A Dream Made of Water
Friday, 8 May 2020
Full moon. The only wolf that has howled is my neighbour’s rooster. Rats are doing their thing in the backyard. I hear them whining, they sound like the birds whistling at the other edge of the suburb. I haven’t slept. I’m reading Wikipedia articles about dreams. Tonight, like most nights of my life, I am Adam – naked.
On this coloured blanket, I am a flower made of bones, flesh, and blood. There is no breeze to warm my torso. I want to read a book, but there are other things on my mind. There are names on the tip of my tongue, faces on my palms. There are sights in my head wishing to be touched and felt like my own skin.
There is a difficult way to talk about how I crave a French unity of tongues, the clash of anatomical waters, the rush of your pelvic tides against my torso. Entangled limbs and arms made of ebony. Electricity beneath a sea of skin. The swelling and shrinking of your schlong. The rise and fall of your breath, a whirlwind from your lungs, the twirling above your open mouth. My mouth warming your frozen groin, my fingers tickling your delicate thickness.
Write, they say, talk about these things if you want to, it’s normal. But poetry, like fresh sunrise, makes it easier. No one frowns at an invisible naked person walking on the streets in broad daylight. In the absence of the rest of the world, no one sees your skin freeze before it burns. No one sees you engulfing yourself in flames of your own making.
I’m in bed, alone. The white circle on my room’s ceiling, the dying beam from a torch, looks like the moon up there in the blank face of the night. There would never be a better time to grasp the fundamental sequestration of all things bright and beautiful, the loneliness of all creatures great and small.
In our present age, lying in bed while thinking about a love interest that you have not met yet is synonymous with searching for a Bahamian banana in a Nigerian rainforest – a waste of time. One night, a long time ago, a boy I liked wrote down a note and showed it to me in a dream because he couldn’t say the words: I can’t call you until I’m sure that we can be lovers.
“That’s why I haven’t been calling,” he said.
I woke up feeling that something inside me had been ripped through my chest.
A few months later, I was telling someone else in another dream, “I want to move to a distant place.” I told him I’d see him in my dream just a few hours before I slept, and I did.
“What was it like?,” he asked me when we saw each other in real life.
“Water,” I said. “There was water everywhere.”
The things we don’t talk about…no, they don’t go anywhere. They just hang around every day, long enough to transform into dreams populated by paradoxical people, spaces filled with indeterminate objects. Nudity, sexual desire, fear, happiness, death, and rebirth, all of them are unfurled on a strange but familiar landscape.
I’ve come to a point where I give so much thought to dreams. This isn’t about spirituality, neither is it about my younger self who craved a life similar to that of C. S. Lewis’s Narnian siblings. It is about a box of wishes. My subconscious mind has come a long way since I turned six – just old enough to dream of a bishop’s son, my best friend, kissing me.
I have told my friends about my interest in the arts, especially photography. I used to draw and paint when I was younger, and I have created a few ‘masterpieces’ on my computer. From photos of infinitesimal bodies sprawling in their cosmic glory across a night sky to nude art photography, including the controversial ones like the works of Robert Mappelthorpe, Peter Hujar and Rotimi Fani-Kayode. It is the kind of photography where the human body becomes the universe in ways that are bolder than a poetic form, because you see it and your awe of its beauty takes on a new shade every day.
Photography tells incredible stories. They can be as short as a second or as long as an age. I like to think that stories can be whole and vast like the stars that surround them. They are profound depictions of human lives, proof that the body is a map to countless kinds of hell. It can feel the slightest thrill of touch, the simplest pleasures that we know – souls fused in one spirit, instructed by each other to be bound by waves underneath their skin, whispering like trees caressed by the sky.
Not many people are privileged to confront their realities in their sleep. Sometimes it is like the universe invading your space in darkness, crashing through your roof and leaving you at the dawn of day in a room lit by golden dust – a reminder that it is not blind, proof of the immensity of little things. The universe is not blind, and I see myself with its eyes when I dream.
I am not sure how this mystery works, but I am a spectator of my own dreams. I see worlds weaving themselves. I watch countless versions of myself doing what I have not done in real life. I yearn for that infinity every day, just as I am wrenched and transformed by my attraction to the man whose voice reverberates in my mind. I see him in dreams that have stretched for years. In these dreams every building is his house and every word is his name. I have met him but I have not met him.
Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage.” Wanting to be an actor in someone else’s theatre is to abandon yours, to leave it in the hands of ghouls – monsters that wait just long enough for you to collapse before they gobble your soul. I heard that they don’t leave the bones of men that die by their own hands. Yes, someone told me that in a dream.
I like to think that I am not split into two souls, two young men who are searching for a place to call home. The one who sits in church and stares at the young Elder, feels the deepest well in his torso opening, is the one that looks at his father during morning devotions and thinks, “Daddy, you should be proud of me.”
Dreams can only comfort me in my sleep. Sometimes, I think they are an expression of my essence – being carefree, yielding to wonder in unfathomable ways, flowing like creeks from the Atlantic, laced with black wine from a table in heaven and filling my cup that frequently quenches a thirst that scorches my throat and makes me unable to speak. In real life, a few months after his seventeenth birthday, the bishop’s son, my childhood best friend, drowned in one of these creeks.
I want to tell my story. I’ve seen a book with my nude photo as its cover. I’ve seen it in a dream. But I know that to write a memoir is to place your burdens on the tip of your pen, to draw a map bearing a thoroughfare to your broken bones and having it printed. So the world can get an aerial view of what it means to be you – the immensity of your suffering; your place in the human experience; and even your encounter with death and its likeness.
Is the act of not breathing always associated with death? Are there many kinds of deaths in one lifetime, that makes a person plead to live inside each one of them? Nothing else promises a new life – a deeper gulf – like your soul sinking in despair, consciously waiting for the right time to be one with the world again.
Six months after my friend’s death, I almost drowned in the same Atlantic channel, seven miles away from where he breathed his last. I saw him in a dream, entering a portal made of light, and my arms were outstretched when I woke up. I wanted to hold him before he vanished into thin air.
In another dream, he was in a house full of strange people, and I watched him disintegrate. The old man sitting next to him told me to leave the house.
“There is no space for you here,” the old man said.
Then in another dream, we were shopping in a market. But the moment he smiled at me, I was alone. I was lost in the stillness of endless roads.
The last dream I had of him was a perfect goodbye. He was shirtless and had the same arms, the same torso marked with scars from a childhood of joy and the pain that comes with illness. It was just another dream but this time he laughed. I, too, laughed.
To be alive is to be aware of your mortality. To understand that your existence is as fragile as the glints of faces in your dream so that you can live well enough not to die in your sleep, in the arms of someone you love, a fantasy. These dreams will always be of the mind. I’m alive. I am a fantasy in my own reality, a physical man in my dreams. I am real. I am here, and I am not going anywhere.
Jude Chike is the alter-ego of a young adult who lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. A lover of nature and the arts, he fantasizes about trips to space when he is not reading or creating.
*Image by Mòje Ikpeme