Some dreams wake me up and leave me in a haze.
I remember seeing the dirty unreachable corners, between the bed and the bookshelf, between the TV stand and that chest of drawers. I remember the old red curtains, faded from continuous direct exposure to the sun, hanging from every one of the abundant windows and doorways. I remember the old paint peeling off the ancient walls.
The TV plays a cliche cinema about a rich girl falling in love with a poor guy. It’s always the same, with slightly different plot points every time. Everyone in the room knows all the actors and actresses and acts as if it were their story. There’s in-scene commentary. There’re sing-alongs every time a song comes up. They can’t count how many times they’ve watched each of these.
My grandma is sometimes sifting through uncooked rice grains, separating the black ones and the broken ones from the perfect ones. I know they’ll cook the broken ones in a special recipe. Us kids join her, or just ask to let us have the black ones to play with.
Sometimes it’s my aunt sifting through the rice. Others, one of them is sewing something. Either a throw for the pillows (I ask them how they achieve the square-ish pattern, they say the fabric has to be gridded) or a quilt. The house is full of quilts my grandma sews with her old sarees. She’s a master when it comes to matching the front and the backing, and churns out at least three large ones a year, quilted to death.
The carpet in the room is old and musty. One can feel more dirt walking on it barefoot than they can on the floor. But grandma still keeps it. One of her kids bought it, after all.
We kids can use the rungs in the windows as handholds and pretend to be riding a crowded bus or climbing a ladder. I steal a towel once and tie it around my neck in a mimicry of a cape. “Supergirl to the rescue!”
I dream of flying a helicopter in one of the balconies. I’m a grown up girl, and I still feel a helicopter could fit in it with enough room for maneuvering. I can see the front yard even if I stand the farthest possible distance from the railings. I can smell the trees surrounding the balcony. I can see the other building in the compound. I can feel the touch of sunlight in the evening standing there. I can hear the honks of cars and the whooshes as they speed by. I’m still very much there. That home still exists. I just have to enter the room on the left to be surrounded by the scent of books almost half a century old. My feet need only lead me down the passageway, and I’ll be greeted by that wise old smile framed by wrinkles. Because he’s still alive.
And I wake up. And I remember that I haven’t seen those faded curtains in years. I can’t remember the last day I felt mosaic under my feet. The paint here doesn’t chip; we’re careful to not damage it. We don’t care about sifting through rice. It comes without black grains, and we can always buy the broken ones when we want to eat that special recipe.
We don’t have a TV, although grandma still does, and she still watches those old cliched cinemas. She doesn’t sing along, just puts in another few stitches in the ever-present quilt in her hands. She’s rolled up her carpets. They’re difficult to maintain. She’s alone now.
And there’s barely space enough for me to stand in the rooms. The balconies are so narrow, I wonder how anyone had the idea of building them.
Us kids don’t play together anymore. We’re grown ups now, and we watch the ones who are kids now, wishing we could join them. Wishing we wouldn’t get so annoyed at little things like paper swords.
The huge room with musty books is far away. No one really cares anymore. The one who cared the most is gone. He took that special greeting he reserved for me with him. Everything he owned, everything he loved, scattered with the wind. As if staying together would hurt more than staying apart does.
I’m grateful for these dreams later on. They keep my fading memory vivid. But at the moment, I wonder if I could be happier I forgot? I turn around and try to sleep again, because I know if I stay awake I’ll curse someone.
Some dreams wake me up and leave me in a haze, in a pool of sadness, in an ocean of emptiness.