Wednesday 7 October 2009

This was how his dreams fell apart.

I wrote that last night just before I climbed up to bed.

Like most nights, for a few lucid minutes ideas about the coming chapter twined themselves up with a plan of attack for a programming problem I’m having at work. Then I fell limp, suddenly exhausted. And still I slept awfully. 

I must have looked at the blurry digits of my alarm clock dozens of times. I saw every hour more than once. I’m not sure I ever truly slept.

I must have scratched myself taking out my contact lens, or so I tell myself, because my right eye wept all through the night. Now it’s dry and aching.

And oh. Saeward was there.

Gradually I realized he was lying beside me, and when I rolled over he was on that side too.

When we met I was a whore in a brothel. He showed up with his men, but not to arrest us all, as we feared at first. He picked me out from across the room. He payed a lot of money – I think so I wouldn’t ask questions. But he told me his name was Shimon.

He sat and watched me undress. He made me come closer so he could touch my skin. I didn’t think he had done this often – he still seemed to see something sacred in my body. And then he put out the lamp and pulled me onto the bed in the dark. I thought I should lie very still, but it was not what he wanted. He told me he wanted me to be alive. By that time he was on the left of me, on the right of me, on top of me, inside of me, and I was crying out of one eye.

We went all over the world together, all over time. We got drunk together on something divinely delicious, something deceptively intoxicating, but when we went to buy more, they had never heard of such a thing.

We went to an empty elementary school and sat on such tiny chairs that our chins practically rested on our knees, and we read picture books together, lamenting that they were not the books we remembered.

We hid in a darkened gallery and watched other people dancing below – some tinkling Eighteenth Century white-​​wigged, hoop-​​skirted thing. We held hands and conversed in French, never looking at one another, always addressing one another as vous. He speaks French tolerably well. He said he spent his early childhood in Rouen.

He was a friend, a lover, a husband, a mysterious stranger; he was sometimes medieval and sometimes modern-​​day; but he was always the same man with the stiff popsicle-​​shaped beard that flexed against my collarbone when he hugged me; and the same sea-​​blue eyes that froze me solid with scorn when he lifted his head, and that melted my heart when he peered up at me through his hair like a hungry child.

By morning he was my long-​​ago ex-​​boyfriend, and out of the blue he sent me a birthday card. I called his number just to hear it ring – just to know that I could make a sound in his world. 

And he answered. I heard his voice and I thought I was going to die.

“It’s me,” I said. “Thank you.”

I think he replied, but by then my dreams were falling apart like his: a snap, and beads scattering…

I wanted him back terribly – terribly, not “very much” terribly, but terribly in the real sense of the word, with its roots in terror. I was losing him and I needed him back. I was sitting up, and my eye was burning, and I didn’t know who I was – was I him? Was he the man I could hear making coffee in the other room? Had I loved him once? The cheesy Francophone classic pop station on my alarm clock was inexplicably playing something that was all violins, and for the first time I didn’t want to slam it off. The night was over, and he was gone.

I’m exhausted now. I feel ridden. I have never had a character reveal himself to me like that: sweep me up like that and race me through dream after dream after dream – manifest himself against my body in the dark as weight and heat and sweat, for even now I would almost swear he did.

Almost four years I have abided with Egelric, and at times I have almost thought he was me, and yet I do not know him half so well. Here is this character whose very name is Mysterious, and yet after one night with him I feel like I finally understand what GMH meant by inscape and instress, and what people must feel when they believe they have caught a glimpse of God: something so vast that perceiving even a part of it will fill your world from horizon to horizon. 

I was inhabited. I was possessed. Holy God, this being was inside of me, blowing through every crack and crevice of my psyche, banging the shutters and rattling the panes – and he told me: “I want you to be alive.” And the whole time I was weeping with one eye.

What am I supposed to do now? Most people, I suppose, would go on and gradually forget, but I have a magical power: I am a writer. I can keep him alive. But how can I ever tamp such a character down small enough to be wedged into my little story?

I sat down to write this blog post because I was hoping it would help me see him in two pixellated dimensions again – to exorcise the demon he had become in a night. But I’m not sure it has helped.

And if I simply shave off a few flakes of Saeward/​Shimon and sprinkle them into Lothere and keep on going, what shall I do with the rest of this ghost?

Is this how books are born? I think he wants to be alive.

This is how dreams come alive.