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The International Writers Magazine
: Richard Meyer has a dream


As I lay down to sleep the bedroom turned half away on its arc of darkness. Thoughts recumbent in the day rose up as others fell. There was no doubt that I did fall asleep very soon after the light was turned off; I remembered this clearly afterward. But all the time I was asleep, up to the moment the summer fly buzzed in my ear and I woke up, I dreamed that I was not asleep, and although I was exhausted, sleep eluded me.

This confusion continued until at last I began to dream that I was in a kind of walking delirium. Phantoms crowded about me, although I was aware that it was hallucination and not reality. There was no mistaken the phantoms; they were familiar figures. My room seemed to be stirring with people, all of them members of the congregation of the synagogue I attended in my youth.

The door into the hallway stood open. Men in temple attire, hats and shawls, were entering my room and thronging the stairs. Next to me, sitting on my bed, sat an older bearded man I recognized as Rabbi Schnall. This man sat close, his garlic breath and muttering Hebrew words were upon me. In a rebuking gesture of pinching my cheek very hard and shaking his head disapprovingly, he said, "What do you think you are doing, bringing everyone up here? Today is not your Bar Mitzvah!" I was a very young boy again and the world was annoyed with me. The noise, the talking, some words in Hebrew and others in Yiddish, was loud, shrill, deafening. The crowd was angry, shaking their fists, shouting, "Don't waste our time. Grow up! Do what you have to do. Be a mensch!" I believed this was delirium, but the Rabbi's face, its detailed wrinkled skin with its whiskers and carbuncles, the shouts, the crowd, their gestures were so lifelike I was stricken with doubt: "Could this be the fever of a dream? My God, what do these people want of me?"

Suddenly all the men rushed for the stairs. They were closely packed in the doorway, as there was another shouting crowd forcing its way into the room. These people were pushing their way in and bringing something in with them, something large, heavy and sparkling. One of them, I recognized as the butcher from Hester Street, carried the object in his burly arms. The crowd parted allowing a clearing, a straight path to the Rabbi seated on my bed. Everyone in the room shouted, "They brought it, here it is. Here's the Torah, the holy scroll of Moses. And it's for you to carry on this day of days." All eyes started flashing and were fixed on me. The Rabbi smiled and said, "It's for you. It's what you wanted. It's time to be a man." The people, all of them were men, looked at me with faces exultant and menacing. Their eyes pointed towards the stairs. An abrupt blow stunned me, as the full weight of the Torah was heaved into my chest and thrust upon my shoulders. The blue velvet casing, golden-threaded with its silver tassels hugged my cheeks while the wooden scroll ends pierced the weight of the ornate and sacred entity into my upper body. My heart was beating as the crowd pointed the way to the stairs.

I was so much smaller than everyone around me. The crowd cheered and mocked me as I descended the stairs. At the bottom of the staircase a gray light engulfed me. My eyes were half closed from the pain of shouldering the immense Torah. When I opened them fully, I was walking a strange landscape. I found myself on a fog-swept, windy beach carrying the Torah and I was followed by a long procession of older men, chanting and moaning. Gulls blew over a wave that fell along miles of sand. As I felt the agony from the sharpness of what I bore, so many things I had thought forgotten returned to my mind with a stranger pain. Voices rose shouting at someone who had left my life so many years ago. The waves rushed upon the sand, encircling my feet. I felt unsteady, slightly dizzy, from the weight. The waves felt like time flowing. The foam and tide were hours and the hours sorrow.

In the next moment I was back in my room, looking out the window at the boy walking along the beach. The room was a room of emptiness, weightless. Its walls enclosed me inside the dream. Now everything blurred together. I watched the procession pass me without passing. Eyes watched me in the window, fixed in its glances, nobody's eyes, a kind of uninhabited sight. I mourned for the boy on the beach, feeling his struggle under the weight of the Torah and the processions' expectations. I felt the depths of his burden and the sorrow in his plight. I witnessed his drama passionately, but I wasn't there. I was outside his dream. I felt abandoned, deprived in the sense that there was nobody left to dream me. I wanted to wake up. I imagined it. Around me was the space of my room. My ghost was in each thing. The chest of drawers talked to itself, the mirror dissolved in its reflections, the lamp burned with its own insomnia. The things in the room where my dreams began were buried deep in themselves.

A radio was playing a familiar and distant melody. The words reached into the present, widening and extending the past. "Hey boy, you're going to carry that weight." Out the window I saw the boy carrying the Torah, his knees buckling, thighs covered now by the wrenching surf. The Rabbi chided the boy, "Be a mensch!" The cantor's voice reached out to sea, chanting, "Hey boy, you're going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time." I wanted to save the boy his misery. I wanted to rescue my embryonic self from its burden of frenzied dream. I looked in the mirror and saw an older man. This primordial image had survived, mirror after mirror, wave after wave of time. I was still the dreamer. The mirror showed a load that was lightened, tempered by time's forgiving embrace. I called out to the boy so encumbered in the dream. I cried, "Let go of it, drop the pain. That's not your journey." The boy could not hear me. The sea began to embrace the boy, swallowing his hips and shoulders. His head began to sink under the foam. The Rabbi shouted, "Where are you going with our Torah?" The cantor again sung the words of the song that was playing on the radio somewhere in my room. The procession sung along. "Hey boy you're going to carry that weight a long time." The sea sparkled in harmony with the shimmering embroidery of the holy scroll. The procession became a choir as it watched boy and Torah buried by the sea. The melody lingered. The radio. The choir. The words spread out into the waves of dreams. "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

© Richard Meyer Feb 2004

Richard Meyer

A Sweetened Memory

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