dream of suncream smeared on sweating arms, the smell of burning coals and of concrete cooling after a day in the sun. They dream of hot skin and cold drinks. Barbecue food and picnic snacks. Airplanes and insects – they circle Friday’s head like a porch-lamp, butting drunkenly against her eyes.

Friday makes plans: After-work drinks and all-night raves. Frothy lagers, ill-advised cigarettes, and burgers on the train home; the bass rumble of club speakers, fingertips breaking through lazer-beams, and sunrise in the smoking area.

She plans a quick breakfast, a long lunch, and a takeaway dinner. She dresses in her date-night best and then settles down alone for a night on the sofa. She plots all-night gaming sessions then gets to bed early for a still-dark alarm and a taxi to the airport. Candles and cake, shots and sex, a slow drive down to an empty beach to bathe in the shadow of a setting sun.

Friday, June 12, Court Sentencing. Friday finds Louis caught in a waking nightmare: Fear paces his mind, back and forth over deeds done and words said. Thoughts scuttle like bedbugs, biting him each time he drifts toward sleep. He is haunted by wigs and gowns, heavy books that flap like bats, locks that click like tree branches against a windowpane. He is worn thin like an old shoelace, ready to snap. His fate hanging by a thread.

 In the darkness of his despair, Friday brings him hope. He takes it the way a baby takes a breast. It nourishes him, and he finds he can sleep at last.


Friday, June 12. The day dawns imaginary and she is there, slipping between the ticks of the clock and into the world like an actor stepping from the stage wings. Hopes and dreams and fears give way like the night to the sunrise of experience. She takes her first steps on dewdrop toes and, robed in morning mist, she walks among her dreamers.

She is there in Melbourne’s cafes. In frothed milk and bitter coffee, the buttery crunch of pastries and toast. She feels the sticky heat of Hanoi. Noodles in sweet-spiced broth with soft herbs, cafes with small plastic seats. She eats idlis in Chennai, dipped in sambar with sweet-strong tea. Nutella and bitter espresso in Rome, mixed with the cold-damp smell of the Tiber. Pao de queijos in Rio. Iced coffee in Los Angeles.

Friday goes to England, where she is the first of Flo’s guests to arrive. The barn she has chosen is beautiful and ramshackle: Wood beams, stone walls, candles in niches, flowers cascading from an iron hoop chandelier.

Friday does her bit. She dusts away clouds, drinks up raindrops and calms a temperamental breeze. When the other guests arrive them say: Hasn’t she been lucky with the weather? Friday warms, and the day warms too.

She watches Flo down the aisle and when it comes time for her kiss, Friday smiles a sunbeam through the uppermost window and it catches her veil, just so. As Flo leaves, Friday cries – petal tears that fall from the chandelier on to her dress just as the photographer’s shutter closes.

Across the ocean in sweet-sour air of Brooklyn, Mansur is watching his brother’s yellow cab pull up – opened like a can of campfire beans and its contents spilled, steaming, on to the pavement. How was the journey? Hamza’s eyes say what his mouth will not: Long, hot, tiring. Come in. We were just making tea.

The mosque calls and the brothers answer: Walking in silence until – in the shadow of the minaret – Hamza begins to weep. Mansur freezes but Friday is moved: She topples a trash bag from a nearby heap just as a kid in black denim passes. The kid side-steps in her Doc Martins so Mansur side-steps in his leather chappals. Hamza opens his arms and Mansur steps into the embrace and for a moment they hold one-another, Hamza’s tears soaking Mansur’s kameez. I’m tired, brother. I’m tired.

The mosque calls again and they go inside to pray. Side by side but together, still feeling each-other’s warmth. The walk home is silent until Hamza turns and says: Thank you. Mansur smiles and gestures him up the apartment steps. When they get inside, they find the chicken is ready.

Friday is filled with music and song, it beats in her heart and swells in her lungs. From the mountains of the Rockies to the desert of the Sahel, she sways to the afternoon rhythm. She swirls cocktails in Shangahi and smokes beedis in Delhi. On a lamp-lit porch in the Cape Winelands she sniffs a glass of Pinotage and contemplates a wedge of Huguenot. In the skin-warm air of a Warsaw evening she walks by the Vistula, to where teenagers drink nalewka from bottles passed hand to hand on the dark bank – flesh pressed against flesh.

She gulps beer and slams shots and stumbles, giddy-legged, down pavements to make bad choices she won’t remember with people she will try to forget. She hums, pulses, thumps and thuds, she trills and twangs. She huffs and drags and swallows and snorts. She falls down, then gets up to do it all again.

In the pre-dawn darkness she finds Louis, hunched down in his new cell, looking at the night sky – the same now as ever; more different tonight than it has ever been. Deeds led him here, and words passed the sentence. His eye is drawn between the stars, to the abyss that waits for him. But Friday shoots a star across the blackness and it draws him back. From the depths hope rises again. Untouchable, unstoppable.


Time moves on and Friday fades to memory: There are no dreams left to dream, only memories to recall. Not things to do, only things done. No new sights, new flavours, new smells – only theimpressions the old ones left.

Her torso is a smartphone screen, her face a photograph. Keepsake hands and vinyl record feet. She sees with a mind’s eye and its narrow, hazy field of view.

Friday finds Flo at her wedding, recalling the moment she left the chapel as the flower petals fell. Flo looks at the photograph and Friday brings her the feelings of that day like magpie treasures: Old, worn, precious.

Friday’s dreamers come to her for their stories and she tells them as faithfully as she can. She goes often to the place where Mansur remembers his brother, the way his tears fell, the tenderness of their embrace. Mansur joins her there and the two share the moment in sombre silence.

 But all memories must fade. Accounts become impressions, then sketches and shapes. Thoughts turn back to feelings, then to dreams. One by one her dreamers stop coming back to her and their memories are lost forever. Friday loses herself, piece by piece.

It ends with Louis, as she knew it would. He has tried to forget her, and in so doing has thought about her longer than the rest. She is alone with him, looking at the night sky with old eyes that cannot help but remember: How it appeared that first night, as his life vanished from him. How it looked those long years when all he had was hope. How it looks now, for the final time. How wide it is. How bright.

As his eyes close he releases the memory and, like hope, it rises. Friday rises with it, into the sky, towards the lights and then between them, beyond them. Louis fades and Friday fades with him.

Together, they drift into a dreamless sleep.




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