A Dream Had While on Jury Duty
I saw her again last night. I saw her face, it was a face I loved. I dreamt that I was living somewhere out near the Cliff House, only the landscape was much altered. The row houses of the Sunset district were gone, the Safeway was gone, the Cliff House, such as it now was, stood on top of an immense dune of sand and wire grass. One reached it by the Muni on a trolley resembling a California Street cable car, which climbed at a sharp angle, such that a standee had a hard time keeping his feet, that crested the big hill, and, turning southward, descended toward the sea. There was no real beach anymore. The trolley tracks ran for awhile along a strip of tidal sand, lapped at on both sides by the water, then turned east again along a low dune and regained the land near where the northernmost Golden Gate Park windmill stands, though it was not there in this dream.
I was in this different Cliff House, which was a one or two room affair, like a cross between an open air pavilion and the little nineteenth century roadhouse preserved in Stern Grove. I was seated in a chair. There were some twenty or thirty people seated in chairs around the walls, most of them turned inward, facing me. I was not in the middle of the room, but I was, for some reason I can not now remember, the center of everyone's attention. Something was going on in a leisurely way, when SHE walked in. She wore a lemon yellow dress, spare and brief in the manner of the middle nineteen-sixties. Her hair was very black and her smile beautiful beyond belief, a smile I rarely saw, the one she used to show when she was without reservation pleased with herself and happy to see me. She had a scrap of yellow paper in her hand, on which a message was written in cursive script in black ink. She came up to me where I was seated before all of those people, placed the paper in my hand, bent down slightly (she was never very tall) and kissed me full on the lips.
I was astonished, and overjoyed. After all these years of longing and searching for her, that in the end she should come to me! And not by accident, but purposefully, to give me some sort of message, and with that wondrous smile and the oft-dreamt of kiss to prove that there was something left of our old relations. I trembled with urgency to find out what the scrap of yellow paper said, but there were even more important things to do! As I sat in front of all those people, dumbfounded, she, having delivered the as-yet-unread message, turned, and with a renewal of the dazzling smile, began to walk away. I started from my chair, tried to stay her progress by a touch of my hand on her arm. There was so much I wanted to ask, to say, just not in front of such an audience. (Since she came in, the lot of them had stared in rapt silence, watching this highly personal scene with the leering enjoyment of late twentieth century Oprah.) I wanted to ask her why she had finally come. I wanted to tell her that, yes, I had loved and made love to other women, even married one of them, but that I had in the most important sense kept myself pure for her, that there was something I had given her that I had never given to any other, a certain frank, loving confidence, an unguarded communication, communion of soul that had been for her and for no one else.
People got in our way as we walked toward the door. One woman even fell down underfoot and got walked on. The symbolism of this was obvious to me even in a dream! I was horrified at the event, disappointed at her indifference which bordered on malice. Indeed, in the midst of my joy at the unexpected reappearance of my long lost love, I was saddened by the fancy that I detected in her continued smile a hint of triumph over the rivals who had usurped her place during her long absence from my life. Not only did these things cheapen her, but there were unsavory implications of my own infidelity to those whom I had loved, had given my heart and my promises to in the intervening years. In the tumult of this disaster, she slipped away from me, left the room, and disappeared again, perhaps this time forever. The dream ended, and I did not even get a chance to read the message on the scrap of yellow paper.