by Laura M
About a man who meets people in his dreams before meeting them.
|A light emerged from beneath the white curtain, blinding Lenny's vision momentarily. Lenny instinctively cast his hand above his forehead and looked straight ahead. “Can’t you feel it Lenny? The energy in this place, it reminds me of something.” She walked across the room and opened the drape. The light now fully engorged the previously dark room. “Déjà vu?” Lenny asked simply. “It reminds of a life I never had.” With these words, Sally slumped down in the couch next to Lenny.
He woke up abruptly to the familiar ring of his old radio alarm clock once more. As usual, he was forced to abandon his dream world for real life. 7 A.M. Another day of pitiful existence in the life of Leonard Brooks. He ran to the bathroom, splashed his face with water and threw on a pair of brown pants. Ten minutes later he left the house, and off he went, into the cold, hard streets of New York City.
As he walked towards the subway stop, he ran into her. Sally. He knew everything about her, but to her he was a complete stranger. He hesitated at first, but his body reacted without his consent as he slipped over a piece of ice and the papers he held went flying. Sally rushed over and helped him gather the slightly soaked papers. "Thanks. I'm uh, Lenny" he stammered with his bare hands resting on the icy ground. However, she smiled warmly as one of her leather-clad hands sprung out to form a handshake. “I’m Sally”.
The outgoing and smooth talking persona that he emulated in his dreams was not the same Lenny that roamed the streets of New York. Lenny had an unfortunate gift, one that made him anticipate the moment when his head would finally hit the pillow at night. He led an ironic life—in his sleep, he lived, but in his waking hours, he merely existed. In reality he was shy and awkward—a true loner who did not care for relationships in general. His mysterious dreams gave Lenny more than a preview of people he would meet. In these, he got to know a person completely. Throughout his life, the unusual “gift” had saved him many hours of struggling with pointless small talk with trivial people. He knew who mattered, and disregarded the rest. But sometimes these vivid dreams had bitter consequences, as it was often the case that people did not measure up.
The strong, summer sun cast a reflection on the now warm lake as young ducks dove into the water, trying to cool off. Lenny gently tossed a pebble into the flat water. It skipped twice before gracefully falling in. “Your turn,” he said. Sally clumsily tossed her pebble, producing a large splash which scared the ducks away. “I suppose it all changed when I started thinking about the future,” she claimed, returning to the conversation they were having earlier. “Why is that?” Lenny egged her on, slightly amused. “You stop living and start anticipating,” She stated, “it happens with the past as well. People start thinking about the past too much and they start living in the past. You can’t live two lives at once.”
The red fiery sun dipped below the horizon. The night got cooler, but the summer breeze kept them warm. “So when do you live?” Lenny said, playfully challenging her theory. Sally tugged at her auburn curls and looked down at the grass between her legs. “Whenever I was happy, that’s where.” She finally answered. “The past,” Lenny said. “The past.” she answered quietly.
Lenny was relieved when Sally started talking. However, the trivial small talk was overshadowed by his knowledge of her most intimate secrets; her greatest dislikes and her true dreams—all the small details, everything that mattered, he had learned in his sleep. "I'm a lawyer. I went to Georgetown." Lenny instantly recognized the superficial nature of her answers; a bleak attempt to portray herself as the typical independent and successful woman. In reality, Sally was a frustrated artist. A frustrated bohemian of sorts, clad in a serious navy suit against her will. She had dreamed about acting school, but her father had incessantly pushed her to follow his own dreams. “I will not have an actress as a daughter,” her father had told her long ago, during her junior year of High School. The thought of making her father proud made her job bearable, but she would have rather lived another life.
“My life would have been so different,” she stated. “Better?” Lenny asked.
Lenny and Sally stood in the street, talking. Small-talking. Lenny already had an idea of where this was going…
“I used to dream about rehearsing for hours, every day of my life. My life as an actress. I would prance to work, Lenny!” She exclaimed. She let go of Lenny`s hand and bounced ahead. Lenny watched her back as the moonlight danced with her rhythmical skipping. “But I suppose I had to grow out of it eventually,” she said, walking slowly to where Lenny stood.
Eventually, Lenny obtained her number in a napkin and a date for a play with Sally that weekend. She would like that, he decided. His first impression of Sally was unremarkable but what he had seen in his dreams seemed more important. He figured that her true free spirit would gradually replace the hard front that she seemed to put up. Hopefully, Lenny thought. He waved at her as she went on her way, and he fled down the stairs and into the subway.
“A lawyer?” Lenny asked again, still not believing what he had just heard. “I know Lenny. I am living the life my father never lived.” She said softly. “What about yours?” Lenny inquired, knowing that she would not answer.
As he leaned back in the cold metallic subway chair, Lenny thought about Sally once more. It was funny how the most remarkable people tried to appear average at first. Why try to appear average at all? The thought irked him. Lenny knew Sally on well, but he would now have to start the difficult process of digging through the intricate web of false impressions before he could reach her real core.
Saturday arrived and Lenny got out of the shower and dug through his closet for a nice suit. He was nervous and excited for his date with Sally.
“I wore this dress when I was Holly” she sang as she twirled around the room. Sally grabbed Lenny and they both twirled around aimlessly.
Saturday came and went, uneventful. In college, she had participated in choir and in several theatrical productions. "Which?" Lenny asked, hoping to get her to talk so that he wouldn't have to. She did not seem to have a problem with talking about herself. She had played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. Both had been big roles. "So you like to act?" Lenny asked, hoping to get her past the mundane small talk. "It was fun, I guess." she answered. “As a hobby,” she added. As the night slowly advanced, Lenny was quick to discover that they were no longer a match. His glimpse, he realized, was of the past. And as Sally once said, “One cannot live in the past.”
“Sylvia, Dorothy, Audrey” Sally was absent-mindedly listing the roles that she had interpreted in different plays. She seemed to have forgotten that she was having a conversation. Or perhaps their relationship had now reached that point of comfort.
Lenny lay awake in bed, contemplating. He knew that he had pleased her; his incessant indifference seemed to have that effect on most women that he had dated. They were hopelessly different, but they might have kept each other company, erasing their big city loneliness, or perhaps merely hiding it from view. She liked to shop and was a persistent gossiper; he was a simple intellectual. She had traded her dreams for success and affluence; he had followed his dreams with no regards for a good paycheck. Lenny liked to talk about books and movies, but Sally only enjoyed talking about herself. Maybe all he dreamed was what could have been, before. Or perhaps he had met Sally too late. Whatever it was, the Sally of his dreams would never replace the Sally of his life—a woman that Lenny knew he could never love. He could have tried. And maybe things would have found that strange way of working themselves out. But he knew he had no chance against time—time that had already passed. Past. As when one leaves a room and looks behind, at the past. And without further thought, he reached for his phone and deleted her from his existence. On that note, Lenny’s head fell into his fluffy pillow, and he quickly drifted into deep slumber.