Like most things beyond our grasp, she came to me in a dream. I am, however, inclined to question whether it was a dream at all, so vivid were its colours and so real the emotions which it stirred within me. I write this now as I take my breakfast in the den, my wife hovering nearby, asking and asking me whether I shall be late for work.
At present she’s advising me on the Tube and how busy it will be – as if she’s ever taken the Tube anywhere in her life. There is a strange satisfaction, knowing what happened in my dream. It is almost like another life, a secret affair. I’m trying now to hide the warm feeling in my stomach and stop it spreading to my face. Happiness is not permitted by my wife, at least, not my own happiness. It’s a direct affront to her own misery, or faux misery, as is realistically the case.
Anyway, never mind my wife. I’ve wasted enough time writing about her. Now I shall lay down the contents of my dream so that if it is to be the only time I encounter her, I will always have this record. To begin with, we (and I’m not sure who ‘we’ were, except myself and another man) were flying in some sort of bomber plane over Europe. The historical setting was decidedly WW2, as I was able to deduce from our outfits. We were on a mission, about to release our cargo over the enemy below.
Suddenly, the other man, twirling his moustaches, informed me that the target had changed. We were now about to land at home, where our assumed allies were waiting to ambush us as soon as we stepped off the plane.
Naturally, this would not do. I was sent scurrying into the bowels of the plane to find suitable weaponry, which I was able to do in the form of a collection of Thompson submachine guns, Sten guns and assorted pistols.
Here the dream became even more peculiar. I brought the weapons back into the large cockpit and was instructed to dump them on some sort of ‘dashboard’ as though the plane was in fact a car. We were swooping in low over our betrayers now and through large windows we could see our target. As the engines roared in our ears the moustachioed man shouted, “Give them hell!” and started shooting through the window with a Sten gun.
As the glass whirled around us I reached for my own weapon, only to find that all of the guns had turned into toys and I was helpless to do anything but watch as the plane crashed into the ground.
Now, all of this was of no real consequence, and probably resulted from the film I saw just before bed. The real excitement came when I seemed to wake up after the plane crash. I found myself in a bed I had not slept in for years, some relic of a forgotten student house. My body too was younger, but I was not sure how young, certainly not older than twenty.
I lay for a moment, unsure what I was doing or where I was, when a shape appeared beside me in the bed. It was the loveliest shape I’ve ever seen, with long, narrow legs leading forever upwards to the smallest of black cocktail dresses. Long, narrow arms like the branches of a willow stretched from the dress and the face of an angel smiled at me from beneath golden hair. It was love at first sight.
I was unable to speak. Something told me she was some figure of authority, and so I waited for her to break the silence, which she did with a smile.
“Ah, you are awake.”
The accent was of some Eastern-European origin. Soviet Union, if we’re staying with the war theme. She was lovely. Her voice was lovely and if I had been awake I would have been sure I was dreaming.
I said something then, but was unable to hear my voice.
The girl smiled. It was the sort of smile that sets your heart on fire. I could feel my body regenerating already.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“But you already know,” she answered in her perfect voice, causing my heart to fall into my stomach and fireworks to explode in my mind.
The girl rose to leave, smoothing the dress around her thighs.
“Don’t,” I said.
She smiled. “I’ll see you soon, you know that.”
I pulled her down beside me but she resisted my attempts to bring her closer to me.
“A kiss before you leave?” I asked.
She shook her head as if full of mischief. Her hand slipped beneath the sheets and a finger ran along my testicles and then she jumped up and was gone.
As you can imagine, when I woke beside my wife it was with great disappointment. I had a feeling like a great wave of despair had suddenly washed me below the surface, and I became aware for the first time in my life that I had been treading water the whole time and was yet to start swimming.
Now, as the children scream and my wife scolds them, I shall finish this entry and head for the safety of the Tube tunnels.
Awoke in a foul mood today. Awful day at work yesterday, Joseph has become section manager. Of all the outrageous nonsense… Came home to the wife telling me we need a new car, and with what money? Sleep was no release. No sign of my Eastern beauty, instead I dreamed of cars and disciplinaries and have woken up feeling worse than ever.
She returns! The literal woman of my dreams. I can still smell her. She smells of cake. Pink cake with icing and ribbons and all that sort of thing. I sit here writing and breathe her in deeply. She has travelled from my dreams to sit beside me at breakfast and every word my wife says falls on deaf ears.
I awoke last night in a different bed again; this time in a garden of pink roses with my angel there in a glowing white dress, leading me through the foliage. We climbed a grassy hill and at the top saw the sea stretching for miles in the moonlight, silver ripples on the water. My angel told me her name and where she came from and we talked for an eternity. I remember nothing of what we said but at the same time I’m certain that I know everything there is to know about her, and she about me. Without even speaking we had forged a connection a thousand times more powerful than all the words ever exchanged between myself and my wife.
Finally, after hours of talking, the dreamlike apparition slid her dress over her shoulders and revealed beneath…It’s too much to write down. I’m afraid that I cannot capture the pure ecstasy fully enough. I am afraid I shall lose details and damage the memory in my fumbled attempt at writing,, so for now the event remains (constantly) within my mind.
The love of my life evades me! For a whole week now I have not dreamt of her. I have even begun to follow the same routine each night before I go to sleep. I eat the same meal, do the same exercises, even re-watch the same war film that I viewed on that first night. My wife thinks I am going insane. Of course I have not told her the reason for this routine, this religious preparation for the nightly raptures that increasingly evade me.
These night-time excursions have become more real to me than my day life. ‘Day life’ is what I call it now. This endless job and this nagging wife whose only achievement in life has been to grow into a cliché now feel more like a dream to me. My children – spoilt, fat little brats whom I hardly know. I spend my days working for them, and for nothing. No gratitude, not from them nor my bosses. I’m continually overlooked, undervalued and underused. It is as though I exist as a pillar to prop up the lives of those around me. They rest atop me like smug busts without any concept of how the plinth supports them beneath.
Tonight it happened! I’m writing this by candlelight in the bathroom, for fear of discovery… Not thirty minutes ago, my angel appeared to me again, out of the darkness.
She took my head in her hands and she said, “Don’t worry my dear…don’t worry. Soon we can be together always.”
She told me how to do it and I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before. I can barely contain my excitement.
I write this from the breakfast table. I have not slept! All
night I lay awake in bed beside my wife, thinking how much I hate that woman. My angel appeared beside me when I closed my eyes and I wrapped my arm around her neck. Tonight we shall be together forever and there will be nothing to stop me from finally achieving happiness.
I could barely contain myself at work. All day long I had a barely suppressible smile on my lips, one that was the envy of all my co-workers. All day long I caught them glancing at me as though wondering what was going on in my mind. As if they were baffled that someone should be happy! Well, happy I am. I even helped an old lady on to the Tube and nothing my wife had said has been able to dint my elation.
There was a bit of trouble on the way home, I had to stop by four different pharmacies to get the required amount. I thought briefly about leaving a note, but then, it’s not really a suicide if your life is about to begin, is it? A note would be good though, I could comment on the irony of having to sleep to be fully awake. It would probably be lost on my wife.
No, no note.
It doesn’t feel how I had envisioned it would. I feel a bit lightheaded, woozy. Things are funny that wouldn’t normally be. I’m watching the war film again. There are two packets left. I’ll get through them before she gets back with the children. Then I think I’ll go up to bed and have a nice lie down. Yes, that’ll be nice.
She didn’t see the diary when she came in, somehow he had knocked it under the bed and there it remained. What she did see were the empty packets of sleeping tablets on the kitchen counter and the empty bottle of scotch beside them.
“Wait outside,” she told the children and when they protested she poked the nearest one in the forehead. “Do as I say.”
She walked into the dark house. It didn’t seem right to turn the lights on. What had that bastard done now? That selfish, selfish bastard. How were they going to pay the mortgage now, with him gone? The children would have to move school, they couldn’t afford that now. Her brother would have to help them out again.
She found him in the bedroom, sprawled across the bed like a starfish. Selfish bastard. She kicked him in the stomach and his body wobbled. A faint murmur escaped his lips and she knew he was still there.
He came round with a smile, muttering under his breath, she noted in disgust. She’d had to sit there for two days while he slept. All the engagements she’d missed…
Then he came to, fully awake. He looked startled, glancing from one side to another, not recognising the hospital room.
“I hope you’re ashamed of yourself,” she said.
He seemed too preoccupied to notice her. She poked him in the ribs and he winced with pain.
He had failed. There was no way out. “Yes dear, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. Are the children here?”
“Yes,” she said.
Perhaps after all…
“They’ve been worried sick, waiting for days. Oh, the
things we’ve had to re-arrange because of you. The trouble you’ve caused…”
“They can’t see me like this, the children,” he said, sitting up and pulling the bedclothes to his chest. “Will you give me a minute alone, to get ready for them?”
“Yes, you’d better sort yourself out,” she said, narrowing her eyes.
“I think I’ll have a shave,” he said, scratching his chin. “Could you pass me my razor, dear?”
She threw across the wash bag she’d hastily packed for him while they waited for the ambulance. “Find it yourself.”
She stormed out of the room.
“See you later then, dear,” he said to himself. Then, “See you soon, my love.”
Tom Ward is a British author and journalist. His first novel A DEPARTURE was shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize and his writing has also won the GQ Norman Mailer award. He writes journalism for Esquire, GQ, Men’s Health and more. His short story collection, DEAD DOGS & SPLINTERED HEARTS, is available here: https://www.amazon.co.