April 12, 1998

Walking Amid Dreams

I am lost amid dreams.

In the end there was an older woman. I was a street brat, living in alley ways and cheap coffins, my entire life was stuck in a 6x6x8 box with a great Hookup to the Net, which was my life. I loved it, surfed it read it, consumed it, learned from it like a tattered child in a bright womb. But that was all there was to my seventeen-year-old life. Nothing but fantasy, doing manipulations of data required by the people that paid for my hiding place, and a real life that had nothing in it but one neighbor in the coffins (set in a stucco wall, rimmed and curliqued by ivy, real ivy, live ivy. An old building re-made for the cheaper upkeep of the low-rent coffins.) who was kind and brusque and mostly quiet.

She just appeared one day. Took me to her mansion. Beautiful, huge, lovely and deep. I stayed, for the first week in an area that could be marked by 6x6x8, until she led me out. Gave me a ballgown of black satin, gloves of sheer silk, and let me wear my old tattered stockings because they felt more me. Put my hair up with a ribbon of tattered silk and I used the makeup facilities to make myself wild. We went out, with the cheufer driving, out to the City. There is no City like Paris, the lights, the life, the gaiety the parties the drinking, the darknesses like velvet against the skin. Paris in summer.

Dinner was a completely posh affair, in the midst of the city in a restaurant where they served you their best of the day with no prices on the menus and the waiter was Perisian with the attitude and richness of lauguage that all Perisians have. She laughed and charmed him immediately so our dinner was not only superb but superbly timed, immpeciably waited and perfectly served. It was food like none I'd ever thought to taste. Words that had only been figments of imagination were brought to texture to taste to touch. Pate de foie gras that was so rich and smooth and creamy in the mouth against crisp crackers and thinly sliced toasted buttery brioche. Champagne to match, crisp the clear on the palette with tiny, tiny bubbles that tickled my nose and brain. Then buttery, small bites of lightly chewy soft snails served within their curved shells, along with a light white wine that brought out the seafood like taste of the small crustasian. Plenty of bagettes with sweet butter always hot from the cloth covered basket.

Then dinner. Three tiny lamb chops laid along a quarter of the clock that was my plate, gorgeous spring asparagus scented with lemon arrainged in a spray of green on the right, a fluffy mound of rice redolent with jasmine and mint to the left, and the chestnut, cranberry and mint stuffing that had been cooked with the rack of lamb to the center. The wine was a mellow, well-aged, oak rich Cabernet Savengnion. After that was salad, crisp tender in a raspberry vinegrette that had a raspberry wine vinager, at least a dozen kind of greens, slivered toasted almonds, and tiny petals from a raspberry vine in bloom. Then the cheese board with eight kinds of cheese, and she showed me how to eat them mild to strong, a nibble at a time with what bread I wanted, and there was time and room to talk and digest, to ask about the garden, to ask how to even approach the library on the estate, to see her smile.

Then dessert. When it came, I thought it was a true swan. It was so perfect. Crystal sugar neck feathers and licorice eyes and beak, then blown sugar fans for the feathers of its wings laid high against its blown sugar back. It swam upon a pond of pale blue green with an island of pale green ice cream shaped with a shore of toasted nut rocks. The sugar was surrounding a pastry shell that, in turn surrounded perfect French dark chocolate that had been set before the pastry was baked, so when I finished admiring it and finally broke the beauty open, the chocolate poured out like blood into the liquor lake of Curacao. Orange and chocolate together was a taste I'll never forget, along with the creamy pistachio ice cream and crisp, hot pastry of the swan's body. The neck and head was shaped and baked marzipan, and yielded sweetly to the bite. The late harvest white was sweet enough to hold its own against the rest.

Finally coffee so dark a drop of cream only disappeared into it and I sweetened it until it was a sweet as an angel's kiss and then drank it slowly as she watched me and smiled.

After that we went out dancing, in the most crazy of raves, music and drugs, laughing and hugging and running around and seen the effect of her wealth upon how others viewed me. It was interesting what an aphrodisiac money can be. Or perhaps, it was just that I was beautiful, and had never known because I had had too much to do, too much work, too much to survive to know or have others say.

So went the days. Lover and gifts, wandering through the garden for miles in a way. The scent of green summer and the sound of a lawnmower way off. The sunshine so sweet against the skin. I rarely saw her, but for dinner, really. We would go out, but it would be more for my adventure than to know more about her, as she nearly always chose a place that was like one of my dreams come true. Solid. Real. To the touch, the taste, the eye and ear. All the things that I had only wirtten about and coded become true to me.

Once, she saw me take on of the mopeds from the car pool, and the next day, as I was leaving, she came roaring in on a motorcycle that to my untrained eye seemed to be spun of reality and speed. Steel and the glossy glow of dreams, the faring was a snarling thing of teeth and flames, and the engine was huge and throbbing and hot from her ride. She saw me, got off the bike, pulled off the helmet and smiled at me and handed me the helmet and then walked away. I got on the beast, tucking myself into the helmet and then we raced across the countryside, and I heard what the wind screams when it goes 150 MPH.

I eventually wandered back to the estate, savoring the sunset over Paris, the ever changing, ever varying, ever gorgeous colors glowing, seeping through the cracks amid the clouds, and then wound my way there. I met her there, and she seemed to ask if I approved of all that she had given me, of all that I had. Half-surprised, I nodded to her. She then nodded to a man I hadn't really seen until then, as if accepting what was to happen to her, but glad that she had given me all that she had. The man indicated that she step forward. I got up as if to scream at leaping black steel...

She put her right leg into a bear trap. It shut closed, and I woke up.

I woke up with my right leg in the brace. My leg, shoulders all sore, my head muzzy and mouth dry and the soft seeping of sunlight into the downstairs bedroom. I could hear in the distance the soft roar of the lawnmower as John mowed the lawn and the smell of new cut grass and impending summer was in the air. I went into the bathroom to put my contacts in and to use the facilities and, for the first time in four days, my pupils actually dialated a little.

I've been dreaming like this for three days. On and off, as I sleep nearly 18 hours a day. I completely lost Wednesday afternoon. Pretty much what happened was that we went to the hospital, went through a bunch of things that had to do with checking in, getting my clothes put away so that they would follow me. I brought along a notebook for afterwards, in case John didn't show up in the recovery room after I woke up. I need not have bothered. I scrubbed my own knee for fifteen minutes as various prep people wandered in and out to take blood tests, do other stuff, teach me how to use crutches, take count of all my things, tell me what was going to happen, tell John where to find me all day, and tag my brace to go with me into surgery.

They put me on a bed and the anesthesiologist talked with me a while and I asked for what I wanted and he beamed and said that it was the normal package, so I just laughed and said, Okay, that then. There was something in there about the numbness lasting 10-20 hours, but it actually lasted two days, which kinda worried me, but when it actually came back, that was good.

You can probably tell why I'm writing this all at once instead of trying to go by days. My brain isn't working chronologically lately, it just leaps and touches from one to the next. Mostly because I've gotten out of the habit keeping track of the time.

I lost a huge chunk of it. Anyway. The next thing I remember was darkness and shivering with numbing cold. Just so cold. A voice in the darkness asking me if they could do anything, and all I could do was speak quietly about was the cold. Warmth started to cover me and I relaxed and fell back asleep.

A while later, a long while later, I feel someone peeling back layers and murmuring, "They really have you bundled up here." I wanted to say something about that I'd been really cold, but the mouth wasn't working quite right. Then the hands are lightly stroking back a bag on my hair and the nurse's voice is saying, "We've been calling her Arial, you know, like the mermaid because of this gorgeous hair..." and her hands are lightly stroking my hair, so softly back.

I'm fighting to stay awake to actually listen to the words of whomever is speaking to John and I, but I don't ever really catch who it is. All I remember is that John is feeding me graham crackers and other crackers and sips of 7-Up now and again. That's really all I remember. Okay... and that there was an on-going conversation that I have no memory of whatsoever.

Then I'm being wheeled out of the hospital, and there's the Range Rover with John and then I'm cheerfully climbing into the back and somehow levering myself through the space between the passanger seat base and the back seat and then up from the carpet on to the seat and then I'm leaning back against the pillow and then we're at the house... Normally, my hips just don't fit between the passanger seat and the back seat and a few days later I'm puzzling over the appearance of a bunch of scratches on my hip and sides and then suddenly realize that I wasn't really feeling much of anything that day... it's pretty frightening to realize what one is capable of doing without pain.

John says that I actually did a pretty solid conversation then and is kinda surprised that I remember nothing, but not a lot as he did note that I was fading in and out of the conversation.

Home and then hobbling to bed and then I just slept, I think. Woke up for medications at various times and I remember telling John how to heat the milk, but forgot completely how many times I took it or the medication. I do remember getting woken to eat some things and only halfway by association getting that it was breakfast by the muffins and fruit and guava juice that John was feeding me. Then going back to bed and waking up when someone appeared in my room.

It was Raven. I am pretty sure that I'd forwarned him and told him to bring materials to amuse himself with, but the main thing that I somehow fixated on was that there was no chair in the bedroom that I was in and that he really should have a place to sit. I think that there was some conversation about what was up and what we were going to do, but it boiled down to me not getting up until 2pm, taking my meds then and seeing what we were going to be up to. It may be some indication that we finally settled on a lot of video tapes that I'd already seen before and I know that I nodded off for a lot of them and we'd picked 'em because they were things I'd already seen and didn't really have to pay that much attention to. He loved them, though.

Somehow or another, I invite a salesman of cleaning products or equipment, I'm not sure which, to the house a good hour before John actually is going to come home, but the guy can't get his money unless he demos to me and my hubby, so oh well, he goes wandering on. Or something.

So, tra la. The next day is Raven and I up to our brain stems in gay movies. Torchsong Trilogy and Jeffery. Movies that I've wanted to watch for decades and the first was recommended to me by my sister a good decade before. And I finally watch it. Both were good, very dated by the attitude of the society that the movie was made in and for. Both pretty effective side by side as well for contrast and thought. Jeffery was so obviously an adaptation of a stage play.

Fun. Big, crisp, buttery, chewey, honey drenched crumpets fresh out of the toaster oven. Those, I am sure, were real. Raven brought them from downtown, a crumpet store by the Market.

Also. Hrm. Somewhere in there, the wild suggestion that we do sushi for dinner. I needed out of the house and crawled into the back seat of Raven's little car in order to do so. This only a day after dropping off to sleep at the moment's notice. But what's the use of life if you don't live it and the use of a leg that mostly works if you don't exercise it a little. So off we went, met John there after he'd been to the bookstore and so we enjoyed great sushi.

Oh. Right. One point of semi-clarity was the physical therapy appointment, which I think was scheduled on Friday morning. Met a remarkable and efficient young man whose touch was as gentle as an angel's wing, and who told me to do things with that confounded leg. And then his eyes got big when I did them. Small tests at first, just the ability to tighten my quads then to lift my leg then to do full swings from four sides and then a few kinds of stretches that ached but didn't hurt too badly. After getting the darned thing to bend 109 degrees, he told me that most people don't get where I am even weeks after surgery and here I was, only two days after and still woozy enough on pain-killers that I had to have John count repetitions because I kept losing count.

Peeling blood stiffened dressings away from a wound held together by tape and stitches and then washing away all the iodine yellow from my toes and leg. That was real, too, I think. Though there was a hint of a dream about being a nurse in a war and doing a lot of that bandaging.

Conversations fade in and out of my memory. Some perhaps real, some unknown. John's sent out email that I'm okay, that the surgery went well, and that I slept for days after, and they all seem quite correct.

Saturday was constipation Hell, and while I'm sure my friend Jay in Hawaii would do something funny with since-surgery constipation, I'm just glad that that was over.

Sunday was brilliant and beautiful and John and I got to see The Last Temptation of Christ for the first time. It seemed appropriate for Easter morning. It was. Made me think a lot about how the fundimental myth of Jesus the Christ is one of angst and sacrifice at all cost of normalicy in life. That the peaceful seasons and their passage wasn't enough. That human lives aren't enough. That spiritually, there must be something more, in some ways.

The conversation between Paul and old-Jesus delighted me. Encapsulated everything I've ever thought about Paul the Church-builder. It was good, too to see Jesus the human being with fault and fears and thoughts and anger and rage and outlet as well as the desire to simply live. I enjoyed that a lot, but the flame of Lucifer was taken into dreams as well, and we spoke for a long time on the natures of love and death, truth and freedom and the strangeness of humans playing angels with the freewill of human beings, when all God's angels were, in my dream, simply God's Will direct. The Adversary wasn't an Adversary, ever, of God's, rather he has always been the Adversary of Man and the Sons of Man. "Lead me not into temptation..." goes a piece of the Lord's Prayer, with subtext that runs into the word for tests that go to the breaking point and beyond. Let me not be tested 'til I actually break. The Tempter was the one that did the testing for God, or so imply some of the older Books of Scripture.

David Bowie was so beautiful as Pilot. He also was the one who said that "Religion is for those that believe that there might be a Hell, spirituality is for those that know that there is one." I get some of that. Flames are so beautiful, plasma flowing forever changing, forever the same.

Odd mix, that.

Sunday was the first day my pupils dialated properly. There was also a shower day for me and a bath day for Fezzik. Wrapped everything up in black plastic and then showered.

It's hard, sometimes, as I'm getting more of my capabilities back on line for John and I to negotiate the points where I need his help and when I would rather do it myself because I can.

So it got kinda push and shove at moments.

There are some things that I now know are dreams. Like being a coil upon coil of a thousand eyes, studying closer and closer a manuscript until my eyes nearly became parchment and paper. A wizard started to harvest my eyes into test tubes and boiling beakers extracting the knowledge I'd gained with my beautiful eyes to make his invention work all the better. Or the Woman of Blood, who was made of ten thousand types of blood, each in a different part of her body and each type of blood was for a different purpose, to heal something or destroy someone or to burn or put out, nurture or feed, kill or purge. She was a gestalt of dream concept all put into my mind at once. It was only in putting Her into words that I had to take her apart into her ten thousand tears of blood.

Some things that might have been memory. Like a road trip along the West Coast where we stopped for peanut clusters and ink cartridges and the peanut clusters were nine for a $1 but there weren't a whole nine left in the box, but it wasn't like we'd ever be by again. So I just bought a few of them. Or the talk with Ces about road trips from Seattle to San Diego and Ces responding by telling us stories about Mira Mar and the times he had in the San Diego Bay. I remember his laughter, but then I remember that from reality, too. There was also the brilliant yellow on black and black on yellow, set like it was Wired! magazine with an article about a bad-assed girl relating a crime she'd witnessed to two policemen just to see if they'd do anything about it. It was fascinating and I'd read half a dozen pages before waking up and realizing that it was a dream mag and story, not real.

There was a dream about diving into a software system with my entire mind, drenching myself in it, taking apart some of the smaller 'bots, seeing the programming, making my own and letting them go and replicate and create all around me.

Another was being a girl that joined a street punk/magic gang of the Borderland type and being with them for weeks and gradually I started watching the leader's girlfriend who was going out and carving some of the gang folk up, but they'd be back the next morning just fine. But I caught her killing someone small and defenseless, so I just lost it and tried to kill her with a knife that I always carried in my back pocket and I stabbed her a dozen times, blood spurting but she didn't die. I realized that the only way that I was going to kill her was by putting her in an iron cage and then burning her to nothing but ash by piling fire all around her. I was so tired that I couldn't do it then. Instead she laughed at me and told me that she was an organ vampire. That so many of her organs were now amid the gang that if she died, they would die, too.

So I had to leave her alone after that. Then our little gang got taken over by a bigger one and we all had to try out for our spots in the bigger gang. Folks all just showed what they were capable of and were let in, it was kinda a given, it seemed, for everyone. So I jumped into my kung-fu gymnastics routine, and ended with a 3-D laser rendering of an angel with spreading wing holding an banner reading, "Raphael" on it, as that was my full name, everyone just called me Rafe. And I ended up landing in the angel's hands with a gymnastics pose and a bounce. I saw the old gang's leader just shake his head at the new gang's leader and I was rejected from the gang. I cried. A lot. Then I woke up and started thinking as to why. Maybe the vampire had taken him over, maybe he was sending me away as I was the only one that he'd actually seen who was able to standup against her one-on-one, and wanted me where I could hit her if that ever was something that was necessary. I still don't know...

A beautiful Japanese girl walks out of a comicbook on the walls of my room and serves me and I serve her equally well and courteously.

A woman with a son, her own mother and her brother all living in a house. They show us a movie, and it is a horrible movie, that I've seen before, but I know when to hide my eyes, and it's a movie that showed puppies doing horrible things, destroying themselves and each other after a grey white fog has crystalized on all the surfaces around them. It's a horror movie about a terrible plague that kills everything's spirit before destroying their physical aspects and everything decays into chaos. After the movie, she takes us to her diningroom and gives us white bean cakes cut with fortune symbols, wet with white milk and white sugar, and a single splash of bright red bean and the liquid ran white around the squares like a stream through runnels in the bean cakes. It seemed all white, all clean, all pure. But I woke knowing that it was all the white of death.

So I wandered, half lost between dreams and reality. Never worrying about the time, as it was only measured in how soon an ice pack got warm or when the pain medication would wear off or what was the last dream. An interesting trip through an interesting wilderness for only four days instead of the traditional forty.

In odd ways I'm both glad and sad that I'm leaving it.

In the end, I guess what counts is that I'm through the surgery. I'm on my way, well on my way through the recovery, getting into physical therapy and getting on with my life. Also managing to deal with the early affects of the surgery itself. The ACL is reconstructed, we saw pictures of the before and after through the orthoscopic point of view. It seems to have taken. I'll have more reports when the post-operative meeting with the surgeon takes place.

© 1998 by Liralen Li.

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