|The Transformation Story Archive||The Other Sex|
To Dream in Color
The days have been cold lately. It's January here, and snow is clumped all over everything. It's sitting on the branches outside my tree now, looking like pillows. Funny. Lately everything reminds me of sleep. My dreams have been so vivid lately.
I'm sorry. I'm rambling on. My thoughts tend to wander; I can't seem to hold a conversation. I haven't been able to since the night you left me.
It was all so unfair. We took good care of ourselves. We ate all the right foods, got the right shots. We exercised, drank lots of water, and on the few occasions we got sick, we made sure we had the best care that we could afford. We avoided carcinogenic products. We didn't smoke, didn't drink alcohol. We swore to each other that each would live as long as possible to be there for each other. It wasn't fair to abandon each other over a few bad habits.
I'm afraid that you'll find my determination has slipped a bit in the past few months. There's a packet of cigarettes next to the refrigerator now, and two more in the drawer. The cupboard has alcohol of all kinds: gin, vodka, wine, whiskey. No champagne, though. We had champagne once a year, if you remember. There have been no anniversaries since then-in that, at least, I am faithful to you.
I've not been so faithful to myself. I've gotten rather fat lately. The regimen of exercise we prescribed to ourselves has slipped. No more jogs through the cold, cold mornings. I miss them, in a way. I miss the way there wasn't a car in sight as we jogged through the redwood forests. I miss the uphills and downhills, the cramps I invariably got in my sides at about the halfway mark, by that little gas station that sold beef jerky and crafts, the one that you would almost miss through all the trees if you were driving.
But even though I miss it, I have had no desire to go jogging again. Oregon hasn't been worth seeing without you.
I've been eating a lot, too, which is another reason I've gotten fat. I've been eating poorly. Remember how well we used to work together in the kitchen? You learned to cook from your father, and I learned to cook from my mother, and while we could never agree on which amount of what went in where, somehow we managed to make everything work out all right. I remember your smile, that impish grin you would flash me when I asked for an ingredient and you would chuck it at my head.
Like the onion. You recall that one time, when I needed the onion and you pitched it at me, not realizing that I wasn't looking, and it hit the glass cupboard door, and all the shards of glass fell down into the meat. All I knew was there was this loud noise and glass raining down all over me, so I screamed out loud and backed up against the island, covering my head with my hands.
Oh, I was angry with you at first, but you were laughing and laughing, and your smile made it funny for me, too, even though my ear was cut, and soon I was laughing with you.
Whenever I've tried to cook, I remember the onion. I look at the cabinets and remember how we replaced all the glass doors with solid wooden ones so that you could throw all the onions you wanted. And then I can't cook; I can't focus.
Your friends bring me food once in a while, but mostly I end up going into Silverton and grabbing a bite to eat at McDonald's or whatever. I've had to get new clothes since I don't fit my old ones anymore, and I'm afraid that my latest selections lack your impeccable taste.
It's strange. When I try and picture myself, I remember how I used to look, when I was still thin and lanky. You're always in the picture somewhere.
But you, you were always thin, always healthy, always radiant. It didn't help you. The tree fell on you the same as it would if you were as fat and lazy as I am now. It wasn't supposed to be that way. We were supposed to die very old, within days of each other. We were supposed to be there for each other, through every storm, through every problem, through every time of trouble.
But we walked right beneath the one tree in the whole forest that was rotting, that couldn't stand up under the weight of the snow. It missed me and took you. I can only hope that you died right away.
You could have taken a while, I suppose. I don't like to think about it. You could have frozen to death, slowly, bit by bit, helpless while I scrabbled at the snow around you, trying to free you from underneath the tree-trying at least to find you. I dug until my hands were numb, all the while calling for help, but you were lost beneath the snow and leaves and tree, and I was too stupid to go get help.
And when help did finally come, when they were lifting the tree off of you with that huge crane thing, for a few moments I had hope that maybe the tree had missed you, that maybe it was only my imagination that had seen you crushed beneath it in a flurry of leaves and snow, that maybe you had just dodged to the other side and were for some reason hiding from me in panic or in some sort of cruel practical joke.
I hoped, and I felt that hope crumple up inside me when I saw your body in the snow beneath the tree. It was twisted a little funny, and your face was all pale and blue from the cold, and there was blood at the corners of your mouth.
I remember falling, and I remember feeling the pain of cold snow against my face for what felt like a long, long, time.
They tell me I was lying in the snow for a quite a while before they noticed. My eyes were open, but I wasn't really responding to anything. I just sort of lay there and stared at the snow. I wasn't unconscious, I just didn't have any desire to stand up, to move, to do anything.
And as I lay there, I kept thinking that it was the snow that killed you. It weighted down the tree that crushed you, and if that hadn't been enough, it would have frozen you to death while I struggled to get you out. I hated it. I hated its innocent-seeming blanketing of the ground and trees, I hated its numbing cold, and most of all, I hated its maddening whiteness. White is a horrible color. It implies infinity, eternity; it taunts those of us who are mortal and must die.
I hated it.
It stole you from me.
They finally noticed me lying there in the snow, feeling empty and horribly alone, and they bundled me up and muttered kind things in my ear and took me back to my kitchen and gave me a bowl of soup which I didn't eat. I sat there in the chair and looked at the soup and looked back out the window at the snow and didn't say anything. Eventually, they all left.
Time has just passed since then. I'm recovering, slowly. I go out with a few of my old friends now and again. We go down to the driving range and practice for warm weather. I see movies now and again, and sometimes we go to the old amphitheatre past Beechwood and listen to the quartet.
You loved going there.
Sometimes if I go and I focus on the music, I can forget that you're not at my side, that you're not next to me, leaning back with your eyes closed and that odd little smile you used to get when you really fell into music.
That's what you called it. Falling into music. You said you just let it pick you up and carry you all around wherever it wanted. I could never get into music the way you could. Sometimes I really try, because I hope that I might find you there.
How strange. I'm always trying to find you in new places, but I see you everywhere. Sometimes I lay awake at night, and for a moment, I think I can hear you breathing next to me. Remember that loud snore you used to have? How it used to drive me crazy, and I would go to sleep on the couch?
I mean, that snore really drove me nuts. I should have recorded it some night so you could hear it for yourself. A loud, prolonged snort accompanied by this wheezy whistle as you breathed in, then nothing as you breathed back out, then the snort would come back. And I swear, the longer you slept, the louder and more complicated the snore got. It would develop all these little patterns and extra sounds added in: slurps, whines, maybe a little hiss as you pulled in extra breath through your mouth.
In some ways, it was so funny that someone who was always as feminine and polite as you were could make a sound that made me want to drive an ice pick through my head. What's even funnier is that I'd give anything just for that snore, just to know that when I was lying there in a bed that's suddenly way too big for me, you were there, rumbling your way through the night. If I could have only that snore, and none of the rest of you, I'd give up everything I have.
I look around the bedroom here, and everything has your touch. There's the polished wooden music box on the dresser that you found in an old antique shop, the mirror that your mother gave us, and the silly little orange plastic sock rings that neither one of us would ever remember to use. Even the tree I can see outside my window was planted by you.
We never planned for this. We never thought we wouldn't be here for each other. It was supposed to happen like in the movies. Once we were together, time was just supposed to slip away. Now it doesn't pass at all.
My life has been like a dream, with no focus, no plot, no consistency.
But my dreams have been strange lately, too.
In fact, that's why I'm writing to you. I guess that on some level, I believe that you're still around-that you have some peculiar way of reading what I'm putting down on this old typewriter. If I write it, then maybe you'll know it. And maybe someday I'll have forgotten all of this, and I'll be able to remember, and this letter will help me, too.
After you left me, and I spent all that time, however long it was, with my face pressed into the snow, my dreams changed.
I didn't sleep much that first night, but when I did, I had a very notable dream. It wasn't vivid; contrariwise, it was notable for its lack of vividness. I dreamt that I was walking across an open plain, totally flat. There was grass that came up to mid-thigh level, and nothing else. Just the sun and the sky and the grass and me. I could feel your hand in mine, but I couldn't see you. As we walked toward the horizon, I felt your hand fade out of mine. It just sort of slipped away into nothingness. I vaguely remember running around, searching for you in the tall grasses.
I couldn't find you. I felt all panicky.
Then I looked up toward the horizon, and all the colors began to fade. The yellow-green of the grass, the blue of the sky, the reddish color of my skin, they all grew whiter and whiter and whiter until there was no color left in anything. It was all blinding white, like the entire landscape had been fashioned out of bleached construction paper. There was no black, no shades of grey, just white and shadow.
Then it began to snow.
I was terrified. I can't explain it, I can't determine a reason for my terror, but as the white closed in around me, I felt something akin to agoraphobia, a fear of chaos closing in on me. I knew, somewhere deep inside myself, that I had lost you forever. I feared to find you in the grasses. I didn't want to see you lying there with all the color drained from you, with your raven hair robbed of its rich beauty, your rich brown eyes pale and blank, your tan skin devoid of life.
The color vampires sucking you dry.
Dreams are supposed to end once your terror is realized, but this one did not. It lasted all through the night and into the morning, an endless sensation of me sitting in an artificial field of grass awash with terror and loneliness.
The following night, I dreamed again, and the night thereafter.
I was always in the same field, the bleak landscape as pale as death. Eventually, I got up and started walking. For several nights, it was all I did, walking through the pallid prairie, forcing myself through the fear and the snow, never knowing if I was getting anywhere.
After the sixth night, the edge of the prairie revealed itself. There were mountains, and a town, but these, sadly, were just as colorless as everything else. I walked through the town and saw people, people who walked about, seemingly innocent of the fact that they were prime potential for a child's coloring book.
I saw art galleries that were filled with totally blank paintings, paintings that had been rendered in no other color but white. I saw dry cleaners removing imagined stains. I saw products in the store that advertised natural and artificial colors. I even saw a box of crayons with sixty-four white pieces of wax.
No one seemed to notice. They painted their houses and washed invisible dirt from their cars and dyed their hair and carefully matched their clothing, even though nothing goes well with white. I approached them on the streets and asked them about the colors. They responded with confusion. I shouted at them, I screamed at them, I ranted and argued, it did no good. They treated me as if I were insane.
When I awoke, I feared dreaming again. But every night it was the same. I was caught in a bloodless world, where the color vampires lurked around the edges of my vision, in every shadow and every hidey-hole, protecting their precious variety from my maddened eyes.
One night as I dreamed, I wandered into a piano lounge and cringed at the noise. The piano player was playing all the same notes. Even music had lost its own sense of color. His fingers were hitting different keys, but each key produced the same flat monotonous sound, and the pianist was seemingly oblivious to all this! In frustration, I pushed him away and pulled up the top of the piano, certain that all the strings were the same length.
They were not. It looked just like an ordinary piano. I hit different keys, and the mallets hit different strings, but each one sounded the same tone. This was intolerable! I slammed the top of the piano shut and ran from the lounge before they could oust me.
I soon found a radio in an open car, and turned it on. I switched from station to station, but found that on every channel, the singers spoke the lyrics of the songs instead of singing them. There was no music!
And every single night, I found myself trekking this empty nightmare.
Then one night, a few days ago, something changed. You entered my dreams again.
I sat in despair on the hood of a white truck, staring at a white sky, and suddenly I saw you in the grasses. There was something rare and unusual about you as you walked toward me, becoming larger and larger. Your hair was black and your eyes were brown. Your blouse was a pink color, your jeans were blue. Faded, but oh-so-precious blue.
I remember running toward you.
And I remember, to my shame, that the sight of color was even more important to me than the sight of you. I was glad to see you, but the relief of seeing reds and golds and navy blues in such an empty world was like finding an island of sanity.
In my dreams, you held me in your arms, and I pulled you close and ran my fingers through your hair. You were real to me, far realer than my waking world, realer even than myself. I could feel your warmth against me, your breath on my neck, your breasts pressed against my chest.
I kissed your lips, your red lips, and they were warm and wet.
I begged you to sing for me, and you did until my sun came up.
The following night, you were there again, and we went out to dinner, and spoke of the past, and dreamt of the future. You were always so sad when you looked at me, though, and I could never understand why.
You would look into my eyes, and your eyes (beautiful chocolate brown) would fill with grief.
Why would you be sad when you looked at me? Didn't I bring you joy, didn't I make you happy, I wondered.
You certainly made me happy. In so many ways it was like you were alive again. I didn't want to be awake anymore; when I slept, I was with you. It was the only time that mattered to me. You were the only world that mattered.
In my waking world, mail began piling up next to the door, on that little green wooden stand we always put it on, and the dishes began to accumulate in the kitchen. I ran out of clean clothes, but I didn't care. In our world, everything was perfect. You were with me, and there we were happy. I never needed to wash my clothes, because there were no scents at all in the world, and no colors to betray their dirtiness. I didn't even know if they got dirty.
My waking hours made me yearn for sleep. I considered taking soporifics to help me to sleep longer, but decided against it when I learned that they could suppress dreaming. I never wanted to shut you out.
No matter if all the world was white; it had always paled next to you anyway. No matter if you had that sad look in your eyes when you regarded me; there was joy present as well. We were together, and I didn't want to jeopardize that.
And dearest Janet, please forgive me for what I write next. Perhaps you already know it. Perhaps your presence in my dreams was far more than dreaming. Maybe you really were there, peeking into my mind and embracing my thoughts.
Nevertheless, I am ashamed to tell you that I decided upon suicide. To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance, to dream. Ay, there's the rub. Were I dead, I could join you forever, go where you'd gone, and if not, then I could dream about you forever. And if neither of these happened, I would be able to simply forget everything-to just stop existing, and therefore stop feeling the pain of having lost you.
It would be so simple. I had the soporifics. A few dozen of them would take care of me for good. Thank goodness I decided on one last dream.
After I fell asleep that night, the dream was much different. The first thing that I noticed was that everything was in color, and far more so than normal. The colors were exaggerated. Scarlet blazed red and crimson; yellow shone with impossibly golden hues; blue was deeper than any ocean you have ever seen, more atmospheric than any sky. It was as if all the colors had come back in full force, determined to make up for their absence.
For a while, I stared joyfully, forgetting to look for you, marveling in the life that had been breathed into the universe. Then I remembered you, and looked about. I couldn't see you. Before, it had been easy. You were the only vibrant thing in a washed-out world. Now, I was almost overwhelmed with the reality of everything.
In our dreams, we had often met at a white café in a white town square, and I duly headed there. Immediately as I walked, I felt strange sensations. My walk was set oddly, the balance different. As I passed by a store window, I saw the reason for the odd sensations.
I was you! Your long hair hung down around my shoulders. Your slender hands terminated the ends of my wrists. It was balancing on your feminine legs that gave me the funny walk, the weight of your breasts on my chest that caused the slight but noticeable change in balance.
I was seeing the world in color because I was seeing it through your eyes. The problem wasn't with the dreams. It was with me.
I walked toward the café, feeling uncomfortable, wondering where you were when I was here. Something about it all was reassuring though, as if your presence lingered just about my ears.
As I drew near, I saw myself sitting half-slumped in a chair. I hardly recognized myself. I had a greasy, scruffy beard that was tangled and untrimmed, with food indelicately caught in its strands. My clothes were filthy, covered with stains and reeking of odors, and they were filled out by my now grossly overweight body. My face itself was sunken and hollow, creased with grief.
I didn't understand how you could see past all that, but I never really understood the sorrow I had previously seen in your eyes until my other self raised his head. Through your eyes, I saw my eyes.
It was they, it was my own eyes that were colorless. The irises and pupils were completely drained of their blue and black. They were white and empty, as empty as the world I had dreamt of every night previously. The joy and life was gone from them.
Then the other me turned his eyes to look into yours.
I looked into those eyes again, and do you know what I saw, my dear, sweet Janet? I saw your reflection in his eyes. I saw him regard you, and your image was vibrant and colored and full of life. I saw your love for me reflected in his eyes, I saw all the colors of the world.
There was a trick to viewing the world. It was not to see the loss of you in everything, but rather to see how you were still with me, to see those little bits of you in everything and know that you were still with me.
Don't worry, my love. The sleeping pills are gone down the drain. I won't need them any longer. I don't need to dream of you to be with you, because everything that you were is still here with me.
I see our wooden cabinets in the kitchen, and I no longer think, "Those remind me that I am without her." Now I think, "Without her, I would never have had those cabinets." I don't mean that in a selfish or materialistic way. I just mean that you have left me all these beautiful reminders of who you are-in a way, you have left part of yourself behind to stay with me, both in our homes, and in our friends, and in what you made of me. And I had thrown it all out.
How foolish I have been, how painfully idiotic to draw away from everything that reminds me of you. You were my joy in life, Janet, and you still are. Someday I will learn to find joy in myself again, to see what I saw and loved in you in other people, and love them for themselves. For now, I love myself for who you helped me to be, for who you made me.
I'm going to cook tonight, not because it reminds me of you, but because you remind me of cooking. I will see you in all my world, in every object, in every person, in every reflection. And slowly, the colors will bleed back in of their own accord.
With love, your husband,
P.S. Today, I went down to the amphitheatre to hear the quartet play. They played beautifully. I fell right in.
To Dream in Color copyright 2000 by Jason The Skunk.
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