Far away in the sky, the cerulean sea was billowing. I saw him. His outline in the bright day, his hands inadvertently playing with the leaves of the Mogra bushes, planted along the hedges. He was with his girlfriend, talking, drinking. We were at Jafar’s party. I said hi to him. He hi-ed back. I looked up again where the blue expanse turned into cerulean (could it be turquoise or azure?), the waves crashing, the foam building up and diminishing at the next moment. Seagulls screeched, many whales jumped, and all sorts of marine life had sprung to action, in that cerulean ocean in the up-above blue sky. They had started moving; I caught a glimpse of him heading towards the house. My heart quivered. The alarm went on. I woke up.
The first time I had this dream, it felt surreal. I’d never dreamt with such vividness, with such coherent scenes, however fantastical; and such logical events, seemingly following a logic of that dream world. I had woken up, feeling overwhelmed, as if my senses had overworked all night in my sleep, and with a feeling that something was amiss. The sights and the sounds, I could describe in the familiar notions of a roaring sea. But, I could not place him. I knew a few men who fashioned long hair, but he was none of them. Maybe I saw him on TV, in a print magazine, or on the internet, but he didn’t give off the vibe of someone famous or popular. Perchance, I saw him somewhere else, without noticing him and my eyes perceived the information of his visual, without me consciously registering it in my mind.
W hen these ontologically similar dreams occurred at first, there seemed to be no identifying pattern. The dreams would consist of more or less the same elements, the same moving parts. I would be looking at the cerulean sky with its fish. Sometimes he would be just in the field of my vision, or sometimes I would be looking at him, my eyes taking notes of his pretty face, his lock of hair that he would reflexively put behind his ear. My waking life, however, could not remember him. If I were to sketch his face, I wouldn’t be sure if that was him. I must have seen him somewhere if my mind had to conjure up his face in my dreams. But what if I had never seen him, never knew him? My heart ached at the tiny possibility of that thought being true.
As the same dreams occurred more frequently, I started noting down the dates. I dreamt at least twice a month, for the first couple of months. Then it became less frequent. In one of the cerulean dreams (I thought it would be best to name this particular dream, this ensemble of dreams, to differentiate from other run-on-the-mill ones), we actually talked, small talk where we exchanged few words. I waved to him, he waved back with a smile, a glass of wine in his hand. He walked towards me. What are you up to, sitting under that tree? he asked me. I said I was a bit drunk, and that the sky looked beautiful to stare at. He also looked at the sky. I looked up at him looking at the sky, his face outlined in the bright sun looked equally beautiful. What a pretty face, I whispered to myself. What was that? He asked, possibly catching a few sounds from my mouth. This was what happened in one of the cerulean dreams. I also noticed that he was alone. His girlfriend was not with him. I always felt that they were good to each other. In my waking life, I wondered what could have happened between them.
I saw a few more versions of this variation. In some, we would say hi but from a distance – he would be wandering at the edges of the garden, alone; I would be in my happy stupor, staring up, sitting at the bottom of a tree. I always felt that it was a big fig tree, branches spanning across at great heights, laden with fruits, the smell of those still in my nose. In others, we had small talks, customary exchanges of ‘How are you?’, ‘Are you enjoying the party?’, etc. I believe we exchanged our names in one of these dreams, and I was not surprised that I didn’t remember that either. I would wake up feeling a heaviness in my heart, with a little frustration that he was still a stranger.
These were only dreams, I consoled myself. That my tired body and mind made up these experiences when I was asleep, blending images, sounds, names, and feelings, stored in my memories. With each second passed, my brain kept a snapshot of the waking world around me and somehow rearranged the elements in the dreams with their own logical existence. Not only that I could trace the origin of the ocean visual to documentaries or videos about oceans or seas, but I was pretty sure that the words of Sylvia Plath in one of her journals inspired the gravity-defied, upturned dream-ocean. ‘The ocean was cerulean toward the horizon, vivid azure nearer shore.’ What if I could never know him? I longed for him. He seemed like someone that I should be with.
The surreal cerulean dreams started occurring less frequently. I dreaded losing him, though at some level I was also relieved that I wouldn’t have to go through that wanting anymore. It would not feel good to me to want what I could not have, neither when I am awake, nor in my dreams. Dreams are not the window to another, external universe. It is a portal to the inner world that our mind creates without us even knowing. Of course, things may look bizarre in the dreams. But, after all, what we remember from the dreams is a sort of processed information that we reconstitute with the data that we gather when we are awake.
Did it mean that his appearance was merely a blip, an error? If it wasn’t, it made me feel even sadder that I didn’t know who he was. Maybe my brain blended the face from the elements that it found here and there, like those AI algorithms that generate images from a given prompt, a sense of a physical body, an own person.
It had been four months since I had dreamt of him. I had, almost, lost all hope that I would find him again in the depths of my subconscious mind. In any case, what was even the point of it that I was too intoxicated in the dreams (by now I was very sure that I was drunk) to even have a normal, dream-conversation with him. I decided that I would try to talk to him more (he sounded friendly, and charming), try to be sober, and get to know more about him, if only I get the chance to see him again.
I slept a bit late that night. It was a cold night, the type of cold that makes your nipples stiff. I slept, tucked under the warmth of my blanket. I smelled the pulpy, ripe fruits, dropped on the ground, some half-eaten, perhaps by squirrels or birds. I sensed a languidness in my body, a tiredness that made me wish to lie down and take a nap right under that tree.
But I was already sleeping, back in the real world, because I could see the cerulean sky with its crashing waves. He came around and said hi to me. I managed to get up, and opened my eyes fully, letting all the bright daylight titillate my irises. ‘Are you alright?’, he asked, walking toward me. ‘Yeah, I am fine, thank you. Just feeling a little buzzed,’ I said. ‘Are you enjoying the party?’ I asked him. I guess our small talks had finally paid off. ‘Yes, it is kind of nice. I haven’t had a nice outing in a long time,’ he replied, taking a sip from his glass. He was drinking some cocktail today. ‘That’s nice. The party is good, for sure,’ I added. The party was indeed nice, with lots of drinks and food.
‘Where is your girlfriend?’ I asked him without realising that he did not know that I knew he had a girlfriend. I could see a hint of surprise on his face. He did not know how I knew about that, because in all practical sense, in that dream-world, we were complete strangers. He too was meeting me for the first time at Jafar’s party. And I knew that the chances of me straying from his dreams were very slim.
I still sat under the tree, having a conversation with him, too drunk (or perhaps, too shy) to stand up and talk to him face to face. He stood at arm’s distance. ‘We broke up a few months ago. Things weren’t going great between us. Plus I was not sure what I wanted from my life, and I guess, still not sure. We are still friends though,’ he finally replied to my faux-pas of a question. And at that moment I felt a strange sensation. The fruity air turned into the winds laden with humidity that one finds at a seashore. I looked up. The far-away cerulean sea-sky turned a little rough. The winds started blowing hard, the birds, seagulls, started flying confusedly. It seemed, all of a sudden, that all the creatures of that mighty ocean rushed down towards him. To attack him? It felt too real that I ran to cover him, to protect him… and, then I woke up.
Preet opened his eyes, to the illuminated room under the faint light of a white bulb. He faced the empty wall and a clock on it. The needles stayed for a moment as if imitating a pose of a salsa dancer, her two feet apart, the hour needle at seven and the minute needle at twenty-five, and the thin second needle somewhere between twelve and one. The half-open window on the left wall of the room displayed the movements of the fronds of a palm tree, swaying in the morning breeze. He could smell the faint crashing of the waves in the sea. He felt a sharp pain in his left arm as he moved to understand where he was.
He turned to his right. Alam had slept off while sitting in his chair, his face on the bed, the hair covering his forehead. His right hand seemed fine as he raised it towards Alam’s face, slowly putting the strands of his hair that has fallen off on his eyes.
‘Oh, thank goodness, you are awake!’ Alam, waking up from his warm touch, said with the happy emotions of someone who’s just found their lost treasure.
‘What happened?’ Preet asked, slightly anxious, because of the pain in his body, and the confusion he felt a minute ago.
‘We were attacked at the lab by some people who wanted to illegally traffic the marine animals. I was working and you had just flown in to give me a surprise. You tried to save me and got hurt. I was so worried, you were hurt and unconscious for several hours. I thought I had lost you.’ Alam told Preet as his eyes welled up.
‘I am sorry that I scared you. But I am here now.’ Preet said reassuringly, holding his palm in his hand. ‘I mean, what happened to your hair?’
‘My hair? I have been keeping it short since last year, don’t you remember? It was becoming so difficult to take care of that,’ said Alam, inadvertently his hand wanted to make sure of his short hair. ‘Anyway, the doctor said that you were out of danger, and were resting in deep sleep. I felt like you were dreaming something.’
Preet looked up at the hard ceiling of the hospital room. He pictured what was outside of the building, the blue sky and the blue sea, and the morning sun that divided the two. He was awake now, in this world with Alam. ‘Yes, I was dreaming, of a cerulean dream, of you. Would you like to hear about it?’
‘Far above, in the sky, the waves of the cerulean sea were rising and falling….’