Flip Side: Subliminal messages

Oren never used to remember his dreams. Now he can't get them out of his head.

By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
August 23, 2007 16:01
ruthie blum 88

ruthie blum 88. (photo credit: )

 
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What, he considers, is the point of it all? It's not that he's suicidal. Or even depressed, when he thinks about it. Which he doesn't do often. Not really. He's not much of a delver. Certainly not when it comes to his emotions. That's a woman thing, as far as he's concerned. You know, all that self-examination and tedious chatter about it afterwards. As though it's ever going to lead anywhere. Other than to a fresh bout of it the next day. Certainly not Oren's cup of tea. Not even listening to it, let alone engaging or being engaged by it. He's given up trying to convey this to Tali, though. It only sparks fights. And his strength is sapped. But by what? It's probably the weather. All that oppressive heat and sunlight. All that talk about global warming. Unbearable. No wonder he's been having all those dreams and then waking up in a sweat. Nightmares, to be precise. The kind that stick. Gnaw at him throughout the following day. Oren never used to remember his dreams. Now he can't get them out of his head. Yes, it must be the Godawful heat. God. Omigod! Flashes of last night's almost biblical opus flash through his mind, spurred by the sudsy water in the kitchen sink. Oren puts down the plate he is scrubbing and rinses his hands under the tap. Instead of drying them on a towel, he pats his perspiring face and stands in front of the fan, feeling the breeze against his wet cheeks. How had God begun invading his sleep? He doesn't believe in a higher power. Not even the kind Tali goes on about with her girlfriends, when they burn incense and analyze themselves ad nauseam. He can just imagine the field day Tali would have with his dreams in general and this last one in particular. Because it's not only God who plays a prominent part in it; his father has a starring role as well. Tali would have plenty to say about that for sure. But then, she's a shrink. She can't stand when he calls her that, even when he's teasing. Not that she likes referring to herself as a psychologist either, mind you. That doesn't give an accurate picture of the kind of work she does in her clinic, mostly with teenagers. The kind who suffer from exam phobia and the like. A few have eating disorders. Food aversion and obsession give a good glimpse into the soul, she says. Help her experiment with and expand her healing techniques. Having a degree in physics, Oren might be more prone to questioning her use of "magnet energy" (she literally runs magnets over the bodies of her clients) as a method for curing anxiety if her soaring word-of-mouth reputation weren't keeping the couple out of serious debt. This month, they were even left with a little surplus. And the last thing in the world Oren needs right now is to be reminded that the best he's been able to do professionally this year is tutor a handful of high-school students toward their matriculations. Now that they've graduated, he's got to find new ones. Not an easy feat at the beginning of the school year. Impossible during summer vacation. OREN DECIDES to let the remaining dishes soak, while he takes a break to prepare a pitcher of iced coffee. He's got to cool off before thinking straight. He has got to stop letting his nocturnal visions follow him around like this. Dreams are mere brain waves, after all. He knows Freudian analysis has been discredited. And no one, save a negligible number of crackpots, really believes in prescience. Not even Tali. Though Oren wouldn't know, because he hasn't mentioned any of this to her, for fear that it would only serve to reinforce what she senses: that her husband has been feeling out of kilter. Why, she asks, won't he let her help? There's nothing wrong, that's why, is what he keeps insisting. How can he now tell her that pictures of his father reporting to him on the world's coming to an end "at a certain time and place to be announced" keep ringing in his ears? Turning on the blender and watching the coffee, sugar, milk and ice swirl, he is reminded of the way the ocean rose and fell in his dream. How can he now tell Tali of the deep computer-like voice from the heavens specifying latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates - and of his father's nodding as if to say "this is it"? Oren closes his eyes and relives the scene. He is standing on a beachfront, possibly near his parents' home in Netanya. The reflection of the moon on the water provides just enough light with which to see a lone figure - a little boy, perhaps - wading. Or flailing, as though about to drown. And then God declares the coordinates. Matter-of-factly, without anger. Game Over, so to speak. The sea begins to sway, to and fro, like Hurricane Dean. The figure in the water disappears in the waves. Oren's father takes his elbow and steers him to the house. Oren tries to protest, because the little boy is in danger. Oren allows himself to be led to the house. "It's just as you said it would happen," he says. It is the first time in his life he has acknowledged that his father was right about something. The two men walk through mounds of foam to get to the house, where Oren's mother and other family members are waiting. Oren throws himself into Tali's arms and weeps: "But the children aren't with us!" Tali's comforting takes the form of her reassurance that they have none. OREN SHAKES his head to make the images disappear. Then he takes the pitcher from the blender and puts it in the fridge. He removes a magnet from the door - the one holding the grocery list in place - and begins running it along his arm. "What in the world are you doing?" Tali asks, as she enters unnoticed. "Let's have a baby," Oren answers. "May I have some iced coffee first?" Tali laughs. "It's an absolute furnace out there." ruthie@jpost.com

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