I knew a man who lived in a small house in a city out west. Overall it was a good life, he had a nice home that he remodeled himself with beautiful oak floors he laid by hand and the sweetest tall legged gas cook stove from the twenties, a good dog and teen age son. Maybe the work was hard and the yard a mess, but he had a local cafe, bar, store a nice car and a 1975 Honda Motorcycle that had large flakes of glitter encased in orange paint. As he looked forward into the middle and latter part of life he for saw living alone. After years of failed relationships he felt comfortable as a bachelor. Women seemed to come and go like tides in his life and he said that the urge to hold back the ebbing water was gone. In the lonely phases he would sit look out the window through his “English garden gone to ruin” landscaping and think about repainting the living room next.
Years before he told me of a dream that came to him in the long gray of winter. In his dream the golden late summer sun shone across wheat fields on an old white house at the end of a gravel road. “It looked like eastern Washington”he said, “where the dry land fields run into the shining mountains. It was home he knew and he walked in the door. A child of six or seven sat on the counter laughing. Dark haired and olive-skinned with brown eyes she wore a pure white dress. She looked nothing like me” he said, ” but as I searched her face for resemblance I saw the light in her eyes and I knew, like the sun rises in the east this was my daughter.”
“Come ON Dad.” The child laughed “Mom has been waiting for you since FOREVER.” She reached out her hand and I woke up.”
I remember him telling this story one night at the By and By on the smoking patio on a Thursday night. It was ride night and the whole bar smelled of smoke, wet leather, gasoline and alcohol. Not in a bad way mind you. My ears were still ringing from following a straight piped Norton for ten miles that sounded like a dying machine gun. I had to ask to speak louder.
“Sounds prophetic” I said.
He told me he thought so to once, but it had been years and no one had arrived. Now nearing forty he thought the time to have another family was past. He finished his whiskey and sauntered out to do the flight of the gazelle his bike seemed to require to start.
Later, drunker he admitted that in his mind he had said good-bye to that dream; he would not let his mind wander down that gravel road or enter the house in the sun-washed fields. “That is not my road” he said passing the bottle between us. “it was just a dream, and eventually all dreams must end.”
Not that long after he started dating a woman with young kids. He told me that he had seen this woman years before at his sons’ school but she had been married then. He seemed to remember the moment in great detail; she was pregnant and crying wearing a long dress in some Indian print. On top of the stone steps she stood and wept uncaring who saw her. For a second the clouds parted and the rain fell as a shaft of light came down, the drops of water became prisms and he said she like a bronze statue dedicated to the way women suffer indignity with grace. “She looked better on her worst day then I could on my best”.
At first I was unfazed. Women seem to roll around this guy like asteroids headed for deep space. They came in blazing and shot out to bigger and better things. I stayed silent; he knew it, I knew it. A matter of time before she moves on. I didn’t dare bring up his dream because it seemed unkind. No man wants to be reminded of what he could have been.
But she didn’t leave. She stayed, and soon they were dating, a word I didn’t expect to hear from him again. Then not long after she was pregnant, they were married and the house was sold as to small for their family. Their daughter was born in a bathroom of a suburban rental before they moved to the country. We keep on touch this man and I, as we are rather close. A letter hastily dispatched on the back of spiral note paper read:
“The house is green, not white, and the child is blond with blue eyes. We are wrapped in trees not fields of wheat and instead of a nineteenth century farmhouse we have a seventies ranch. Farms always have the vague smell of manure depending on the season which also wasn’t in my dream, any more than the broken hot water heater, busted sewer line or the tree that came down and nearly took out the pole barn. Dreams are always so perfect; no dirt or mess. My child could never wear a white dress without spilling something on it. But she does talk like that now she is six; she uses forever a lot for someone who is younger than my taste for single malts. She has that light and laugh, that penchant for counter hopping. My wife and I ebb and flow together now, but regularly the clouds part and the sun shines down on her in that radiant light. It is not every day; every day would be too much. But often enough to remind me that there must be a loving and merciful God, because there is nothing I have done in life to deserve this. I will take a dirty reality over a perfect dream any day.”
“I do miss that motorcycle though, it was a sweet ride.”