Close Your Eyes
by Diane DiGennaro
Christina never dreamed in color. She had plenty of dreams, but never in color, until now. When she was little, most nights she struggled up from the depths of nightmares, screaming. Her parents would bring her into their bed to quiet her and she’d finally fall into a slumber, wet and clammy from her crying. The nightmares left her as an adult. She would fall into bed so exhausted that there were no dreams to be remembered. Just a vague, unsettled sense of things left undone. Two babies, a divorce, and mom living with them by then. Even after the girls were grown and she retired from serving up lunches at the school cafeteria, she didn’t dream in color. She never really allowed herself to languish in bed and relax, even in retirement. Too much to do.
Be careful what you wish for, she could hear her mother saying.
She repositioned herself tenderly in the bed and thought about this. Looking at the yellow gingham curtains on the hospice room windows, she pondered. Smoothing down the soft beige blanket, she ran the worn edging through her fingers, back and forth. Why now? It was probably all the medication they gave her for the pain, but lordy, this dream was too beautiful to come from something so ugly as cancer.
She lay back listening to the muffled tones of busy hallway nurses. Melanie, her favorite nurse, was teasing one of the other residents. She smiled, thinking of Melanie’s warm hands. Hands that spoke of peace, that spoke a language of reassurance. Closing her eyes she willed the dream to return. The scene opened at the ocean’s edge. An apricot and lemon sunrise over the water brought the dawn softly into day. The ocean waves were periwinkle blue like her mother’s hydrangeas and just as perky. Waves lapped at her feet. She looked down at the frothy swirl and realized that it was made up of small, pink hued pearls. The pearls from the back of her wedding dress. They danced and chattered at her feet, tickling her ankles until an unseen choreographer called them back and they tumbled into deeper water. She waded out farther to be with them. A fresh wave danced in and met her at her knees. The chattering swirl was like an old girlfriend, happy to see her and so much to tell her! She couldn’t make out the specifics, but she knew it as an invitation.
Each wave out took some sand from under her feet. The speed of it unsteadied her. Looking up to get her bearings, she noticed a flotilla of miniature sampans out beyond the crashing waves, in calm water. Each boat no bigger than a dinner plate. A Lemon Drop Marigold was nestled on the deck of each. The yellow marigolds at the edge of her mother’s tomato patch. The lemon yellow jauntily floating on the periwinkle sea lightened her. She dove into the chattering pearls and they carried her out to the marigolds. She surfaced surrounded by the Lemon Drop flowers and could smell their pungent strength. There was such peace in floating with them.
* * *
Melanie, the day nurse, knew as she entered the room that Christina had passed. There was always a shift of energy that could be felt. The air was weighted and silent, except around the edges where it seemed to pause, trying to get its bearings. Melanie always wondered about why it hesitated, why it hovered before leaving. She and her husband Mike would talk about it on the couch late into many nights. Her warm little hands wiping away tears. Then she’d go to bed and she’d fall into an exhausted, dreamless sleep. Tonight proved the same except for the faint scent of marigolds when she awoke to the sunrise.
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Diane has pounded keys all of her life. She started with stories on her mother’s IBM Selectric typewriter. Her keystroke has lightened with each successive computer. She has freelanced for PrimeTime Cape Cod, The Burlington Free Press (VT), the national magazines Adoptive Families and New Moon, as well as many parenting publications. Diane wonders whether the keyboard will be obsolete before she completes her novel. Maybe she’ll just talk to a screen and it will spit out the tale. She’ll miss those keys, for sure; they’ve unlocked a great many secrets.