The Dream (Part 2)

February 14, 2010

Continuation from Part 1 ..

Before Julius could figure out what was happening to him he was lifted from the red liquid by an invisible force. His body was magically suspended in the air while the red liquid beneath him waved back and forth in restless motion. The constant splashes against his face threatened Julius with the same torment he had just experienced. Julius breathed deep breaths of air, readying himself for the worst. He feared to exhale, dreading the liquid was controlled by some unknown clever torturer of sadistic inclinations. The air escaped Julius’ mouth in a sudden burst, disturbed the liquid beneath and ripples expanded on the red surface. Before Julius could inhale he heard an uncontrollable laughter echo in the room. Julius felt afraid. He wished he was back on the bus, acting like he did everyday. Doing what he always did. Being his own master. Holding the wheel. A humanlike individual bearing the wings of a falcon descended in front of Julius.

‘I know what you’re thinking.. You’re wishing you were back on the bus, doing what you always do.  Holding the wheel. Playing your role. I’ve seen how you can make a passenger hate you with just a glance. You’re truly a master in the art of subtle manipulation. Well, allow me to introduce myself. I am the Grand Master of subtle manipulation. The angel of push. My job is to give everybody a little push once in a while. Sometimes when someone isn’t paying attention on the subway, other times when somebody are afraid to talk to a nice girl. It’s like dominoes you see. All I do is to push the first little piece, then everything falls in place by itself. It’s a work of art my friend, much like your acting. I am your biggest fan by the way. In fact I am your only fan. Because I am the only one who knows about your career. I am the only one who has seen all your little plays. I’ve seen your secret smiles. I’ve heard your carefully planned lines being performed. You might think that this dream is some elaborate illusion your overcreative mind have cooked up for you, but it’s not. Your life is an illusion. Your acting isn’t acting at all you see. All you do is make people’s lives miserable with not so much as a bag of popcorn to go with it. You’re a fool. A buffoon. And if you continue with it you will be remembered as nothing more than a shitty bus driver. Right now you’re laying unconscious in the wreck of your bus. The red liquid you’ve got all over you is the blood of your passengers’.

‘SHUT UP! I don’t want to listen to you. Go away. You’re the fool! Trying to frighten me with your lies. I won’t believe in them’, Julius shouted to the winged individual hoovering in front of him.

‘You know it’s true. Couldn’t you taste the saltness of the blood when I fed it to your lungs? You are guilty, Julius. You caused the accident. You fell asleep. Nobody pushed you. Nobody held a knife to your throat. You just fell asleep. Your body got tired of all your lies and decided it was time for a nap.’

Julius felt broken. It was true. He could feel the warm blood of his passengers dry upon his skin. His head fell down from its attentive position and tears started creeping out of his eyes. The winged individual came close and lifted Julius’ chin up, dried the tears away with its white linen sleeves and smiled. For the first time since hearing its voice, Julius studied the creature’s face. He could not determine whether it was a male or a female person. At times he thought he saw a broad jaw and a powerful nose, but then the creature’s appearance changed and he could only see the deep blue eyes of a female and the inviting lips of a young woman. At times he saw the shape of breasts, only to look again and see bulging biceps next to it. This was no ordinary person.

‘What are you?’ Julius asked in bizarre puzzlement.

‘I told you. I am an angel. I told you I was the Angel of Push. I am also the Angel of Fortune. The Hebrews called me Sariel. I can see your eyes trying to determine if I am female or male. I am neither and it does not matter. What matters is that you listen to what I tell you. For I know the different futures that lies before you. You have been deceiving yourself. You are not an actor. You are a deceiver. You have been deceiving your passengers, causing them emotional distress. They are not extras in your life, but human beings with a life of their own. Your recklessness with their mood has caused the big man upstairs to pay notice to your play. Though he admits he had to laugh sometimes, he also saw what happened to your passengers when they got off the bus. An old woman started drinking again, thinking there was something wrong with her since you wouldn’t let her get on the bus. A single-mom came too late to pick up her kid in the kindergarten, had to pay a fee and couldn’t afford to pay the rent the next day. She was thrown out of her apartment and had to move back in with her own mom. What a torture that must have been for her, and it was all because of you Julius? You caused this, Julius. You. Because of your own egoistic illusion that you are something else than what you are right now. And right now you’re nothing more than a shitty bus driver. You think that you are something more than a shitty bus driver, but your own insecurity has led you down this coward’s path. You’ve hid in the “role” as the bus driver. Actors have stages, not buses, Julius. Except for Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. They were on a bus once or twice, but they are not real actors anyway, so that doesn’t count. What I’m trying to say is that if you want to drive race cars, you do it on a race track, not in everyday traffic. If you want to act, you do it on a stage or in front of a camera, not in everyday traffic. Do you understand the point I’m trying to make, Julius?

Sariel stood there a long time looking at Julius before any answer arrived. Julius had never scrutinized his self-deception any deeper than the fun he was having with it. But now it all dawned on him and his mind was wrapped in sad contemplation paying no heed to his present company nor the fact that it was an angel. His minds filled with vague memories. The sad look in some of the passenger’s eyes. How some regular passengers stopped taking the bus. What had happened to them? Were they okay? He felt guilt. He felt such a shame that tears started flowing down from his face. He had deceived them, he had deceived himself, but worst of all, he had deceived Flora. Such a caring loving woman, being left out of the single most defining part of his life. The tears started jumping off Julius’ cheeks and landed silently in the red liquid. Julius felt guilt.

‘Tell me what I must do’, Julius commanded of the angel.

‘I do not know what you must do, only you can make the decisions that determines your future, Julius. I can only tell you about them. There is two futures that stands out. Do you want to hear about the sad or the nice one first?’

‘The sad one’, Julius quickly replied.

‘Well, you’re still driving the bus, but I can’t see any traces of secret smiles on your face, when you get home Flora is not there. There is a note on the kitchen table. You read it and I can trace no emotional reaction. Your neighbour is complaining about the state of your garden. You find a garden hose in the garage and bring it inside. The next morning your whole neighbourhood is awoken by sirens, except for you.’

‘Give me the good one, now’ Julius said, almost angry with the angel for telling him the sad one.

‘You’re not driving the bus anymore. Your clothes are dirty. Flora is not there, but you are smiling. Not secretly, but public. A proud smile. You’re entering a theatre. You’re going to perform in a play. It’s The Merchant of Venice, you’re dressing for the roll of Shylock. It is not the main character, but it is a demanding character to play. You seem very happy with your costume on. You laugh and make jokes with the other cast members. There is quite a crowd there. You obviously know a lady in the crowd, because she tells everyone next to her that she is your fiancée and waves like a crazy woman when you’re on the stage. Her eyes are smiling with love and her ears finely tuned for your lines. She is pregnant, but she does not know it yet, but the old lady who plays the piano will soon tell her when she sees the subtle signs of pregnancy in your fiancée’s cheeks, which is a long lost method to determine pregnancy to most practitioners of modern medicine and is only practiced by old ladies who plays pianos, knit and nip young girls in their sides telling them to put on some weight.’

‘That is a nice future. I would like that future. Even if it means that I won’t love Flora anymore.’ Julius said bittersweetly.

‘Oh, don’t worry. You will still love her, it’s just that she won’t love you. Turns out she doesn’t want to be married with a poor actor. That is all.’

Julius knew Flora liked money, but he also thought that she wouldn’t mind providing him for a few months when he had done so several years already. Turns out he would be wrong. Love makes us all blind and Julius fell in love on a path of lampposts.

‘That is all I can tell you, Julius. I must go. There is a famous acrobat who is going to balance on a line between the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and I don’t want to miss it, it’s the last performance of this kind in a very very long time.’ Sariel said and started preparing his wings for flight. Splashing them in the liquid below which had turned from red blood into clear blue water. Julius averted his eyes from the splashes and when he removed his hands again he was back on the bus. It was driving. He was driving. He had awoken some time before when the crash would happen. This was where he fell into the dream. He saw a pothole in the road and deftly avoided it. He parked the bus at the next stop and got out. The passengers looked at each other with puzzled amazement and watched Julius while he walked away from the bus. Some people picked up their mobile phones and filmed him just before he disappeared in the horizon. Julius lost his job. Never in his career had the bus manager heard of a bus driver walking away from the bus in the middle of his route. Unheard off! Julius didn’t care. He didn’t want to work at the stinking bus company anyway.

The next day Julius wandered around looking for a sign while Flora, her friends and her father told him to get a new job. After a couple of weeks Flora got tired off this and moved in with her sister for a while. It didn’t take long until she got her own place. Julius didn’t care. It didn’t matter. He was sad and he still loved her, but it didn’t matter. Because she didn’t love him anymore. She was truly blind, for she was in love with comfort. To her love was having a man to hold her at night and paying the bills. To Julius it was an eternal feeling of appreciation, forgiveness, attraction and fascination.

As he wandered the streets from day to night, Julius’ clothes got dirty. He looked more and more like the unemployed person that he was. In a way he became proud of this. He was no man or coin’s slave. He was his own master. He started acting like a master. Answering simple questions of time and date with minute-long anecdotes about the nature of time and the absurdity of calenders. Making people shake their heads from side to side as they looked for the next person with a wristwatch. It was during one of these anecdotes that he was noticed by Samuel Rivers, the writer, owner and director of his own travelling amateur theatre. Samuel was looking for a man to play the part of Dante in his newly adopted version of the Divine Comedy, and Julius radiated the same kind of hidden contemplation and weary calmness a person that had gone through the three realms of hell would have.

‘What size pants do you wear? Never mind. We’ll sew them out. Have you acted before? Never mind, I’ll teach you. Get your stuff together and meet us in the park tomorrow. Let’s say 11 a’clock, we don’t want to wake up before the sun do we? He he. I’ll see you tomorrow, kid. I got stuff to take care off and names to remember.’

The next day Julius went to the park and started on the journey of his true life.

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It was already too late to run. I stood there half-naked on the street with my alabaster ass sticking out snowblinding the locals. Coins tumbled down the drain as I quickly pulled up my pants. Some young women were snickering, but were quickly shut up again by their decent brothers and fathers. One woman in particular struggled immensely with the demanded silence and wouldn’t shut up until her moustached father smacked her cheeks, making them the wrong kind of red. She smiled bravely through her tears and I couldn’t be anything less than a gentleman and I blew her a kiss. Then her father became another wrong kind of red. He was furiously snapping like a short-changed lobster as the watchmen came running with their nightsticks. They looked like uniformed bears getting ready for the fight of their life. He pointed them in my direction. I ran. I didn’t need a beating. Well, not today anyway. I knew a great deal of people who needed a beating, but I wasn’t one of them. Lord knows it wasn’t my fault this town didn’t have nimble nor decent pickpockets. Some coin hungry dry-eared balloon-fingered thirty-something bordello outcast had reached for the coins in my pockets and pulled my pants off in the process. What an unskilled pickpocket she was, only saved from my furious slaps by an old reflex left in her hands, which was to pull a man’s pants down when she heard the sound of coins.

As I ran past some stables I felt the warm cobblestone of the city streets turn into a dry and dusty dirt road. I lost sight of the watchmen as the dust blew up behind me, but they were still following me, I was sure of it. Damn those watchmen. It’s not that I couldn’t handle a beating. I could always handle a beating, but not when I didn’t deserve one. Jabs and kicks laden with injustice always hurt more. They feel the same when they hit the flesh, but something unexplainable happens to the pain when it journeys through the nerves. It changes into an intolerable unjustified version of itself that will echo endlessly in your mind and muscles. Well, I didn’t get a beating that day. Rumours I heard later told me that when the watchmen ran past the stable they saw a mule raping a sleeping drunk or a drunk raping a sleeping mule. I was never sure which one was true. My indecency seemed pale in proportion in any order. But I’d gotten away, and that’s what mattered. The whole affair made me pretty sure women would soon enough be the death of me if pistols, pianos, paranoid pimps and poorly prepared pork didn’t beat them to it.

The sun was mercilessly burning anyone who didn’t have a shirt on. I sat down in the shadow of a tree and caught my breath as I watched some ox-like men carry barrels of ale and sacks of wheat. Loading the wheat off a wagon and loading the ale on to it again. Two inconveniently nice-dressed men were obviously arguing about the price, as the sun slowly got the best of both of them. While they were busy bartering I crept near the wagon, unloaded a barrel of ale and quickly ran to the riverside before anyone knew what had happened. I threw the barrel into the water and I threw myself in as well. The water was calm and I could easy float downstream without any worries. The cool touch of water against my hot skin was a welcomed relief from the scorching sun. I was myself again. The barrel of ale would surely fetch a nice price and replace the coins in my pocket fourfold. This called for a celebration. I swam ashore and lifted the barrel on land. The beach was strangely familiar. Then I saw the smoke from a nearby house and remembered her name. Joan.

I had stayed with her for a few months while I was a wanted man in Perpignan. She was a borderline ugly woman, but she made up for that with being a fairly good cook, an inspired lover and asking no questions. Which was all I ever needed and wanted in a woman when the guardsmen of Perpignan suddenly decided to earn their pay. Strange how all guards find hidden motivation to do their jobs when it is their coins that is stolen.

I wondered if Joan would let me stay with her again. She had probably slept alone since I left. Staying faithful to her own loneliness, which could never leave her. I however left in a hurry. Took her food, her coins, her curtains, made a backpack and started walking south. I remember I felt very ungentlemanlike in both manner and appearance that day. Who knew that I would pass her house again? In a way it was pleasing. Finally I could still my curiosity and find the answer to the question I had asked myself a thousand times over since I left. Was she pregnant?

The Devil’s own laughter

February 5, 2010

The Devil is a damn good dancer. He also leads very well. Perhaps that is what he does best. You’ve probably not danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, but surely you’ve seen him dance with someone else. Leading them exactly where he wants them, in the air, on their knees, spinning around. With his hands gently around their waist, as if they both were dancing the same dance. But no, the Devil does not hang himself. The Devil does not shoot his wife and the Devil does not shoot the whiskey. The Devil dances on. Because no one can remember where that rope, shotgun or whiskey came from. But everybody knows, and the Devil smiles his own smile while he wipes the dust from his shoes, getting ready for another dance.

Perhaps the Devil has noticed you this time, perhaps he has been watching you secretly for a long long time, looked directly at you, over the naked shoulders of a beautiful slow dance partner dressed in an elegant black cocktail dress. No doubt the Devil has seen you. Sitting there, watching everybody else dance. He’s noticed your feet secretly tapping against the floor, as if shamed by their movement, yet begging for a dance. Your face engaged in boredom while your brightly coloured clothes scream out for the fun you’re not having. Such wonderful contradictions makes the Devil curious. You should’ve known. But you couldn’t have known. Because you never noticed your feet tapping against the floor, and you never saw the Devil’s big bloodshot eyes starring directly at you from the darkness of the dancefloor. Then all of a sudden he stands right before you. his sudden appearance frightening, because in your world, he appeared out of nowhere. His words are sweet and tempting, but they are not words of impulse, sudden excitement or enthusiasm, but well chosen, fitting, thought out, suiting words, perfect words, too perfect. Only proving his contemplated intentions with asking you for a dance. Your feet stops tapping the floor. The screaming colours of your dress hides behind a silent jacket. You get up to get away. Furious the Devil slams his horns against the wall. Forcing you to sit down in fear. His sweetness turned to sulphurous anger. His words nothing but threats. His eyes burning like erupting volcanoes pouring hot lava into yours. Boiling your iris. Making tears flow down your cheeks, like flooded rivers through quiet towns.

Then out of nowhere the Devil notices a familiar sound. Keys rattling in a pocket, disturbed by an unsteady hand searching for money. The Devil forgets all about you. Completely overjoyed by the unintentional music of the keys the Devil focuses his undivided attention on this stranger, a willing dance partner. Some crumpled dollar bills hit the counter and the Devil pours the stranger a drink while the bartender looks away. In the Devil’s absence you gather your things and tell your friends you’re leaving, hugging them dearly. As you exit the dance hall you hear the sound of keys rattling again somewhere in the complete darkness of the parking lot. With a flash yellow car lights blind your eyes and you can only hear the brutal noise of a roaring engine as it drives right past you. Frightening you as if it was the Devil’s own laughter ringing in your ears.