This morning I dreamed that my husband and I were attending a series of events held on the corner of Toorak and Tooronga Roads near to where we live. The venue on the open street overlooked the city in the distance and had the walled construction site of the new Tooronga shopping centre as its backdrop.
The woman conducting proceedings was a dark haired, pretty young thing, with Mediterranean eyes and glossy hair. She spoke from a pulpit set up on the nature strip. She came across as part evangelist, part singer and performer, and part newsreader. She tended to begin her performance with a serious introduction, some news of the world, a type of exhortation to live a good life, and then moved into a comic musical routine that appeared to win the hearts of her audience.
I was sceptical myself. I did not trust her. There was also a serious older man who stood by and occasionally spoke. He was the moderator, the one who kept things on track. The audience sat on the other side of Toorak Road. Someone had stopped all the traffic for these events.
On our second visit to hear the woman speak, my husband and I went for a walk mid proceedings through local side streets. For no apparent reason my husband stopped mid step. He was upset. By the time we arrived back at our car in readiness for a resumption of proceedings, he had become even more distressed and was visibly crying. He took a call on his Blackberry. I only managed to hear the tail end of his conversation.
‘Thanks, Elaine,’ he had said.
‘Who’s she?’ I asked. My husband told me then the story of how he had been having terrible and recurrent nightmares. Nightmares that were set in some place like the United Arab Emirates in which some dignitary, a Sheik or some such person, would cut out the rib cages of young women and leave them to bleed to death. The dreams were horrific and my husband said he could not bear them any longer. He wanted to do something about them, to understand them, and for this reason he had contacted the young woman who was at this moment at her pulpit performing. Elaine was her assistant. My husband considered that the performer was like a psychologist and he had made arrangements to see her that afternoon.
‘Fair enough,’ I said. I opened the car door to go back to the performance, but I was worried about leaving a large flat tray of melted ice cream on the back seat near where my husband was now sitting. I was fearful the ice cream might spill or that my husband might fall into it.
I went to resume my seat on the nature strip with the rest of the audience. My husband would listen to the performance from the car, he said. Then he asked me through the open window,
‘Was I happy?’
‘Yes,’ I said. I was happy enough. I wondered whether he might be wondering about the affair I had had some time ago that was now over and whether this young woman he planned to visit that afternoon would in turn fall in love with him. All young women fall in love with my husband, I thought – his gentleness to strangers, his sharp intelligence and his wit.
My husband sat in the back seat of the car crying. His skin looked tanned and he seemed to have lost weight. His skin almost shone with good health but he looked so unhappy.
‘Your happiness,’ he said to me, ‘is a Baptist type happiness’. I did not understand his words, (I still don’t) but I was struck by the strange way religious references had crept into our otherwise almost religion free lives. My memory of the dream ends here.