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I’m telling you, honestly. Look me in the eyes, check my pulse, do what you will. I’m having the time of my life. Every synapse in my brain firing at once. I can dream a thousand dreams and travel the world and back. As a matter of fact, I’m writing to you from the bay window of my bedroom, and you can bet your ass it is the most comfortable seat in the house. Looking outside, I can see the Great Wall of China. Behind it sits Mount Everest, the base of which is surrounded by the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen. Last night, I jumped out of this very window. Am I dead? Of course not. I’m not stupid.
Anyway, last night I jumped out of this very window and landed softly on the sturdy back of a St. Bernard. As he carried me to the ocean (which I decided was made of that delicious Ocean Water from SONIC), we spoke of things like what renovations I would make to my house and which celebrity I would sleep with this evening. As a matter of fact, I think it will be…
“What? I just thought you would like something for breakfast before I left.” Alan was always doing this. Being himself. Being the most irritating man on earth. I locked up my loathing in the corner of my brain that only I can access and responded as any decent wife would.
“Thanks but no thanks. What are your plans for the day?”
“I told you last night. I have a meeting with the patent board. Cross your fingers. Today could be the day that our dreams come true.” As if.
“Yes, good, dear. I remember now. Good luck. Make me proud.” He bent over and kissed me lightly on the forehead. Just the weight of his arm on the bed made the entire frame creak, and I tried my best to stifle a groan. Nothing was as charming here in our dingy apartment as it was moments before he so rudely interrupted my slumber. In fact, nothing in reality was as charming as my dreams.
As he left, I thought to myself that if he found himself unsuccessful in this endeavor, he would find himself equally unsuccessful in keeping my attention. No. I couldn’t think like that. I wouldn’t think like that.
I attempted to shake these thoughts from my head as I walked to the dimly lit kitchen and opened the fridge. Great. We’re out of food. You would think that Mr. Everything would have this under control. I yawned and fixed myself a drink. One good thing about never eating a full meal was that alcohol hit me with more force. I sat down on the sofa, an old hand-me-down from my mother, and turned on the television. I should have known better than to even try. Since Alan spent all of his time developing his great invention that evidently wasn’t good enough to be marketed, we hadn’t paid the cable bill in over a month. Great.
I returned to the bedroom and flopped myself down, hoping that the force wouldn’t break the thing. I reached for the lucid dream-inducing mask that hung from the corner of the frame by my pillow and shielded my eyes with its darkness.
It was not long before I found myself able to control my life once more. Except this time, in light of my conversation with Alan, I decided to opt for a different life from that of my usual fantasy, the flying, travelling, talking dog one. This time I found myself on a sunny beach, hand in hand with Alan, whose normally ragged appearance was restored to the former clean-shaven glory it once held when we fell in love.
As I turned to the man next to me, my smile could not be contained. He looked at me without the sullen look of stress that had consumed him in the recent months.
“We’ve done it,” he stated simply. I swooned. I did love him. I really did.
Hand-in-hand we meandered up the bank, stopping periodically to admire a seashell or wash our feet in the sapphire water. The entire time, we could not contain our smiles as they stretched across each of our faces, each smile a sign of our appreciation for the simple company of the other. Finally we came to a beautiful, Victorian-style beach house on the rocky shore. We raced towards the house and straight into the bedroom where…
“Honey, I have news. Come into the living room,” he said with a mysterious look on his face. What the hell....
“This better be worth it,” I groaned in reply as he grabbed my hand and led me into the kitchen. We sat down on the couch, and he looked at me sincerely.
“I met with the patent board today. They said that I would be able to receive a patent, but I will have to find a company to pick it up and distribute it, and I don’t know how long that will take.”
I let this information sink in before I delivered my calculated response. “I don’t know what you want me to say. That’s fantastic, but it isn’t going to pay rent, Alan.”
The next few months were difficult to say the least. From that point on, Alan began to change. He shifted from his passion for his invention, and he picked up a couple of part-time jobs to pay the bills. I could tell that he wasn’t as happy as when he was focusing on his true passion. But there was nothing that I could do about that. We needed to eat, after all. Our relationship was rocky at best, with frequent arguments about trivial matters like money and time.
“I’m doing the best I can,” Alan would conclude after most of these outbursts.
And the hard thing was that even though I knew he was trying, I continued to complain, and there was nothing I could do about that either.
I had become a woman possessed. My days were filled with fantasies about what would have happened if Alan had been successful all those months ago. I couldn’t escape it. I needed to live this life, but the only means I had to do so was the mask. I could put on the mask when I went to sleep, and I could finally gain control of my life. I became addicted to the control. I became addicted to the fantasies. I became addicted to the romance. I suppose people have worse addictions, but I’ve never known one to be so wrenching. I could not live in reality. I slept far more than any reasonable person would, but I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t okay.
It wasn’t until one day, about six months after the patent incident, that something finally broke the monotony that had become our new normal.
I was fixing myself a drink in the kitchen, when the door swung open and knocked the glass out of my hand. “What is wrong with–“
“We’ve done it!” Alan shouted. He picked me up and swirled me around, leaving me dizzy and confused when he put me down and ran into the living room. “Honey, today is the day that all our dreams come true.”
“What do you mean our dreams?” I snapped. I was still frustrated at the idea of him swinging the door open so quickly without warning when he answered.
“I mean I got a phone call from Sharper Image today. They said they would buy the rights to the mask from me.”
“Are you serious? Oh my god, do you know what this could mean for us?” My thoughts began to race. Everything was finally coming together. This is everything I’d ever wanted and it was so attainable I could hardly believe it.
“Wait though. They gave me two options. Either they would buy it from me outright for $1,000,000 today, or I could accept $120,000 today and could continue getting royalties from them pending the product’s success.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For an inventor, Alan could be very stupid.
“So when do we get to move to France?” I asked nonchalantly. Surely he knew to choose the first offer.
“Well, actually, I was thinking that we could take the second offer. The starting money would be enough for us to buy a decent house somewhere, and we could finally have a steady income.” I guess not.
“You mean we could have a steady income if the mask is successful.” I replied simply.
“So what happens if it’s not successful?” It was a normal question to ask! Was I the only one not thinking proactively here?
“Well I’m hoping that we won’t need to worry about that. Don’t you have faith in me?” I could hear the tension in his voice now. The tension that was so characteristic of our conversations over the past half of a year.
“Oh you’re hoping. I guess that we should just go ahead and do that then because you’re hoping it won’t turn out badly,” I retorted. I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t going to let him dangle everything I’ve ever wanted in front of my face and then snatch it away again as quickly as it had come.
“Okay,” he repeated. To be honest, I expected him to put up a bit more of a fight, but I guess logic hit him sooner than I had anticipated.
“Okay.” I smiled at him and ran across the room to meet his embrace. Finally.
The next three weeks involved a great deal of paperwork, cleaning and preparations. We were to move from our apartment in Boston to a house precisely like the one of my dreams in Charleston, South Carolina. After Alan had signed the contract with Sharper Image, they mailed us a check, and we made a down payment on our new home.
Finally. I was getting everything that I had dreamed of…well, almost everything. Despite the fact that Alan finally had everything he could have asked for, he was still somewhat cold and distant. I couldn’t read him, but that was a book that I really didn’t have time to decipher. I was busy these days making arrangements for our future lives. Yes, planning. For once, I was not sleeping the dreams but living them. In some ways, it was almost better than the scientifically calculated lucid dreaming because the part of me that had felt some guilt about the situation was removed. For once, being awake was better than dreaming. Not to be corny, but the mask had quite literally made my dreams come true – simply by existing as the product of Alan’s work.
A few more weeks passed spent in bliss, enjoying every moment. I was dressed in new clothing that usually was reserved for only the most elite. Alan and I could go out to dinner whenever we wanted, and, even though the conversation lacked zest, the food was consistently delicious. Everything was finally perfect. Finally.
“What do you think about getting another car?” I asked Alan over dinner one night at La Primavera, the fine Italian restaurant near our house. Conversation was lulling, and Alan had looked distracted, as usual.
“We can’t afford it.” Alan said without looking up from his plate. I froze.
“That’s funny. Seriously though, I was thinking that we could get something a little bit nicer for around town. All the neighbors have nice cars, and it’s weird to drive a Honda still. We don’t want to ostracize ourselves.”
“Seriously though, we can’t afford it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.” I could hear it again. The tension. It had been so long since I heard it, but the memory of it flushed back in like it had been there only yesterday. “You’re lavish. We’re going broke. A million dollars can only take you so far.”
He was being serious. “Well it was nice of you to tell me. You can’t just spring this kind of news on people and expect them not to react. You know what, Alan? I don’t even know what to do with you anymore.”
“Well, maybe you don’t have to worry about that, then. I’m beginning to think that you don’t really care about me at all. I’ve spent forever trying to please you, and now look. We’re both screwed. So I hope you’re happy now.” And with that, Alan slammed the bill on the table and left. After staying at the restaurant for a few more glasses of wine, I finally walked home to find Alan asleep on the couch, wearing the mask that he knew well could allow him to control his dreams and find himself in a reality better than the one fostered by our currently hostile relationship. I should have wondered what he was dreaming about, but I didn’t care.
The following morning, Alan asked me for a divorce. I should have talked to him, but I was hung-over and I didn’t care. I should have apologized, but I didn’t care. I should have cared, but I simply couldn’t.
The ensuing months ate away at me. I had moved back into a studio apartment in Boston, and I was bitter as all hell. I was too stubborn to try to make things work with Alan, so when the time rolled around to work out the terms of the divorce, I didn’t even fight to take what Alan had earned. It was not out of my love for him, but for my own personal satisfaction that I would no longer try to take anything from that man. During my final meeting with my divorce attorney, I signed the papers, agreeing that the house and the remainder of the money that Alan had made from selling the mask was his. As I was leaving the office after signing the papers, Alan stopped me.
“I want you to have this. I know you need it more than I do.” He walked out of the revolving door of the reception area before my eyes could search his for some motive, some inkling of reason, leaving me with a small package that I did not need to open to identify.
I walked the two blocks from the brick office building to my dingy apartment with the haste of a relapsing alcoholic returning for the first time in months to his favorite liquor store. I navigated my way through the apartment in a trance and lay down in my twin-sized bed with the package. As I slipped the mask out of its brown paper packaging, I could barely contain my anxiousness.
I drifted off, and finally returned to the world I loved. The world where Alan and I looked at each other without hatred behind the stare. The world where we walked hand-in-hand and money didn’t matter. The world in which we fell in love all those years ago. The world that the mask had built and destroyed. The world that I took and enjoyed without even knowing it.
And when I awoke, I was alone.
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