Extract from the diary of Helena Birch:
Who are you when you sleep?
I am not Helena Birch when I sleep. I am not a wire walker. I need no wire, I have my wings. In my dreams I take flight, and I leave. In my dreams there is no tent, no billowing prison. I am beholden to no one but myself.
‘Who are you when you sleep?’ I ask.
Assumption and Avarice tell me that when they sleep they are one and the same person. They slide together under the same skin, their thoughts one, their heart beating in time with each breath. I suggest that this is a metaphor, that they are so alike in life that in sleep they lose the ability to differentiate between themselves. They are not sharing the same dream, but having the same dream in different bodies, just as they are living the same life in different bodies.
They laugh at me.
‘Who are you when you sleep?’ they say, speaking in one voice; every note, every inflection an exact replica.
I look from one to the other. Mirror twins but each so symmetrical that the mirrored image is not mirrored at all, but copied. Doesn’t matter which side of the mirror either of them stand, they are the same.
‘In my dream,’ I tell them, ‘I am a blue jay. I fly away.’
‘Maybe it’s a metaphor,’ says Avarice, pouring me tea.
Today, I am told Avarice sits to my right side and Assumption to my left. If they did not tell me I wouldn’t know, but I think I don’t know anyway. They are both Assumption and Avarice. Both the same. Two bodies, one person. I think I am getting closer to understanding that.
I pluck a single feather from between my breasts and place it on the table.
Bright blue, it sits on white cloth like a scrap of sky. If I were small I could jump into it and disappear. How I long to be small.
‘Who am I when I dream?’ I ask them. ‘It’s not just a metaphor, is it? This is not a metaphor. It’s a feather. A real feather. I can see it, touch it, it hurts when I pull it out. That’s no metaphor.’
Assumption reaches out and places a hand over the feather. When the hand is lifted, the feather is still there. ‘That’s a real feather all right,’ says Assumption to Avarice.
‘Indeed it is,’ replies Avarice. ‘More tea?’
Avarice pours the tea. Plucks the feather from the table and places it back into my palm, curling my fingers around it. ‘If it hurts to pluck them,’ Avarice says. ‘Perhaps that means you should let them grow.’
‘Tell me, Helena,’ asks Assumption. ‘Who are you when you wake?’
And I find that I do not know the answer.
© Ren Warom 2014