I often have elaborate dreams. Some of them become stories or parts of stories. They are often multifaceted and complete in their narrative; that is, they have a beginning, middle, and end. This dream from last week was one of those.
There was a man who rode the bus every day to his job. He was a quiet man, leading a quiet life, and he was especially shy. He eventually noticed that among the regulars who commuted along with him en masse was a woman about his age. She rarely looked up, and she was always alone, just as he was. To his special notice, she was always reading: old books that looked decades old, not ebooks or romances. He started watching her out of the corner of his eye. Each day they sat in roughly the same spots. He preferred the sun on his back as they rode into the downtown region, so he sat on a side riding bench that gave him a view up or down the aisle. He was able to observe her sitting facing forward a few rows back.
While he was secretly observing her, she was able to more thoroughly observe him. She liked what she saw, but had little to no idea of what to do about it, so she decided it was up to the male of the species to make the first move. So things continued weekday after weekday, with the regular intervention of the weekend and a few major holidays thrown in for variety.
Finally the day came when he resolved to do something, and turned over many ideas, most of them uselessly over grand. He settled on a small gesture, nothing too demanding, but with charm. He dug the quarters and dimes out of his change jar and went for a walk.
The next morning he did nothing, The next, he sat nervously on the bus and wondered if he was able to even move at all. After that, he got on the bus one morning and walked up to her, and lay a paper rose across the book in her lap. She was already looking at him, surprised that he had passed his usual seat in an apparent approach to hers; she had begun to suspect something was wrong with him the last few days- a pending lay off or some such thing. So when she looked up and watched the paper rose slide into her open library copy of The Odyssey, she was very happy for him. She was happy that his job was secure after all. Then she did a double take and realized she had been brought into the picture and that something might be expected of her, and she quickly met his look just as he sat and turned partly away. She smiled gently and then looked down quickly. Neither looked at the other until it was time for her to get off the bus. She held the book close with the rose poking out of the top, and she smiled again as she passed. He simply stared back in some sort of shock.
They started smiling to one another each morning after that, sometimes even saying something vague and polite. This went on for awhile until one day he slipped a plastic rose into her lap. She smiled in surprise. So few words- thank goodness, she thought- and yet so much was said. The rose did the work for both of them, and drew together hearts that had been shy burrowing creatures from childhood on.
She began to expect something more without knowing what it was going to be. Suddenly one day he was wearing better clothing, and sitting up a little straighter on the bench. It was apparent he had been promoted-somewhere. Somehow. He carried a little briefcase now. A few days later he silently presented her with a real rose. It was velvety, dark, and deep. She held it tenderly, glancing at him over and over as they rode the bus. Others had begun to notice these goings on, and they kept themselves quiet with the sense of people who did not wish to frighten the wildlife. They smiled as they watched her smile over the rose. They sighed when she inhaled the scent. They walked a little differently when they got off the bus, at least for a little while.
Their friendship progressed to an entire dozen roses, which she held tightly and laughed over while their ride shuddered and eased around corners. People swayed in their seats and the sun shifted position until the bus went around another corner.
One day he got on the bus and did not look at her. He sat as quietly and casually as a sleepy commuter who expected to spend the next half hour alone. She watched him, waiting to catch his eye, but nothing happened. There was a great blankness on his face. He did rather notice her looking at him once, but there was no recognition in his expression, and he turned to look the other way. Her bafflement smothered her a bit until she reached her stop. She rose and walked past him and then she got off the bus and went her way.
It took a week, but she got used to not looking at him. She was tired from not sleeping well, too. But as she sat there watching him in resignation, he looked up and caught her eye. And he smiled shyly, a fleeting thing that had him turning away again.
So it had not been her that had caused his abrupt change. She smiled at him as she got off the bus.
A couple days later he slipped a paper rose into the book she was holding on her lap. She was a little surprised, and not in the best way, but she quickly smiled and pretended to sniff the paper.
Another day came, and he gave her a plastic rose, which she took and held in a meditative manner, twirling it and casting a questioning look his way. He smiled bashfully and looked down.
The day came when he gave her a live rose. She cupped it in her hands, inhaling the scent, and watching him. He was slow to look away. His face beamed. His eyes were full of questions. The bus brakes squealed and the engine thrummed noisily. It was only a day or two later that he presented her with a dozen roses. She opened her mouth to say thank you, but he only nodded a bit and smiled side ways and looked down again.
Other observers had lost interest. This looked like it was going nowhere.
The couple, for that is what they were, in their way, continued to smile and say hello from time to time. One day he got on the bus and the blankness was in his face again. He sat alone and lonely while she looked upon him and considered a different set of questions in her mind. She smiled at him as she got off the bus.
Again, one day he noticed her and again, one day he slipped her a paper rose. She was delighted, but quietly so. She waited for the pattern to repeat, and it did: paper rose, plastic rose, real rose, and then a full dozen. All the while he seemed to be falling in love with her all over again. The effect on her was a mixture of warm gratitude and slightly irritable confusion. As the months went by the confusion quieted and the warmth deepened. She accepted him as whatever he was. He always fell in love with her again.
She tested him, as women do. She told him her name one morning as he slipped a rose to her. He heard her in surprise. When the blankness came upon him the next time, the pattern developed a little differently afterwards. He found the courage from somewhere to ask her for her name. She wondered if some part of him had retained that thread of significance, some aspect of the idea of name: her name. It made her feel fierce and protective. Let the unsuspecting fellow commuters crack a joke about it all and she glared with real and dangerous passion at them. She had time, and the ways of the shy were not those of the not- shy. She began to get ideas of how to coach her suitor, and sometimes when the blankness came on, he almost recognized her. The pattern did seem to pick up speed. Instead of taking weeks or months, the entire pattern of the roses took days and weeks. Something was happening, and in her tiny little mind and ever growing heart she knew this.
As my dream came to an end, I got to follow her off the bus and into her little apartment. She had two rooms: a kitchen/living room and the bedroom with a tiny bathroom. In the living area there had been a small round table with a vase on it, but it could not be seen now. The entire corner was a scree of roses, all in varying shades of pink and red. On the buried table was the first paper rose, and the vase for the plastic one, and the fresh rose with the plastic, until the plastic was removed and a full bunch put in, and eventually the vase and roses and table entirely covered with roses that she never got rid of. The room was heavily scented in rose potpouri at this point, and she sat in her chair and carefully considered her friend as best she could. Perhaps he had a job, or perhaps he was getting some sort of daily medical help. It must be a very strange and difficult ailment to have. She could not even consider giving him up; she wanted him. With a glance at the scree across the room she guessed it was time for a fresh dozen. She decided to dress up for the occasion. She was determined to accept for as long as he needed her to. No other course of action held the least attraction for her. Indeed, she felt as if she needed to accept his roses as much as he needed to offer them. The future was uncertain, but, she smiled, it was certainly rosy.
And then I woke up.