It’s late afternoon. The sun already slipping into the west. And what a sun. A spring sun. There I am, soaking up the spring sun, in the late afternoon, in a chair, a lounge chair — I am lounging, languid, in my chair — my hair pinned up off my shoulders, my shoulders bare to the sun, warm in the sun. The sun is warm and I am lazy and happy; a small smile.
Also, there is water. Not an ocean, but not a puddle, either. Oh, I see, it is a pond. A pond, clean & still, blue-green, a nice soothing color, not unlike my eyes. A pond the color of my eyes, and I am sitting, on my chair, on the lawn. Yes, there is a lawn. Neatly clipped, healthy, golden, a good lawn, a good English lawn.
So this is England. I must be rich. To have my own pond and a lawn and all this sunny day all to myself. Perhaps there is a house behind me, somewhere over there, I can’t see it, don’t want to turn my head and look, but it must be there. Let’s say it is white. It doesn’t have to be large, I’d prefer it not to be — it’s a small white house, a cottage, and there is a garden, too, somewhere, behind me, maybe off to the left.
But here it is only me, my hair pinned up, my shoulders brown, my little smile, and the chair so comfortable, on the lawn, by the water, the still, blue-green clear-as-eyes water, and the delicious sun. And now here she comes. A swan. A perfect swan. I know she is perfect even though I’ve never seen a swan before. I am sitting on the lawn, on my lawn, and the swan comes gliding across the water beside the golden grass, graceful, neck high, beautiful & perfect. She passes before me as I lounge, lazy, languid. She passes before me, and as she does, I know, I just know, that this is the day I will die.
In the dream, I throw a potato at a man. I aim for his head and my aim is good. Thwack. Right between the eyes. His head falls off. I laugh. A cackle really. You could say there is something maniacal about it, if you want to think in those terms. Which I don’t. Why should I? I took aim, I threw, I connected. Mr. Potato Head. I laugh again. And another man is before me. I reach my hand back. Someone gives me a potato. I don’t know who. I don’t need to know. Once more my arm lifts, swings, the potato is released, a good flight, like David letting loose his rock, and this man too, this other Goliath, is hit squarely between the eyes.
His head falls off, he’s down for the count. I’m feeling good. I could do this all day. I may have to do this all day. I don’t mind. I don’t tire. I don’t consider or re-consider. I just do what I have to do, potato after potato, head after head, like a boy let loose at the carnival, knocking down ducks, or whatever it is they knock down, I don’t know, I’m not a boy, I don’t go to carnivals. I’m in my dream. And in my dream the potatoes keep coming and my arm is steady and strong, my eye true, my aim impeccable. The heads, they keep on rolling.
In the mirror, I see my father’s face. I don’t want to see it. Believe me, it’s the last thing in the world I want to see. But it’s him, right there in my eyes — in that blue-green-grey—my father’s eyes in my head, in my mirror. It does no good to blink, blinking is no protection, so I don’t blink, I stare straight ahead into those eyes, my eyes, his eyes. I never blink.
In the dream, my father is dead. Eating is what killed him. He swelled up and up and up until he exploded. Dead. In the dream.
In reality, my father almost died. Cancer. When I speak with him on the phone, the night before his first operation, I keep my voice low, calm, soothing — the loving daughter. I speak with him about God. “I’ve been praying for you, Daddy,” I say. “Well, I haven’t had that conversation yet,” he tells me. “Which conversation is that?” “With HaShem. He and I, we haven’t talked.” “I think you should, Daddy, I think you should talk tonight.” He doesn’t answer. I say it again. “Have that conversation tonight, Daddy.” “I don’t know what to say,” he tells me. “You don’t have to say anything,” I tell him,“that’s the kind of conversation it is, the kind where you don’t have to say a thing.”
For my father God is not a beautiful white swan who appears before you in the blue-green water beside a glistening golden English lawn, in the springtime, before sunset, after tea, the sleepiest time of the day, eyes beginning to grow heavy, a small secret smile on your lips.
My father doesn’t know this swan. This swan is not his God.
His God is in the desert, where it is always high noon, with the rocks and the sand, the rocks hard like hard potatoes. The enemy always in front of you, never inside of you. The enemy looming and the rock-hard potatoes coming, and the enemy’s head in your sights — pow, bam, kaboom — the words bold, comic book yellow and red. Shazam. Take that, and that, and this, and that. Smack to the kisser — to the moon, Alice. Alakazam Katzenjammer Hossenfeffer.
It’s hard to grow up. And some people never do. Boys at the carnival, in the shooting gallery, in the peanut gallery, slap happy, taking pot shots. Take that, and that, and this, and that. God in the desert, in the hot dry desert. God in the desert and that angry little boy is still throwing rocks.
In the dream my father and I are in a restaurant, just the two of us. This is something we have never done in real life, we have never gone out alone to eat. Once when he was visiting me we sat on a bench and shared a foot-long hotdog, with mustard and sauerkraut. I didn’t want to do it. Oh please, isn’t it obvious, isn’t it just too obvious? But he insisted, it seemed important to him, so I took a bite and said “You finish it, Daddy,” and he did — he loves sauerkraut. I do not.
But in the dream, we’re in a nice restaurant and he isn’t yelling at the waiter because his fork is dirty, or because he did not ask for ice in his water did he? My father is calm, amiable, natural. And so am I. The two of us are eating salad. How healthy, I think, even in the dream. We each have a plate of greens before us, we eat slowly and we talk.
I don’t know what we’re talking about but we’re not arguing, just talking, the way some people do with each other, the way some fathers and daughters do, friendly, natural, at ease. There’s not a ketchup bottle in sight. A ketchup bottle could set him off, but there isn’t one — my dream is cooperating.
We’re just sitting and talking and eating and it’s very nice, maybe a little bit like heaven, if you think heaven is a fine restaurant where the silverware is always clean. Which I don’t, and this is my dream, so I’d say: not heaven. Just a bit of a rest in the middle of this all-too-real-world. Just a bit of a rest in a restaurant. A little salad, a little talking; a father and daughter. Me and my father.
Together, in a dream. In another life.