The Lyric Dream Project: Dream 18

I wake up in my studio apartment in Sunnyvale, California in 2001. Everything is just as it was yesterday. The carpet is beige; the walls are eggshell; the Venetian blinds are white and thin and dusty, with morning light coming through. I am lying on an air mattress on the floor and there is almost no furniture.

My son is awake, pulling at my socked foot. He is a toddler, just old enough to have grown a bowl of thick black shining hair. His cheeks are round and pale and wonderful. His eyes are dark and happy and almond shaped, for he is of Asian descent. I am not, but he is my son. I love him in the same way I have loved cute puppies, but infinitely more so. There is gravity between our hearts, father and son. But his features are none of mine.

So first I deduce his mother, and then remember her. That hair and those cheeks and those eyes are all hers. She is slight and graceful and kind and I love her. Now I remember her leaving, a little earlier, with her hair ponytailed up and a stack of math books clutched in her arms. She smiles goodbye. Her face has always reminded me of the beautiful Gigi Zhang from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but there is something endearingly bent in its geometry that tilts her glasses to the side when she smiles, and reminds me of that GTA back in college, who was always so nice to me. My wife is still working on her degree, but mine is done, and working only a nine to five engineering job seems almost lazy to me. I admire her work ethic, going off to school so early in the morning.

So to me falls the not unpleasant task of getting the kid ready in the morning. It is time for his bath. We go into the bathroom.

The bathroom has changed since yesterday, quite dramatically. The light is very yellow, like always, but for some reason the tub is waist high, in a sort of alcove, that wasn’t there before. It is filled with towels, laid flat. I pull them off, one by one, and hand each to my son. They are damp, and farther down they are wet. I peel one off after another, and hand each to my son. They are cold. They drip. There is something under them.

It is the naked corpse of my wife. Her eyes are shut. Her skin is cold, wet slate. Her lips are blue. Her hair is a sopping black mass pillowing her head. The sides of the tub, in its weird alcove, are too high for my son’s eyes but I cannot tear mine away.

My heart raced and I choked on my breath, waking. My son and dead wife were gone and never had been but I still loved them. How silly it was to imagine living married and with a child in that tiny studio without even a real bed. But something urgent was in my mind. I could not quite remember the final thought of my dream. It was either: “They’ll all think I did it” or “they’ll all know I did it.” How terrible the latter would be. I loved her. I really did. I couldn’t have done it.

In any case, I resolved never to even go out with an Asian girl. I’m quite sure my dream’s wife was from China, but I’ll admit here that never having actually had a girlfriend from anywhere near there, I was jingoistic enough to write off the daughters of an entire continent. I was afraid, okay? Afraid of myself.

clawfoot tub

Sam Neis is an author and an electrical engineer. His story, “Blaze Orange” appeared in Fogged Clarity last year. His name is on one patent and one self-published epic poem about space aliens and the nature of mistakes. He has lived in both peninsulas of Michigan, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Silicon Valley, and Florida.