Fantasy wears a yellow dress

“I am afraid that life is a game.”

“What sort of game?”

Our patient’s hands are clasped over his gut. His right heel rests on his left ankle. He is pained by this question. We can observe his memory twitching as he tries to recreate the experience of this life is a game anxiety.

“A game made up by someone, or something else, where we’re players or pieces. That it isn’t real.”

“Yes, like badminton. Or checkers. Do you consider yourself a skillful badminton player?”

Our patient unclasps his hands and moves his right hand heavily across the right side of his face, his black hair threading itself through his fingers. There is much laughter left in his mind, which is worth noting.

He needs a small time to regain his proper form, so we continue, “And have you ever cross-dressed and then played badminton---or at least felt like doing so?”

We can witness a smile slither into a primitive corner of his mind, and coil beside a young woman dressed in a fit yellow dress. He removes his hat with a motion suggesting he may return it to his head shortly.

“No, not like that, a computer game or a game of some unknown nature. Something where the players don’t know they’re players.”

“Yes. And what year is it?”

Our patient’s legs fold slightly as if his knees were drawn to the ceiling by marionette strings. His left hand remains still, while the fingertips of his right draw together across his cheeks and nose into a point. His thumb detaches itself and prepares to enter his left nostril.

“In the game?”

We say nothing, but then, catching ourselves on a chain-link fence as it webs into focus in his mind, offer a consolatory silence.

“I had a dream. I am riding my yellow bicycle on a busy street. I feel that it is Slant Ave. but the cityscape is warped. One moment I’m climbing through a concrete dune away from a train and a bridge, the next I’m passing a foreign park with many comic willows.”

Our patient deposits a finding from his nose onto the floor, runs his right index and middle fingers across his brow to meet his thumb at the midpoint, and shields his face with both hands, peering through his fingers into the air. We must suppose he is saying: I am not a gigantic bird of prey, though one is surely after me.

“What is a comic willow?”

“I have the feeling that somebody put a bomb on the train. I’m waiting to hear the explosion. I’m waiting to feel panic or terror or energy in my veins. But I am just riding my yellow bicycle on the busy street, and it is making me drowsy. I would like to stop and talk to someone, because many of these faces are familiar. I would like to stop and talk to a girl and for us to cry and take hold of each other, but it is making me drowsy. Suddenly it happens. I fall asleep and in the same moment my eyes burst open to a fury of noise and color. I have lost my balance and my bicycle is falling to the ground. I wake up as my eyes connect with my brother’s face. He is driving the car that’s going to crash into me.”

We almost want to leap in unison high into the air, to throw back our heads and watch the balloons fill the sky. It is both a joy and a great trauma to observe our patient’s memory twitch as it tries to recreate, to create, the language of such experience. We will try something unusual.

“What sort of game do you imagine life would be if you were living two thousand years ago?”

He returns his hat to his head. We chuckle imperceptibly. He wouldn’t want a gigantic bird of prey to snatch away one of his hairs.

“I don’t know why the willows are comic.” “I had a dream. I am riding my yellow bicycle on a busy street. I feel that---”

“And have you ever cross-dressed and then played badminton?” The coiled smile in his mind hisses and flickers its pink tongue at a girl in a fit yellow dress.

“It would be a game made by God.”

“Did the bomb on the train go off?”

Our patient adjusts his belt buckle with his right hand, and clasps his hands together over his gut. He becomes aware of the activity of his eyes. He follows them from a spot on the ceiling exactly six feet from his nose to a spot four feet above the ground on a yellowing leaf of a plant sitting in front of a window that faces northeast.

“I can’t remember if I jumped off the bridge. It was ten or twelve feet above the surface of the water. Pink, yellow and green weeds guarded either shore of a narrow channel. Suspended in slow motion below the murky surface they overwhelmed and tore at my mind like an instrument of torture. I imagine now a ghost electric with beauty waiting naked for me on my bed, displaying her private color, drawing out of me a sickening rage.”

Slightly short of breath, our patient stumbles and adjusts his belt buckle with his left hand. His eyes wander shut as he swallows thirstily. It would be a great disappointment to bring him a drink of water with his memory twitching so maniacally. Of course if he should ask…

“I feel estranged in this memory from my brother and father. It is summer and I am the smallest circle in a series of expanding rings. My brother and father surround me, and are in turn enveloped by the bright dark surface of the water, which itself is an embryo inside of the green hills, all quiet within the receding blue of the sky.”

We must be wary of our patient’s language. The muscles of his stomach clench and turn like a wheel, clicking into activity the muscles of his shoulders and neck as he starts to sit up, quickly relenting, his head falling softly back into rest, a wheel returning to stillness. His dialogue is unnatural and rehearsed. We should press further.

“Are you saying that you believe your life to be a terrific coincidence?”

“‘Exceptionally neurotic!’ my brother spits the decree at my father. Ex-sept-shun-Ally nu-erotic. There is a look of cruel disease in their faces as they argue. The sight of the bridge splits apart, leaving only an atom, a nucleus, an electron and then nothing as our boat speeds away. The wake is a green serpent and its accelerating slither, driving our boat forward, the sick pleasure it takes from us being just out of reach, is making me drowsy.”

“To whom are you speaking?”

Our patient bobs his head slightly and is still again. His breathing is uneven and inhibited, and his eyelids are vibrating. His memory lurches as a young woman in a fit yellow dress stands abruptly, failing to acknowledge the smile coiled beside her, wriggles out of her polka-dot underpants and relieves herself, the flush hissing through his mind like steam from a kettle. We would like to know who we are.

“X-second-sonly near-Addict. I am riding my yellow bicycle on a busy street. I feel that it is Slant Ave. but the cityscape---”

“And why do you think you have such a strong impulse to cross-dress and then play badminton?”

If our patient should ask for a drink of water, we would happily oblige, though it would be an immense concession.

“I’m fairly certain the bomb did go off. I remember before I appeared on a yellow bicycle I was talking to somebody. He had just gotten off the train. He was the one who planted the bomb. He told me about a girl he had met on the train. They would meet again when she got off and maybe they would be in love. It was clear when the bomb went off, though I saw and heard nothing, and he was very relieved.”

Our patient massages his left quadriceps with the thumb of his left hand. He then scratches his belly button with his right middle finger and rolls his head in a tense circle. His eyes follow a sparrow as it leaps between two small tree branches. We must proceed under the assumption that he wishes the sky were full of water and his eyes were in possession of some hook and bait with which he could snag the poor sparrow.

“Does your father enjoy gardening?”

“Hello, you have reached an automated voice message system. Mother is not available. Please leave a message after the tone or try back later. Goodbye.”

We grunt affectionately. We even fidget understandingly in our seats. We might simply pour protocol down the drain and bring our patient a drink of water without him even asking.

“You are riding your yellow bicycle on a busy street, and it is making you drowsy. But if you were to stop and talk to your mother, and you both were to cry and take hold of each other, do you feel you might avoid the crash?”

“If I were living three million years ago, I would be a gorilla and there would be no game.”

Our patient scratches the front third of the midline of his scalp with his left pinky finger, displaying particular pleasure from the relief of a spot near the hairline.

“You would be guilty of causing quite a ruckus in the mountains if you were a gorilla.”

“I am having another dream now.”

Our patient’s memory has fallen still. A woman in a fit yellow dress borrows a quarter from the smile coiled beside her and moves frantically to a nearby pay phone. She dials and waits anxiously, her left hand placed on her hip, her eyes gazing moodily upwards. She receives no answer, curses loudly and flings the phone away, retaking her seat next to the smile, which is now reading a newspaper. The phone hangs from its cord.

We ought to have been more wary of his language. We should like to know who we are.

“I am crawling along the floor of a kitchen. She is with me and we are laughing hysterically. Her brother is crying in the other room. He is watching a wildlife program and is terribly afraid of the pelicans because one tried to snatch him away when he was little. I see her face and think of red and blue-green parrots in the mountains, squawking strange things in extinct tongues---criticizing the hungry monkeys. I would like to lie naked with her beneath the low-hanging branches, making up riddles and drawing mazes, casting my heart into her eyes and being content to catch nothing, but when I reach to stroke her yellow hair she is bald. I say I love her, that she is a beauty, and ask why her brother is crying. She scowls and appears full of hate as a pit forms in my chest and now I am not dreaming and I see a yellowing leaf in front of a window.”

“And why do these birds criticize the hungry monkeys in a dead language?”

Our patient’s knees are turned to the right and his hands are clasped behind his head, his elbows rising toward the ceiling, his chest, gut and crotch exposed, the muscles of his stomach tense.

“I am afraid I betrayed her with another, though I know it to be a Fantasy. I can remember it clearly and it fills me with venom. The shutting of my eyes, a deep pulse, the erection of a world in the dark of my head, the peeling away of polka-dot underpants, the taste as I buried myself in the wet like a shipwreck in the sea.” “I am riding my yellow bicycle---”

“No you are not.”

Our patient’s memory fails as a little girl in a fit yellow dress, paralyzing the air with her scream, is dragged away by an old woman without a face. A smile is uncoiled and frowning, listening to the dial tone of an old pay phone.

“Who is Fantasy?”

Our patient is whooping furiously and tearing at his clothes like a gorilla. Inside his mind we can witness a deadly quiet.

“Please, I would like to speak with my mother.”

“Who is Fantasy?” There is a terrible hissing in the air.

“She is---”, he gasps and howls, clawing at his throat, “she is---”, he will tear his throat out, “she is---”, we absolutely will not bring him a drink of water, “she is---riding a yellow bicycle”, he is for a moment without a face.

Our patient lies contorted like an anxiety artist. He has recreated an experience, and scratches the back of his head with his left hand, the muscles of his neck straining slightly, the activity of his eyes escaping awareness.

“I know why the willows are comic.”

A smile is uncoiled and smiling, listening to the dial tone of an old pay phone, placing one after another quarter gleefully into the money slot.

“Because I made up a game for myself.”

Our patient is watching himself crack the knuckles of his left hand, scrupulously pressing against each of the nine essential joints, and then rolling his left wrist in a distorted clockwise circle.

“I am a girl in a fit yellow dress.”