Steve Fay: In Dreamers’ Dreams

In his dream, when he gets to her room in the hospital, it looks like she might not be fully covered, so he calls for the nurse to check on her and fix her blankets before he goes in.  In her dream, he’s gotten very old, now walks with a cane, sometimes getting near falling.  He needs a walker, but never would use one.  While some go to shorelines to feed bread to geese, he strolls through his neighborhood throwing strawberries to the dogs.  She makes food for people: beggars brought home to the family table, the homeless at the soup kitchen.  Try to visit her, without her making you something to eat.

Theirs is a city on a river one day, but on a big lake the next.  One day, sea-going freighters tie up in the harbor, but the next, the largest craft is a pontoon boat with outboard motors.  He hadn’t liked it much, the week he had to climb the eight flights of stairs to his 2-room apartment, because the local elevator repairman was off fishing.  She had started to think about coloring her own hair.  Getting her roots touched up was becoming too expensive.  But how to touch up her wrinkles?

The river has otters.  The big lake, bright green dolphins.  The skies of that city can turn cinnamon brown at dusk.  The rain feels like velvet to old people who live there, but the young move away to drier places.  He listens to his shortwave late into the night.  He’s tried to learn Spanish for the songs on his favorite station.  He’s tried to learn Bulgarian for a newscast which comes in well.  He doesn’t know it’s Serbian news.  She was widowed in Peru, long before she moved to this city.  She raised a daughter here, and buried a mother. She prays fervently at Mass each week, but returns to her bungalow empty of spirit.


It is important to know, here, that the two of them never meet.  But that has not prevented each one from dreaming of the other.  Feeling all the while that the other is a long time love, or friend, or some relation—something never clarified in any of those years of dreams.


In her dream, she takes a class, learning how to steady him, to lever him slowly to his feet, without hurting herself, when he inevitably falls. In his dream, he hurries into her hospital room with pink chrysanthemums, and finds her sleeping, her gown askew, one breast uncovered.  He doesn’t buzz for a nurse this time, but covers her chrysanthemum with those he brought. He gently adjusts the fabric himself, then pulls a chair up to her bed.  And, after a moment, he begins to whisper—to her sleep—the story of his day.

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