I had a dream last night: of walking into a room full of beautiful women.
Some of them, I’ve known for years; a few of them for long enough to have forgotten their faces. Some of the other faces could’ve belonged to my future, perhaps.
When I entered through the door with chipping white paint — a door that was more obedient to the pull of gravity than that of its rusty hinges — every woman looked up at me: A stunning constellation of loving, familiar eyes sprawled before me; each pair of eyes — with its own story of similar pathos that have led us all to the common denominator of womanhood.
A tearful redhead sat at the teacher’s desk, up front. I assumed she was leading the classroom. Lines of poetry were written on a blackboard behind her.
“I’d seen her somewhere,” I thought in my sleep.
Perhaps, she borrowed her details from my Russian Lit. professor back in the old country. That one was a tall, mighty blonde that might have stepped off the pages of Nekrasov’s poetry. Or: She could’ve been one of those pre-Napoleon aristocrats, attending a ball in St. Petersburg, while wrapped in the fur of a red fox and emeralds to accentuate her gorgeous green eyes.
Her name was Tatiana. She had a middle name, of course; but in a radical fashion, she demanded we didn’t use it.
“By god, I’m only a few years older than you all!” she’d correct some brown noser testing the air, in class.
True, we were all quite young then, and typically confused. But we had grounds for it though: Our country was falling apart at the seams.
One morning, Tatiana walked into my first class of the day in a solemn mood. Her magnificent hair of a Russian blond beauty was pulled back into a messy bun; and by her eyes, we could tell that she either hadn’t slept or had been crying all morning. Or both.
It was common for Tatiana to bring up politics in class. After all, she belonged to our generation: of curious and passionate, and justifiably confused. But that morning, she would remain silent, stunning all of us with the expectations of the worst. And she would stare out of the window while burying her chin into the cream-colored crocheted shawl wrapped around her magnificent, mighty shoulders.
Inspired by a thought, every once in a while, she would look at us and inhale, as if grasping enough air to deliver the news. Breathlessly, we watched her.
Caution: Courage at work.
But she would lose the train of thought, tear up again and bury her face in the shawl. After the longest minutes of our assuming the worst, Tatiana left the classroom; and none of us would see her again.
But I would — in my last night’s dream, about walking into a room full of beautiful women.
There were a few from my college years: Of various heritages, they were American-born, opinionated and seemingly fearless: The tall one, with an Irish brogue, had been known to lead her life along a courageous path of rebelling against the confines of tradition. The quiet brunette, cradling her little girl in the corner — under a tent of her long East Indian hair — had been burdened with the most gentle of hearts I had ever loved. And I had loved her the most — and oh, for so very long! And I had known the brown, graceful one with the pixie haircut very little back then.
A handful of others came along after my most innocent years of womanhood.
The one who stood up to applaud me had recently left for her homeland: She had always been luminous and proud, in the way of an African queen. She wore a heavy necklace when she left for her odyssey: something borrowed from the neck of Nefertiti. And she wore that again, in my dream.
The poetess who had guided me toward a path of quiet victory had borrowed a headdress from my favorite writer of Caribbean descent. And she walked to the front of the room to introduce me.
I struggled with the door for a moment, then pushed it with my hip. There is nothing in the world that won’t obey a woman’s hip! On it, we bounce our children, or carry the weight of our unhappy burdens. With it, we can dislodge any jam in our way; make a man lose his sleep over it, or find his rest — in its soft curvature.
“Well… That’s been conquered,” I said to the women, once I turned around. They laughed: A sound that may have made me smile in my sleep.
While the laughter subsided, I studied the floor under my feet:
There was none. Just dirt, covered with loose planks of wood; and as I made my way across them, the boards chomped and sank into the wetness. I couldn’t tell where exactly we had gathered that day: Which of our old countries had granted us refuge. But this morning, I had slept in, for a change, missing the sound of my alarm clock and the call of my obligations. And I would have much rather remained dreaming.