A Thousand Miles Landline
The point is that you never know it’s a dream because everyone’s too busy acting in your own skull-sized tv show.
Sometimes it’s all about the words you don’t say. Sometimes it’s all about something else.
On the phone Mum is telling me about her day. She tells me what she’s cooking for dinner and words of beef and chopped onions run through the landline cable. Travelling across country borders and piles of garbage on the street a thousand miles away.
Outside a giant cloud’s farting puffy little clouds all around. This is going to be another gloomy night without stars. Weather finding the perfect life metaphor.
Someone once said when people talk to you about the weather they mean something else. And Mum asks if it’s raining.
In a phone conversation it’s all about trying not to slip into an embarrassing silence. Mum shares local gossip I don’t want to hear about. Mum filling the gap with stories I’ve already heard dozens of times.
She says, I love you. And I say, I’m going to bed.
There are days you wake up already pissed off. Maybe that’s because of a bad dream. Or maybe you’re just genetically grumpy.
Maybe it’s all about planets’ alignments. Moon years. Astrology and all the rest. Butterfly effect and string theory. There’s so much garbage to take into account to find a reason for everything that in the end, it’s all a giant random mess.
I stopped looking for a cause for anything. Everything is random anyway. I just go with the flow.
Every night dreams screen in your head when you’re asleep. But there are dreams you’ll never remember. Dreams that looks like memories.
The point is that you never know it’s a dream because everyone’s too busy acting in your own skull-sized tv show. That cloudy cotton frame everything is wrapped around in dreams, that’s just cheap movie setting. That never happens for real.
When I die I want it to happen in my sleep. Passing away with flossed teeth and clean underwear. Dead and clean washed.
That night I dreamt of Mum. She’s screaming with swelling veins cracking over her neck. She screams so hard that spits fly off her mouth landing on the furniture. Eyes popping out of their orbits. Then Mum collapses. Mum going timber. She’s sprawled on the floor. Pink starfish on the living room carpet.
Somebody calls an ambulance. Flickering red and blue light on the greying walls of my parents’ house. Then Mum is on a gurney rolled away. Mum is in the hospital with tubings stuck under her skin feeding her vitamins and sugary water.
This is me watching life going by, frame after frame after frame. Screening in my head. This is just a dream. And when I wake up my first thought is I need the bathroom.
Then I text Mum to tell her she was playing a chalk outline on the floor of my dreams. That’s funny, I write, isn’t it?
She texts back, don’t be daft. And she laughs.
I know she’s laughing because she chains up forty little “a” one next to each other. Mum never learnt how to laugh on messages.
Then life goes by, the sun keeps rising and setting for everyone. And the same happens in this odd story of mine.
Except one week after my dream, after Mum laughed in a single vowel, Mum rings me up. She asks me about the weather.
This is Mum and I chatting but not chatting.
When you talk about the weather you always mean something else.
Then there’s silence on the line. Mum not filling the gaps. Behind her I can hear Dad watching tv watching him. On tv someone’s guessed the price of washing powder and the audience applauds.
And Mum says, “It wasn’t me.”
I say, what d’you mean?
“The message I sent you,” Mum says. “That was your dad.”
And my first thought is that Dad doesn’t know how to laugh on messages either.
Mum says they had an argument at home. One of those arguments nobody ever tells you about when you’re a thousand miles away. Mum says she screamed with her veins swelling all over her neck. She says she collapsed on the floor. Mum going timber. Unconscious.
From behind the phone, talking to her, Dad says, “God knows what the hell is wrong with you two.”
They had to call an ambulance. She went to the hospital. Then Mum says, “How did you know?”
And she starts sobbing. Sobbing because I knew without knowing. Sobbing because the invisible umbilical cord is never cut for good. It stretches over distances. Through country borders, stormy oceans and blossoming trees. Connections are never about miles and double insulated wires.
Behind the phone Dad says, “You two are freaks.” And on tv the audience boos somebody who couldn’t guess the price of twelve cage-free eggs.
Mum says, “I love you.” And she sobs, sobs, sobs.
I say, Mum.
Dad yells at the screen saying that he’d win the game hands down standing on one leg.
Mum kisses the handset and her lips travel through a thousand miles of dead grass and ocean waves crashing on cliffs.
And I can feel her kiss on my cheek. I can smell her hair and garlic on her hands. Because real life smells are not like in fairy tales.
On tv somebody wins an estate car and Dad says, “Shit.”
Mum says, “Dream about something nice next time. Will you?”
I say, will do.
And I can see her smiling. My eyes close and I can see Mum on the other side of the landline. I don’t know how this is, but I’ve stopped looking for a cause for anything. It’s all random anyway.
Mum tells me a cousin’s wife’s friend is getting divorced. And I’m listening. Her voice travelling a thousand miles through the landline.
Mum says, you still there?
But I don’t say anything.
Because sometimes it’s all about the words we don’t say. Sometimes it’s all about something else.
Whatever that is.