People often comment that they can’t believe all the details I remember from my dreams. Memory is like everything else. If you exercise it, it gets stronger. It helps to write things down while they are still fresh in my mind. But the truth is there is still plenty I don’t remember.
Some dreams present interesting challenges trying to make any sense of them. It’s probably going to be a while before I forget astrology-online.com while I say this, but I like challenges. I do. And I love writing challenges!
The kind of dream I mean might be that one that is just little flits of thought here and there, coming into focus in spots. It might be of things related to what I’m doing in my waking life that don’t seem to tie together in any kind of story. It might just be the one that gets interrupted by the sound of an alarm, of running water, or a street sweeper, or even by the sudden realization I am not alone in bed. Sometimes there is just nothing I can do with it. Nothing inspires me to make sense out of it. It’s just stuff. The challenge is as much my own as the dream is of course, to make a story out of that dream anyway.
I dreamed about an extremely old man. I felt for him some. One hundred thirteen is really freaking old! Isn’t it? I Googled “world’s oldest man” and found that only two men on record surpassed that age. One of those was disputed. A number of women have lived to be older, and that reminded me of a video I was shown a couple of months ago, one that was a lot funnier maybe than I wanted it to be. I’ll share it for you here. It talked about how women always outlive their husbands. Now, I don’t know if this man in my dream was married or not, but I’m confident his obituary would make no mention of a surviving wife.
Before I get any further… This is the second old age dream I’ve had in a week, and of course the first one was about me, so it’s a little disconcerting. I, Anne Schilde, do hereby place my official order for more party dreams and less old age dreams! But I didn’t start writing this to complain about the content of a dream here or there. I started this because I love a writing challenge…
Walter Abercrombie settled into his chair, gazing at me from under billowing white eyebrows as he seated himself. Some of us tweeze down to perfect tiny lines. Others are half-blinded by bales of cotton clinging to our foreheads. That latter was Walter. I turned to look out the window. If I kept looking at him I was going to be staring impolitely at that brow.
My car was parked conspicuously away from the curb. I had given up on it. I always give up. Jessi laughed at me the last time I tried to park there. Who really cares at the end of a dead end street? A bus turned onto the street up at the intersection. It would have been so much easier on the bus drivers if the city planners had just not ended the street there, and so much easier on me trying to park for a cup of coffee. I looked back down at my caramel macchiato and sipped at it thoughtfully. I was there because Walter was inviting me to join him in a celebration as his special guest.
“I couldn’t have done it without you, Annie.” Walter’s voice interrupted my thoughts. It was remarkably smooth for a man of his age.
“I don’t see how I helped,” I said, looking back at him again. I wanted to shave those eyebrows.
“You taught me to think differently!” he said emphatically.
Walter was a hundred thirteen years old. The idea that I could somehow have helped him think anything he hadn’t already thought seemed very improbable to me. “What could I possibly have done?”
Walter studied my eyes as if something was going to emerge from them. “Why, you told me that I could do it.”
Sure, I said something like that. He was giving up before he even started and that didn’t make any sense to me. He had been a swimmer all his life and he had a dream. People should try for their dreams. Now he had just completed a world record swim from east Brazil to the south of Ghana, a distance of over four thousand kilometers across the Atlantic ocean. Guinness was holding a ceremony to officially add two world records in his name. The second record was for being the oldest person ever to set a world record that had nothing to do with age.
“There wasn’t anything special about what I said,” I told him. “I just said you could.”
He shook his head. “That’s just it, Annie. When you believed in me, you made me believe in myself.”
I didn’t remember believing he could do it. I actually thought he might die trying, but it just seemed to me that at his age, what else did he have to live for anyway? I sipped at my coffee again. “It’s nice that you invited me,” I said.
A daydream washed across Walter’s face. I wondered aloud what he was going to do next.
“Why, now I can die,” he answered me.
“You make that sound more pleasant than I would expect,” I said. “If you could make it ten more years, you’d be in Guinness again.”
The daydream passed away and his face looked suddenly exhausted as if he’d just swum the ocean again. “I don’t want to make it ten more years. How is your writing coming?” he changed the subject.
“I spoke with my editor finally,” I said, always happy to talk about my writing. “She’s working on Webster’s Kiss now. I started writing stuff on a public page on Facebook while I wait. I’m even writing a piece now about you and your amazing record!” Walter’s look suggested he might not know what Facebook was. “Stephen King himself even ‘Liked’ my page today,” I went on anyway, explaining that it was a little like a blog and then explaining what a blog was.
He was proud of me and how hard I was working. “It seems a shame to work so hard just to give your writing away for free,” he said.
“Everybody does that these days,” I explained. “I’m giving away the small free writing samples, so people will be interested in my novel. Besides, it’s fun to write them.”
We finished our chat as I finished my coffee. I wiped our table down with a napkin, one of the O.C. habits I have, and then we left and I drove us to the Bankwood Auditorium where the ceremony was to be held. The gate attendant didn’t believe we were celebrants. Walter had misplaced his pass and so we stood beside the line at the gate for some time while we waited for one of the event officials to come verify our status. I guess a wizened old man and a young girl just didn’t strike the attendant as world record holders in anything.
One man caught my attention while we waited. He was selecting certain people out as they approached the line. He walked up to them and spoke quietly to them pointing to something in the air over my head. I looked up but I didn’t see anything up there at all. Each person in turn shook their heads while they talked to him and pointed in the air in nearly the opposite direction. Eventually, a police officer confronted him for what he considered suspicious behavior.
It seemed to me that there was nothing suspicious about the man at all. He was warm and courteous and none of the people he spoke to were offended in any way. I was incensed. I believed the officer had singled the man out for no other reason than the color of his skin. The official finally appeared and vouched for us. They let us in and I watched angrily over my shoulder as the officer escorted the man away from crowd, holding him by his arm like a schoolboy on his way to the principal’s office.
The ceremony was boring really. Some of the records were interesting. There were some demonstrations and displays and a man who performed a stunt on stage, but throughout, I just wanted to see Walter get his moment. It seemed like forever. He was their main attraction so he was scheduled to be honored last. Finally, the torture ended and they announced his name.
I watched him in admiration as he stepped up the stairs to the thunderous applause. This man had spent more than three straight months swimming, at a hundred thirteen years old! He deserved this recognition. He walked up the steps and out onto the stage where he stopped and adjusted the microphone. A century of wisdom was going to make this a treat like no other, and I was sure he would mention my name. I couldn’t wait. His hand clutched the stand tightly, he smiled, and then he collapsed on the stage, the microphone amplifying the sounds of his death as it crashed to the stage with him.
The audience gasped in shock. The emcee raced back onto the stage to attend him, called for an ambulance, and a terrible commotion ensued. I ignored the tears as I remembered what he had said about not wanting to live ten more years. Walter Abercrombie wanted to die. His life was complete. I was all he had. He was alone in a world where everyone he had known and loved had been gone for years. He’d swum the Atlantic ocean and he was done. “You can do it, Walter,” I said quietly to myself.
© 2010 Anne Schilde
Alan King’s comedy does NOT belong to me!