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Dreaming on my recliner

Last June, my birth month, I sold my queen-size bed. I had noticed that the food I was ingesting was taking a while to be digested. And after a nice meal, I would feel sleepy and want to lie down, but GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and other problems common to senior women like me wouldn’t permit me to do exactly that. So I decided to fulfill my long-time wish to get a recliner—a birthday gift to myself.

By pure luck I found one I could afford. Since its delivery to my unit, I have been reading, relaxing, nibbling cookies and sipping coffee, doing the Sunday crossword of the Inquirer (which I look forward to each week), watching TV shows, listening to music on my phone with ear plugs on, and, of course, sleeping, on my recliner. It’s almost three months old and I’m absolutely delighted that I made the decision to own one. It has many reclining positions controlled by electricity, from a slightly raised foot part to stretched out like a bed, with a pillow, when one is ready to sleep.

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I never thought a simple recliner would change my habits and my life. I used to be a lazy person, slow at doing things I set myself to do, but now, I am lazier, not ever wanting to leave my chair except maybe to grab a bite to eat. But it is not counterproductive: I do a lot of meditating and thinking while on it.

I dream on it, too. I once dreamed of my dead sister—I was cooking something delicious for her and enjoying her company. And once, I dreamed of my husband who passed away three years ago—we took a trip to some nice place.

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Last night I dreamed that someone had given me a harmonica and I actually played on it, blowing hard. But when I was about to ask what musical key this particular harmonica was on, the dream vanished, like food I was about to put in my mouth. I wonder why, in dreams, when something wonderful is about to happen, it vanishes into thin air.

* * *

One Friday I woke up early to prepare to visit my doctor. Usually I have the timing right, waking up, showering, and being at the clinic by 5:30 a.m., way before the other patients start arriving at 6 a.m.  That particular morning I was really quite early so I decided to wait it out at a popular hamburger-and-chicken joint, the only place open at that hour. After pancakes and a chocolate drink, I decided to move to another seat by the glass panel so that I could get a clearer view of the parking lot.

The karaoke crowd was still singing in earnest in a nearby all-night joint, so I thought I’d just sit there and wait. Just then a taxicab pulled over at the curb. A tall, not bad-looking foreigner got out, along with two other passengers—ladies of the night, perhaps. They started waving their hands and talking all at once, and the gentleman came near the window for light and pulled money out of his pockets. He tried to arrange the crumpled bills or to make heads or tails out of them as I watched. Then he noticed me smiling at him and at what he was doing, and he made gestures indicating a broken heart until my smile turned to laughter.

One of the women came in and bought food, and he came in, too. He said he was a soldier and did time in Vietnam. I told him that in 1966, in the heat of the war, I was there, too, visiting my husband who was working for an American engineering firm. And I told him about how I used to tape on my Akai recorder a lot of the music of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez from the American radio station that played mostly bluegrass and Western music. We were talking very fast, and he kept gesturing to the women not to rush him. It was just a few minutes, but it seemed that we had been chatting for a lifetime.

“Mesmerized” is not a word I would normally use, but I think he didn’t want to leave just yet, so engrossed were we in our conversation. So I offered to meet him at a doughnut place, a nice, friendly setting for a chat, at 4 p.m. the next day, a Saturday. We didn’t exchange numbers to reach each other as I didn’t have my phone with me.

He agreed to meet that Saturday, and with that he left, waving several times as the taxicab drove off. And I thought about him the whole day that Friday on my recliner, nursing a wild dream of finally finding my soul mate and someone with whom to watch some beautiful sunsets.

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But the next day, he didn’t show up. I remembered the song from long ago: “The only boy I ever loved has gone on that midnight train.” Is fate really cruel, or are we really setting ourselves up for a fall when we see things through the eyes of love?  I don’t care to know, but “When that lonesome whistle blows, I’ll hang my head and cry,” a la Johnny Cash.

I guess he was just a dream, my soldier, vanished into thin air, never to come again.

Shirley de las Alas, 78, says: “It seems to me that 24 hours is not enough. I must be doing something wrong, like maybe I am watching too much TV or reading a lot of ‘True Crime’ stories. But as they say in Singapore, ‘What to do, lah?’”

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