Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tea and Biscuits

written today and first published here

I always had the same dream during that period of two weeks when staying with Sarah. It is a long story to tell you about Sarah and how I came into her life. Suffice to say, that I did not befriend Sarah for her large country house; I did not befriend Sarah for the regular sex that later ensued; I did not befriend Sarah for the comfort and confidence-building she provided as we talked into the late afternoons around a moment-in-time, an occasion that we happened simply to call ‘tea and biscuits’.

We often met in the wet streets of Colchester, visiting the cinema for unwanted, unwatched film matinees - flickering screens that seemed to wash over us - then eventually migrating to a cafe that kept open later than the others for our sessions of ‘tea and biscuits’. Neither of us crossed the line. We simply met, then unmet ... until we met again. A routine that was not recognised as a routine. A routine with no obvious end ... until, that is, out of the blue, Sarah invited me for a two week stay in her country house.

I record here – in the hope you may consider this tantamount to a legal document – that I did not spend those wet afternoons in Colchester meeting Sarah in our late middle-age for any other reason than that we had met at a book club and simply met again outside of the book club with no ulterior motive within each of us or no ulterior motive between us together. There was not even the motive of neutralising loneliness. In fact, Sarah never gave me the impression she was lonely at all. And she, I am confident, never received the impression from me that I was lonely. So it was not for that reason. Our meetings just were. The fact we called the core of each meeting ‘tea and biscuits’ seemed to relieve us of the necessity or duty of rationalising our relationship any further.

Our relationship changed, of course, following Sarah’s sudden invitation to me to visit her country house for a two week stay. In hindsight, that was not only the seed of the relationship’s growth but also the seed of its destruction. We should probably have left it at ‘tea and biscuits’.

It is a long story, too, about the circumstances of the recurring dream. It only started coming when first sleeping in the guest room at Sarah’s country house, a place I often visited just for various weekends after the initial much longer toe-in-the-water fortnight.

Suffice to say that most normal dreams – or normal dreams to which I at least am accustomed – feature flowing events, whether linear or non-linear, but certainly events, moving images, echoes of real life in recognisable if possibly mutated interaction, some echoes forgotten, others not. But, no, the dream in question was what I called a ‘candle dream’. Since then, I have heard of many people having candle dreams, once I admitted to those people about having candle dreams, i.e. once having had them during stays with Sarah, with whom, let it be said, I have since lost contact.

How many of you have had candle dreams?

You need to know what a candle dream is before being able to answer my question, I’m sure. Others may know candle dreams with different names. Let me tell you that a candle dream, in my understanding, can be also called a fixed-camera dream, a frozen dream (or, at least, near-frozen), an unwavering dream (even if the candleflame itself wavers), a static dream (even if it flickers slightly), a single-frame dream (even if the image imperceptibly strobes or, as they say in the trade, cart-wheels), a single-flame dream (even if there is an after-image of a flame burnt on the retina by the original flame).

Simply put, a candle dream is of a single candle with a slightly flickering flame (with or without a candlestick, but usually with an ornate candlestick), and your minimalist view of it is as a slightly unwavering, non-shortening candle-wax and, from within the dream, perceived to be alight for eternity. A fear of eternity within a dream, let me tell those of you who are unaware of this fact, is the greatest fear of all. In other words, a candle dream is not a nice dream to dream. It cannot really be called a nightmare, I suppose, because nightmares are traditionally never static, never single-frame, indeed never single-flame. Nightmares have monsters and obvious fears and mutant echoes of life. Many who dream candle dreams rarely have contact with lit candles in real life. Many who dream candle dreams never complain of having nightmares.

One never knows whether any particular candle dream is the last candle dream you will ever dream ... whether, indeed, the eternity you sense from within the dream is a real eternity or not.

Sarah once told me during our tea and biscuits in her drawing-room at the country house that if I could tell someone, like herself, about the dream, as I was then doing as part of our usual small talk, then that fact was proof positive I had escaped the eternity of the candle dream.

I suppose I should have insisted that we abandon the sex and return to just meeting in the wet streets of Colchester, visiting the cinema matinees and late-opening cafe as part of a routine that may, in hindsight, have lasted us for a good while, even until we both no longer needed or even wanted company. It is now strange, looking back on it all, how I never questioned, during our small talk, how our afternoons together were always so wet, with Colchester being in the driest part of the country.