Red Wine and Rosé, As I Slept

The worst are about relationships. One is in a dream, and only upon waking does it become a nightmare. And then one is liable to lie there, blinking out of slumber and taking a hold of oneself. I ask—‘Would I prefer one of those nightmares about my teeth crumbling in my jaws, or where I cannot speak a word?’ Only when one is alone are dreams about being in love so torturous! Never in a relationship have I had such dreams, nor even nightmares of being alone.

When I awoke, I did not recognise the girl from my dreams. She looked like no one in my life, nor any particular resemblance. In my dream she was beautiful, because as soon as I saw her, and her face so close to mine, I saw that she was beautiful and that I was in love with her. We had been in love and she had gone away and then returned; I knew that for certain, because one knows these things in a dream, because when I was with her there was the joy of familiarity and the eternal happiness of her return. The walls were orange, and us in the middle of it, and she told me that she had returned. We fucked for the first time in how-long-my-dream-would-not-tell-me. Afterwards, she lay naked on her front upon the bed, and I across her bottom, putting my fingertip on all the freckles of her back. The room was copper-coloured and the sheets white. Her skin was white, too, so that the freckles stood out. She turned over to me, stared me in the eye and said—‘I tried to talk myself out of coming back to you. I said “What’s the point of travelling one-thousand miles for a ten-quid fuck?” and it turns out I travelled a thousand miles for a nine-and-a-half billion quid fuck.’ She smiled at me. I put my hands into her hair, and we kissed.

Then I was sat in front of a television set, but it was not switched on; off its glass was a darkened reflection. My phone buzzed with a message from her—‘I’m waiting.’ I leapt up and ran into the kitchen. It was the kitchen of my childhood, from twenty years ago. All of its fixtures and furnishings had been torn away, and she sat there at the table eating from a bowl. She grinned at me with a spoon in her hand as I hurried in. I was so happy to see her again because she was so beautiful and I was in love. I sat beside her, at the only other chair in the empty room, and we smiled and through me was a great charge of being in love. I put my hand into the hair above her neck and kissed her through a mouthful of food. She laughed and so did I. And then I awoke.

My bed was wet. I drew my knees up and kicked the sheets off me. There were large droplets of perspiration on my chest. I could feel, too, that my back was wet and my hair, that tiny droplets of perspiration were moving all over me like insects, that the bed was unpleasant to lie on. Pausing for a moment, I glanced at the clock – six-fifty-eight – and desired more sleep, although I was quite uncomfortable and had begun to weep. I wept because of the dream, coming out of it quite all right, and for a second – barely a second! – believing that it were true, but then reckoning on my being alone and weeping because of it. ‘Why don’t you go back to sleep?’ my tiredness thought—‘return to it’; but to have inflicted that upon myself once more would have been agonising. Even as I tried to remember, I felt the dream slipping through my fingers. It was only a dream, I realised, and as happy as I had been within it, I was as sad without it.

Soon I fell asleep again, and then I was truly struck by a nightmare. Waking, my bed stuck to my skin. At ten o’clock I arose finally and spun my legs out of the bed so that I would not drift off anymore. As I stood, the large droplets fell down my body, and I paced about in my room until it dried away. On my bedsheets were large patches of yellowy brown, clouded like watercolours. The stains were new and old. Without my knowing, I was going to bed each night and, for a reason I did not understand, painting the bedsheets with my own body and horrors.

Outside, where I took my first cigarette of the day and a glass of apple juice, it was raining hard. Saturday morning, and the week had gone by quickly.

My first job interview in fourteen-and-a-half years had gone smoothly, or so I thought. Much has happened in my last fourteen-and-a-half years, but not a job interview, and so I sat there sipping water and trying to answer their questions as best I could. I was having great difficulty, though, talking and listening to them on account of my being tremendously hungover. It had not been my intention to be hungover, but so it was I found myself there – reflected back on video – straining to keep up with the two men on the screen in front of me. They spoke of many things that I did not quite understand, but was interested in, nonetheless. Just do not blabber or fluff your sentences. It was only half an hour, and I held it together throughout. Afterwards, somewhat stunned, I got up and walked in circles quietly, as though I were still being listened to, clutching my stomach.

The night before I had been invited around my friends’ house for dinner. Such a thing never happens to me, so I accepted the invitation with true enthusiasm. Would you believe it, but I was even, I daresay, looking forward to it? During my lunchbreak, I went to an expensive liquor store to buy a bottle of red wine and a rosé; this purchase for a dinner party – even if I were the only guest – made me feel most sophisticated and respectable. I asked the gentleman behind the counter for a recommendation—‘What’s a decent rosé for twenty quid?’ and he wrapped it in crêpe paper. Her dogs greeted me when I walked in my friend’s front door, howling in unison and their claws heard on the hardwood floors. They curled, spun and wobbled beneath my feet. I washed my face, they opened their doors at the back of the house and the evening sun poured in. She sat on the doorstep to the garden, he cooked, and I at the table, putting my finger and thumb into the thick skin of the dogs’ necks. Some time later he served up a delicious meal of venison steaks and red wine. He was a marvellous host, who took great pride in everything he did, which gave me a smile, as he is such a large man with large hands and missing teeth from south London. All through the night, he kept my glass brimmed with red wine, which I drank gladly and in good spirits. ‘As we can’t go down the pub these days and I am among friends…’ I said, and told them of my employment situation. They were, at once, sad and happy for my departing. So, too, I told them of my therapy and how hard I had found the last year, and it was a relief to get everything out to them, my lips loosened by booze. They listened as the light outside faded and the doors were fastened shut. Their dogs sat on the chairs between us, chins rested upon the table, eyes closed if a hand was extended to affectionately finger between their ears. We drank into the night. I do not remember going to bed or whether I dreamed, but in the morning I was immensely relieved to discover I had not perspired. My tongue and palate like two slices of leather rubbing against each other. I took my morning coffee that my friend prepared for me, then I put these arms of mine around her toilet and hocked up little balls of dark brown spittle, unable to vomit.

But before that and before the interview, I went to the agency’s building, a busy office floor of excited telephone calls and chatter, coiffured young men and women engaged in a corporate white noise. I announced myself to the receptionist who nodded politely and called over the agent, to whom I offered my hand—‘I dunno if we’re shaking or what’, says I. He asked me to wait as he collected some things. I sat in a meeting room and considered whether I was sitting like someone assured of themselves or if I even wanted to appear assured, so I experimented with various poses. When he entered, and I was in a very uncomfortable but erect position, the fire alarm set off, so we went to a nearby pub and ordered cokes. I was very aware that I might bump into somebody I knew, as I was still near the office, and at times, while talking, I would glance away, check, and then return my gaze, which I attempted to maintain as much as I could, to convey the air of someone confident. We sat outside, of course, and if I had taken a moment away from how unusual the meeting was, I would have felt like things were slightly returning to normal, for the rest of the pub was busy and energetic. It was cold though, as it had begun to rain and a wind blew through Leadenhall Market, where we were sat on tall stools. Cokes with ice. The ice kind of fractured May’s grey rainclouds. At the end of it all, he saw my headphones and asked if I were a DJ. I told him I was not. He was a kindly gentleman, although I had not expected to like him. He went one way, and I another, to buy red wine and rosé.

My friends drove me from theirs back to my parents. I sat in the back, the dogs behind me, and thought that I was maybe very lucky they would be so kind. The car went beneath the Thames and I found the sound of all the other vehicles in that tunnel so entrancing, quite soothing. I looked out of the window at a drizzly day. I put my legs at an angle, close together, my hungover hands between, warm pressure against my genitals, neck just about supporting an unfortunate skull beside the window. The scenery dulled past. I did not know what music the radio station was playing, although I could hear it. I drifted in and out of sleep, and when I was conscious I could hear behind me the cute snores of two dozing beagles.

And so I regarded the yellow-brown stains on my bedsheets as though they might be some subconscious masterpiece my body was painting as I slept. There was no other opinion I could offer.