Abruptly he wakes with a breath of jagged glass. His dream catches in the mangled wreck of hot duvet and sheet. He kicks it out, pushes it backwards, tries to skid away from the dream, but it’s too late. They’d collided. In the dream they again became the familiar spoons, a sensuous couple tangled close together in sleep. He checks again for the smell of her hair, the molten heat of her body, his arm about her longingly, but it’s just a dream. He pulls the pillow back over his face. Two hundred kilometres per hour awake, his heart races madly. He examines all of his disturbed senses, rolls onto his back and surrenders his arms to the cool air above the pillow.
Outside a Pukeko screams, a short siren blast that shocks the midnight silence and echoes gently back across the valley, through the cabbage trees and over the little whispering stream.
He consoles himself to the shape of his dark room. Out into its mundane corners his mind cruises, over the strewn debris of clothing, across the floor, out to the near empty wardrobe where the mirrored doors stand ajar. He knows the image practised into the glass. More frantic in the dark, the lost glare that lives there now constantly eyeing itself.
The pile-up had been so unexpected. He circles the wreckage wondering how she could have entered his sleep. He’d worked so hard steering himself through the waking hours, keeping his defences up. The dream, the thunderstorm dream is the one he’d have much preferred. It doesn’t have her in its grip. He doesn’t have to negotiate her at all in the satisfying thunderstorm. If he closes his eye’s can he go there?
In this dream he is a foreigner under the grey polluted European skies. It is an overcast day in a dreary town. Puffy-faced pale-skinned people crawl about in their colourless little lives. Dull people with large bulging bloodshot eyes subconsciously move about in this busy, over-populated shit-hole. It is alive only with the incessant noise of traffic and the silence of voices.
He stands in front of the two-storeyed house. Just a red brick post-war characterless cube, sharper than a single piece of Lego. The exterior of the house is unremarkable, identical to the other square blocks in the row. He recognises the neat little green painted letterbox from the photo. The interior is a secret to the outside world, lavishly decorated with modern chrome and leather. He recognises it all from the photos, pictures swollen out to fill a seventeen-inch screen. Larger than life, glow in the dark pictures as crisp as radiation.
He doesn’t falter as he enters, fists clenched tighter than a heartbeat smash their way in. Smash through nose and cheekbone, smash through blue eyes and smiling teeth. Great heavy drops of blood fall like thunderstorm rain, onto the neat white shirt with its perfectly knotted black tie, fall onto the perfect white collar around the neck of that smiling, rugged big-eyed European face. A huge eruption of thunderstorm drops quell the dust of a ferociously dry anger. The dream smiles at him. In the final act he pulls the computer monitor from the desk. Ripping it with cords flailing, he lifts it high above his head and smashes it down on the limp body at his feet. The body of the once single male occupant lies gasping with the reality that this was the husband, the mild mannered father of her children at the other end of the big anonymous world. Then he hears his calm voice in the dream:
‘I C Q is now uninstalled!
Your computer has performed an illegal operation.
Windows is shutting down.’
In a silhouette of soft darkness the child’s rag doll breathing reaches him from the side of the bed. She coughs quick and deliberately. He wakes again but this time it’s not the thick, slow death of dreams. Automatically he pulls back a corner of cool duvet, lets the child smooth her way in, curl up on the larger than empty side. He feels the wide-awake eyes piercing his face in the dark with that hypnotic rhythm of chesty breaths coming straight at him. He waits for it, knows the whispered question soon arriving. The metallic scratch of the pin being slipped from the hand grenade. He closes his eyes. Waits. The breathing quietens.
“When’s mum coming home?”
“Soon sweetie, soon.”
He rubs a smooth thumb across her brow. “Now go back to sleep.”
“Can I have Nutella on my sandwiches tomorrow?”
Biting. Zesty. Tangy. Sparkling…. Piquant!
Rod has fallen in love.
Not that blind senseless staggering about newborn. Or that wild, kick your heels in the air feeling. No, its the necessity to lightly smear fresh Basil Pesto over warm, yeasty focaccia. An act of passion.
Olive oil, extra virgin;
Avocadoes, green and firm;
Mushrooms, black, ugly and musky;
Shallots. Anchovies. Brie. Dijon mustard.
His supermarket trolley is full. Stunned at the look he’d saved for her, the mirror image of what she had made him into, he stands complete above his trolley, proud and confident. Two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, a small bunch of red roses, the smell of his new cologne — her gift to him — wafting up through his new sky blue shirt. He doesn’t care what they think, these squint eyed women that silently pack his groceries from behind the till.
Love is the aroma of crisp cheesy muffins, baking in the fresh morning air, needing a light spreading of babaghanoush, a juicy spluttering of lightly grilled bacon, a stinging of caper berries, a slippery slide of sun dried tomatoes in their tangy olive oil marinade, just waiting for the eggs. Love is the brunch of their Sundays together. She has taught him well, and oh how he lives for the richness, the affection of caring for her.
Love is also the molten, creamy blue cheese sauce, dripping from the mound of perfect soft yellow crepes. But that had been that earth shattering first weekend together last month. They’d kissed above the pan, brushed at each other’s skin, moved about together in the tiny space of her kitchen, glowing in the crisp morning light, all sense an electric sizzle.
He is busy now with this feeling, busy with the waiting while the chocolate sets on the still warm Florentines. The tang of lemon peel and ginger an excitement on his pallet, the grinding crunch of brittle warm almonds as he chews, waiting. He could lay them at the bedside but they are not yet firm or perfect enough.
Her blonde hair is an explosion of icing sugar whisked out on the pillow. Her eyes are pistachios, firmly locked in their creamy shells. She doesn’t rouse to the smell of coffee brewing or his noisy whisking of froth. Dough rises in the perfection of her soft cheeks. Her scent is a power, trapped in the light cotton of the Balinese sarong knotted loosely about his middle, her sarong. The wild bright orange and pale blue blossoms of the fabric are tamed in this dark room, curtained off from the late morning light. His room.
She doesn’t stir as he clears the bedside cabinet of the finger marked wine glasses, the near empty platter on the carpet, an epitaph to their evening’s foreplay with its grape stalks, cheese rind and olive pits. He could slide in beside her, wrap an arm around her warm middle, kiss the salt from her neck, but he waits. Waits for the eruption of joy that her waking face will bring him. Watching her sleep, she remains his Kapiti Island, hauntingly tranquil, beautiful in a sea of blue. Just out of reach.
Rod has picked five Nasturtiums bursting bright from the dunes of his mornings walk. He arranges them in a cream saucer then places the poached eggs over the muffins, stirs the Hollandaise out into a fluffy glob that he watches melt and spread over the hot eggs. He tops the coffees, one with cinnamon, the other chocolate. He arranges the flowers on the tray. He is ready.
She stirs now. One eye squints out through its gooey opening.
Her face knots up into a wrinkled scowl.
“God do you have to be so damned busy first thing in the morning?”
Her cheek falls back into the damp pillow-stain of fresh spittle.
“I’m feeling a bit off mate.”
“Alright if I just go back to sleep for a bit?” Her eyes close.
“No don’t come near me, my mouth is foul.”
“Just get me a glass of water thanks.”
“I’m feeling right dodgy…”
“I don’t think I can eat anything.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Hoseason lives and writes from a small valley midway between Whangamata and Waihi. As a dairy farmer, solo father and poet, Michael also manages to find the time to study the fields of Creative Writing and Life Writing at Massey University.