The Coverlet

I had a strange, wistful dream the other morning that will not get out of my head.

I’ve dreamed entire stories before — once, I preserved enough of the narrative to write the damn thing, for what it was worth — and it looked as if I might be about to do it again, only a Person from Porlock, in the form of a cat or traffic noise or something, broke in before I had really gotten started.

It seemed to involve my Transgender Ex.

Neither of us have all day so I will try to explain that as briefly as possible. In high school I set my cap for a brilliant, toothsome, Ganymede-like young thing who could play piano like an angel. In those days he embraced an intellectual conservatism that you could at least debate and dispute and had a sense of humor about it. The relationship was off and on and rocky, punctuated by moments of the kind of stupid drama that make me ever so glad I am not young any more, and eventually he owned up that he had always felt like a woman, inside. Fine. Whatevs. Except that he didn’t do anything about it, which is why I am still calling him He, and went on to various relationship disasters intertwined with a decently accomplished academic career. Somehow, every half dozen years, he would turn up on my doorstep or the other end of my phone looking for some form of tea and sympathy (I was  susceptible because long history, Beethoven, loves cats, intelligent conversation) and, quite often, to mooch dinner. Then he would eventually say something condescending and snarky about my liberal politics, zingers which got nastier as he began to sink to the level of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Don’t ask me what the appeal of such institutions might be to someone who identifies as trans. The last zing was, well, the last; at a certain point, you just have to tell someone to have a nice life. I wonder if he has ever put on a dress (you have to start somewhere).

Anyway the story in the dream was apparently about him and it was called The Coverlet, which was printed on the title page of what seemed to be a little booklet or perhaps an open book turned to that chapter. As I sort-of heard the narrative in my head it was simultaneously pictured like a film unreeling.

The Coverlet

The spare room had been empty a long time, but was still kept fresh and neat; on the bed was a quilted coverlet of flour-sack gingham. He passed it every day on his way out, and had stopped giving it much thought.

That morning a pair of gloves rested on the green-and-pink patch of quilting below the pillow, almost like a pair of  hands resting one on the other.

He went on out of the house.

The next day a neatly folded winter scarf lay under the gloves…

And that’s where everything stopped. Couldn’t get it back. But I can still see the morning light shining in on that quilt and the slightly forlorn looking gloves and scarf sitting on a patch of grass-green quilting with tiny pink flowers printed on it.

They weren’t his gloves and scarf, they were someone else’s; someone coming into his life? Someone who’d gone out of it?

Someday I’m going to go to Porlock and burn the place down.



8 thoughts on “The Coverlet

  1. I see the pile of clothing growing every day – getting more and more feminine with each article. Until one day, he puts it all on and realises he was making the cache himself so he could finally be who he felt he was, despite pretending for decades.

    • Something like that was my first thought when I reflected on the dream. But when I went back into the “feel” of it I got two contradictory senses of the gloves and scarf:
      1) they belonged to a daughter who was now dead or estranged
      2) they belonged to a woman who loved him sincerely, not necessarily romantically, but was the best of friends, only she had to walk out of his life because some more imperative duty required it.

      This may not be the end of the potential stories.

      It’s like taking in a smell. It has all sorts of meanings and you can’t explain where they come from.

  2. I know I often have complex and fully formed story dreams, but they become fugitive so quickly after I awake, they are lost to me. At one point I had the where-with-all to apply some mnemonic devices as I awoke. I thought if I could remember a set of pillars related to the dream, I would associate them with the fully formed dream and remember it. Sadly, all I remembered were a set of scattered thoughts I knew I intended as clues to my dream but I failed to make the association.

    • Sometimes that’s how it is with me, more often they stay at least long enough to write down. The ones I love most are where I write music. In my twenties I did a lot of composing, singing too, but then I had to earn a living and massage work trashed my dexterity for the piano or guitar. The bird is mute now, except when I’m sleeping, and sometimes I wake up with a complex phrase of music in my head. I keep stave paper by the bed. I do however have to be careful; once it turned out the music I heard was Brahms. But others seem to be all my own.

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