Monday, 10 January 2011

The nightmare

Inspired by Lydia Davis, here's an attempt at a one-paragraph short story:

Once I dreamed my whole life. I dreamed my childhood, the easy early years in the shade of mango trees and frangipanis, the joys of solitude and reading, the boredom of high school in a boring town, the humiliations of puberty, the happiness of friendship, the perplexing misery of teen romance. I dreamed I loved a girl on my street with small brown curls, but then I moved away, I met someone else and we were married, we made a home, we made children, we shared all the tenderness and drudgery of married life. But as the years passed we grew apart, our closeness became an intolerable burden, a slow suffocation, until one day I knew, with a breathless, terrifying certainty, that I had married the wrong person. I saw that the only one in the world I needed was the girl on my street, the girl with the small brown curls whom I had loved all those years ago. But she had long since gone away, she no longer knew me or remembered my name. When I woke from the dream, I lay in my bed beneath a suffocating blanket of despair. The truth of the dream was acute and unbearable: my whole life had been a mistake, one immense and sickening catastrophe, and nothing now could ever make it right. I heard the breathing of my wife next to me, and, choked by grief, I knew she was wrong, a mistake, the reef on which all my life was shipwrecked. Then she turned in her sleep, and I saw a single dark curl slide from her naked shoulder, and saw that she was not the wife of my dream, but the other one, the girl from my street whom I had loved as a child, whom I had longed for, desolate and unrequited, in my dream.

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