Have you ever had a dream so real you were confused when you woke up? Once when I was a little girl I dreamt that the grass in our backyard was as blue as the hair on my toy troll. I watched it from the patio, rise up into the sky and leave perfect green grass underneath. Above, the sky the same perfect shade those soft blades had been. That morning I didn't wake up sleepily, but instead like a switch had been flicked. I ran from my bed to the back yard. And you know what? The grass was green and the sky was blue. I told everyone where the blue grass had gone, but since I was five there was no suggestion I was crazy, just knowing smiles and nods. No-one could tell me it wasn’t real, I’d “seen it” happen and outside was the proof. Seeing is believing right? I guess that’s why I’m so comfortable talking to you. I can see you here with me. You aren’t quite solid yet, I don’t think you can be for a while; but don't ask me why for a while because you won't like the answer.
I can see the shafts of light come right through the window and strike the tile in front of you like you aren’t even there. Tell me, how is it you don’t cast a shadow like me or the white breakfast table over there? Perhaps like that blue grass so long ago, you aren’t really with me at all, but all the while I can see you there we can talk. I was just chatting to God before you came. I understand that when other people do that they don’t get an answer, that must be so frustrating. When I ask He always replies. He never starts a conversation though, I have to do that. So if you have a question for Him you’ll just have to ask me first and I’ll pass it on. Funny really, my last name is Abraham just like the last guy who had God as a friend. It’s nice to be like that. I know those fine doctors could medicate it out of me, but why? Through me He can reach you and that’s what He wants, to talk to people again like He once did before. I can feel Him everywhere I go - it feels like pure love, like that moment you fall in love but going on forever. It’s a way of being, more like breathing in joy with every breath rather than consuming a sweet delicacy.
What, you’re uncomfortable? You don’t know what I look like and I sound crazy? Well, I am crazy, technically speaking, anyone will tell you that. Anyone that thinks they have a message from God goes straight to the ‘funny farm’ and comes out rattling with gifts from Big Pharma. Not me though. Not me. I’m ‘au naturel’ weather the good doctor approves or not. It’s not illegal to be fiction author and I can talk ‘sane’ anytime they want a chat. But I digress, you’ll find that happens alot. I can tell you what I look like though; take Angelina Jolie and put forty pounds on her, make her hair way less perfect, take off the make-up and add some freckles. Make her bone structure not quite so perfect, and take a few inches off her height, I’m average. I wasn’t always overweight though, not that I even look fat for my age really, just not skinny anymore. Hang on a minute, I hear the front door opening and footsteps, someone else is here. Oh, it’s Marsha, my longtime friend and she’s laughing her ass off. What, Marsha? I don’t look like Angelina? Not even if the Hunger Games prep team did overtime on me? Huh? Well, at least my husband is better lookin’ than Brad Pitt. There, that did it, she’s just giving me the raised eyebrow look now ‘cause she knows it’s true.
You have a skeptical look on your face, there’s a certain tightness in the muscles that wasn’t there before. If I think real hard, I bet I can guess what you want to ask. How did I get someone like? What does he look like? Slow down, honey. I’ll tell you, so long as you know that good look are just a bonus, it’s the heart that counts. I wasn’t born a middle aged woman with too much on the hips, y’know. Way back in my youth I was fit, really fit, an athlete who could run ten kilometers and win medals, trophies. It wasn’t that hard really, just putting one foot in front of the other until the finish line. Truthfully, I enjoyed it. Whether it was a country road or a city street those steps became miles and they passed in a wonderful, exhilarating blur. There were faces, people clapping, the refreshing wind. At the end if I wasn’t falling over from empty legs I never really felt like I’d given it my all. I competed hard and I always won my category. Not that it makes me a super runner, I bet a lot of girls could have done it, but most my age were too busy thinking about boys and make-up. They were normal, I was the loner freak - but a toned one. I guess all that helped, a trim body goes a long way. Anyhow, enough of that, it feels like boasting about someone else, that’s how long ago it was. Perhaps I’m just throwing my ego a bone, it’s hard to keep that healthy at my age, hence all the mid-life crises.
But you wanted to know about my man, right? He’s a private guy so you can’t tell you much except he’s got that brown skin adonis look going on, brown eyes that make me weak at the knees. He has the heart of a lion and the soul of an angel. He’s a fair few inches taller than me, which I like. He’s slim, muscular, with an almost perfectly symmetrical face. He has an African heritage that shows in his features and body type. Everyone loves him, they’re drawn to him. I see it in the way they hang on his words and reciprocate his smile so quickly. They want to be close to him just like I do. If he wanted to he could have more friends than hours in the day, but for the most part he just wants me and the kids and for that I feel truly honoured. He could have had almost anyone, he could have had someone with a bigger bust, a smaller waist, blonde hair and more self-confidence. He still could, men don’t age as fast as women do they? Not in our culture. We’re over the hill at twenty six and their good till sixty, more if they stay trim. But he doesn’t want anyone else. Apparently, my love is enough. I wish I could rescue him from his day job so that he could enjoy his life more, sometimes I dream up ways to earn enough money for his emancipation but isn’t that the problem with us dreamers? Don’t we have more ideas than we could ever choose in one lifetime? When do these dreams ever turn into something tangible?
Hang on, there’s a noise. The door has opened and there are footsteps heading our way. Just keep quiet for a bit, no more questions from you until they’re gone, k? It’s Marsha’s again. Her face is a poor mask of nonchalance. She’s the worst at masking her “subtle” probes. If I tell her you’re here it’ll be straight off to the psych ward for a few more injections and little brown pills. She wants to know what I’m doing and who you are. I’m giving her the “not now” look and shooing her with my hands but she has no intention of moving. So I tell her I’m in the middle of creating a new writing genre and she says, “What?”
“Fuction,” I say and she almost spits the take-out coffee she’s drinking.
“Dai, I think you missed out an “n.”
“No, Marsha. It’s Fuction, functional fact fiction. Fuction.”
“Sure you don’t wanna put a “k” in that?” She dissolves into a puddle of laughter and I can see her stomach shaking as she fights a new gale of giggles. My distraction is a success. In her world this display of humour is something only mentally healthy people can achieve, which I consider myself to be anyway.
“No, Marsha, I don’t. And I’m kinda busy right now. I have a new friend over too.” She looks around the room. Thankfully she can’t see you there, I guess you’re blending right into the couch. Well done. She pulls her mouth to one side, like a lopsided pout and I can see her cogs turning as her eyes narrow just a bit. She hasn’t given up after all. Damn it.
“Maybe I should stay, Dai. I mean, um, let’s talk about your new ‘friend,’ shall we?” Now my back’s up. I can see her pulling the professional side of her out of the closet, she’s even still wearing her scrubs from the ward. She’s known me fifteen years and still she pulls this ‘stethoscope’ behaviour. It’s time for her to leave. Anyway, you and I have a walk to go to, right? The great thing about being creative is it makes the invention of the necessary bullshit to get rid of someone all the easier. It isn’t so much “lying” as weaving a live story for them to be a part of. I consciously relax all my muscles and give her a smile.
“No, Marsha. You know me, always the creative type. I have to sink myself into these roles you know, whether it’s love, hate or betrayal, I have to be six inches under when I write it.” Her expression sinks a bit, she’s crestfallen. She likes to rescue people, I know she does, she’s good at it too. But all her department has to offer is the removal of all your clothes in front of a half dozen people of both genders and an injection in your ass. My best defence is to remain perfectly lucid; I can write, do algebra, debate logically and talk finance. I am well aware that wanting to save the world and talking to God like I do makes me clinically insane, but if this is crazy then I don’t want to be “sane.”
“Are you trying to save the world again, Dai?” She has her serious nurse look on again, I know she’s shooting for ‘concerned friend’ but she’s been in the business too long not to wear it when she’s having these thoughts. So, in as much as she thinks she’s ‘reading’ me, I’m reading her. After five years of having ‘check-ups’ the psychiatrists have declared me psychosis free, sane. So they can stick their rooms with iron doors and handles right up their asses. They can keep all their pills from big Pharma, except maybe the odd sleeping pill. My mind does blow a bit hot sometimes.
“No, Marsha. That’s crazy talk.” See what I did there, I used the word ‘crazy,’ psychotics typically won’t do that. They get scared of the word. “Saving the world is crazy, no-one can. No, I’m going for a walk at Colony Farm.” Bam, another blow. I shouldn’t want to go near that forensic hospital out there. “Then I’m baking more buns for the kids, you wanna come back when their done?” I know she won’t. I win. I love Marsha like a precious sister, but she can’t be the boss of me. She’s the bossy kind anyway, opinionated and strong. I have to help her stay in the “friend zone” though, if I become her ‘work’ too then we lose our relationship and I can’t have that. It means a lot to both of us and she knew me before I got it in my head that it was my task to save the entire planet and everyone on it. It isn’t her fault I changed.
“Dai,” she pauses, I can see she’s in a bind now. Push me further and she’s medicalizing our friendship, back away and it’s against her instincts as a nurse. She wants to offer me drugs I can feel it, slip me some Risperidone or Ativan at the least, but I’ve been off that poison for months now and living a normal life. I’m just as intellectual as I ever was. I follow conversations and show interest in the lives of others. I’m a fantastic mother. I can show a full range of emotions and I’m in control. I’m never manic and I’ve never been depressed, not ever. That’s not my bag, thankfully. In fact, until recent years I had perfect mental health, I was the most stable of the stable. Zero wobbles, an atheist who had been looking for God since childhood, hanging on quotes for Jesus and wondering about the meaning of life. But I was “sane” then, I dismissed the possibility of God with heavy heart. There was no evidence but books thousands of years old and those books contained hate and fear as well as love and that never sat right with me. I won’t worship fear and hate. I refused then and I still do now, maybe I didn’t change so much after all. Now I realise I’ve been thinking too long, it’s a dead giveaway for having internal dialogue. If I was on her ward those pajamas would be staying on, but I’m not and I’m not stupid enough to get committed.
It’s all in how you phrase things. Stand up with passion and say you are “an angel of God sent to save the earth” and about six nurses will jump you, there goes your freedom and your ability to serve the Lord, the Creator, the Divine, whatever you want to call Him or Her. But say, “You know what, my views are somewhat unorthodox. I believe that God is Love and Love will save the earth, save humanity. But I’m not running around trying to convert people. All I have are words to encourage people to be loving and do the right things. I’m a creative writer, it doesn’t mean I believe the things I write are true.” Then you get the basic questions to test your mental functioning. Tell me about your childhood. What was your last vacation like? How is your sleep? Is anything worrying you? Easy, easy. I could answer them in my sleep. My mental functioning isn’t impaired, I can remember their lists of things. I walk in their door looking like I remembered to shower, wear clean clothes and put on make-up, what can they do? The shrinks don’t scare me anymore, I understand their rule book, their parameters.
Back to Marsha. She smiles like she’s at ease, that big wide grin that makes her so beautiful and she says, “OK, Darlin,’ call me if you need anything, and I mean it. Day or night. Never too busy for you.” Now I know she’s worried, normally she talks about her life non-stop and I never tell her much about mine. I don’t mind that at all, I love it really. Her life is interesting, glamorous at times. Mine? Pretty static, but that’s what I need. We’re all different, right? I need home and “boring,” she needs sparks, fire, hot energy. But when it comes to our souls we’re aligned in ways I’m not sure either of us understand. We’re such an unlikely pair, me and her, but it works. I follow her to the door, my smile mirroring hers, and to the street at large we’re two friends smiling - but we both know what just happened. I’ll see her in a few weeks I guess, time usually heals these little rifts pretty well.
I call out to her, “Love you too. Don’t work too hard.” She leaves, windows rolled down, radio on loud. Her car pulls away fast, as always. She doesn’t really notice speed limits that one, but she has a clean driving record so who am I to judge? She looks after her three girls like they’re princesses for the most part, albeit princesses that have to pull their weight around the house and not back-talk. They know they’re loved though. Anyway, now it’s just back to you and me.
It’s a beautiful day out there, have you seen it? Do you even know where we are? This is British Columbia, Canada. It’s green of course, what did you expect? This is a temperate rain forest, or at least it was before all these homes were built. We still get the right though, oh man, I can’t wait until you see it! Take a look at my street. There are trees right up and down the wide grey tarmac. It snakes up the steep hill and turns out of view before hitting the main road to the newer homes further up the mountainside. The trees aren’t regimented in rows though, it’s a more organic look.. Home owners have planted them and some no doubt went into the ground when the street was new some thirty years ago. Maple is the dominant choice, japanese reds as well as the green leafed ones. You can’t tell that right now, all we see as we look at the trees is naked branches with swelling buds. But for mid-March that’s actually pretty good. Some years we’re still in snow, still shivering like the east coast is right now.
Today’s sky isn’t the perfect blue of yesterday; it’s more pale, like it got diluted with a can of white. There are soft grey clouds, more than a wisp but not enough to threaten rain. I can taste the humidity in the air, fresh as an apple straight from the tree. It doesn’t have sweetness but there’s the scent of the pines infused into those microscopic drops. I can’t keep looking uo though, sometimes brown bears or coyotes stroll right down the street. Somewhat less scary are the deer; you’d be amazed how big they are, especially the males with their velvety antlers. If you’re lucky a whole troop of racoons will come down the hill, moving like the masked outlaws they are.
Don’t worry too much about the bears, just don’t run from one. Mostly they’re shy and wander off. Avoid eye contact, back off slowly without turning and pray real hard. I think that’s all you can do. There aren’t any grizzlies in this neck of the woods. These black bears are more partial to fruit and grubs, mostly they prefer their meat a bit rotten too, so unless you’re a zombie I’m betting you’ll be just fine.
I’m going to load up the bikes and get the dog ready. Unless you’d rather walk? Either way is good with me. Or maybe you’re the fit type that likes to go fast? You’ll have to slow down a bit for me; I’ve been sitting on my back-side typing for a few years. That and I lost all the muscle tone I ever had when I got sick some years ago...but enough about that. What a blabber mouth I am! Couldn’t keep a secret if I tried… well, a secret about myself. I won’t gossip about you, I’m good like that. Are you hungry? Want a bite to eat before we go? The kitchen is stocked. I was baking yesterday - buns, bread, pizza. Oh wait, we ate all the pizza. But there’s cheese and English brown pickle for the bread, try it! I’m getting the dog’s leash and I need a few moment to get the garbage out the car. Did I say that? Whoops. See what I mean. No secrets here.