One dream: My mother and I sit on a banquette in a diner. On the wall is a painting of my grandmother as she was in mid-life. My mother, bashful, confides, "I always sit in this booth because she's here," and inclines her head towards her mother. Rapt, we study her, beautiful in art as she was in person. Just wait, my mother whispers, and grins slyly. My grandmother starts to undress. She slips off one strap of her bra, offering us a provocative smile. Then the next strap, as she steps closer to the foreground of the picture. I steal a glance at my mother. She is beaming, her arms extended to welcome her mother into the diner, to offer her salvation. I look away, make myself busy sipping my iced tea. My cheeks are burning with embarrassment. I am unprepared to witness intimacy that defies the rules, both of mortality and convention.
Another: My oldest friend, lost to me now during anguished moments of reckoning as my mother lay dying, clutches my hand before breathlessly touring me around her multimillion-dollar Manhattan brownstone. So excited is she that she fails to notice my growing incredulity. My cosmopolitan youth is so far from who I am today that I find myself wondering, without irony, how it is that people live this way. She stops short at the threshold of yet another room and laughs girlishly, the laugh transporting me and her back to thirteen awkward years old. This one's for you, she murmurs. I blink with incomprehension. It's your bedroom, she explains, her tone slightly clipped by my failure to react in the expected manner. Welcome home.
(I remember how tender her touch when she washed my hair in the sink (twice, she ordered, to get it really clean) after I'd broken my leg and had to keep it away from water. I remember her showing up at my door, me already in my mid-thirties, to nurse me, confined as I was to a wheelchair, and I remember her saying, You think I've shown up to rescue you, but it is really you rescuing me.)
Where else but in dream do all my people collide and spill out over their edges, as if Dali himself had painted them? No wonder I am reluctant to be roused.