The Quixotic Slumber of Mr. Jensen
by William Blick
Mr. Jensen awoke in the morning, fatigued, irritable, and discontented, but he knew that he had to be to the office by 8:30, for there was a meeting with Bill Walsh about paper clips or something. He rolled over in his bed and looked at the vacant spot where his wife used to lie. He thought of the children who no longer wanted anything to do with him, and he shut his eyes tightly again and clung to the pillow. Mr. Jensen would not be getting out of bed this morning.
What would happen if one retreated into one’s mind so intensely that all that sustained one were the remembrance of things past, hope for things in the future, and ego gratification of things had, bought, and sold? One could retreat into this perfect chrysalis of perpetual thinking and feeling, without having to leave one’s own home. Or bed. Or mind. One could feed off the tubers sown in the brain. Thoughts would nourish. The external world could disintegrate, but the internal life would be ripe, fertile, and bountiful.
Yes, Jensen thought. I won’t be going out today. Or ever. He lay back in his bed and thought pleasant thoughts. Dreams of his past, present, and future. He thought of going into the office. First of getting out of bed and traveling down to the kitchen. He thought of putting the coffee on to brew. He thought of toast and cereal that crackled. He thought of the hot shower cascading down his loose flesh of middle age.
It all seemed so normal. He had been doing it every day for thirty years. And then he thought of dressing with crisp cotton shirts and shiny black slacks. He wore a nice blue- and red-striped tie. Yes, the routine. He knew it well. He knew it so well that he could do it without ever opening his eyes or leaving his bed.
What would happen if one did all things this way? If one could simply dream through life, things would be much easier. He could mold things into what he wanted. What was the point in all things physical and concrete, anyway? All the fatigue on the muscles. All the cold and warm sensations of changing New York weather.
No, Jensen had a plan. He would simply dream his life. He would do this through thinking of the life he lived and the life he wanted to live, and then would move from there. He would think of only the pleasant and fond memories. He would pick and choose his ideal world. A world without pain or suffering or addictions or broken homes or weak-minded people. A world without boredom and monotony. A world where one could be free to live as one chose.
That was the greatest benefit of this new way of life: liberation, and how liberating it was. So free to think and create and mold the life that one wanted. The telephone rang in the distance. Jensen answered it. In his mind.
Yes son, how are you,
Fine dad, good to hear your voice.
Thanks son, how is the new baby?
He’s great. I will bring him over tomorrow.
I’ll talk to you soon.
I love you.
The phone went dead and he hung it up in his mind. Jensen clenched his eyes closed. The phone continued to ring though. Jensen didn’t answer it again. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Jensen got to the train station at 8:15. The train was right on time. Off to work. Another day. On the train he dreamed of Linda-Sue, when he was a teenager not more than 40 years ago, in the parked car on the beach. Her warm young flesh close to his. She always smelled of peppermint. Not like a candy cane, but somewhat softer and sweeter in fragrance. He thought of her kisses which tingled his bones, unlike the kisses of his wife of 30 years.
The summer was alive that year. Kids drinking warm beer and urinating in the ocean to celebrate their debauchery. Boys driving around in drop-top cars to sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Cream.
Jensen was jolted awake by the passenger in the seat next to him. It was his stop, and he hurried almost frantically to get to the doors and then he woke up again. Looking at the ceiling, he wondered if his dream was real. He thought of the train and then of Linda-Sue and then of the warm bed that he was in. It wasn’t long again until he shut his eyes and dreamed his life again. He thought of the future.
Sunny Florida. Tea on the balcony. Watching the sun dive down into the darkness. His wife was next to him.
Honey, she said.
I love you.
Look at this wonderful life we created.
Jensen thought life was a wonderment. His world was perfect. What would happen if one retreated into one’s psyche so deeply that one could master everything?
Master relationships. Marriage. Children. Work. Emotions. Addictions. Pain. Suffering. It only required thought. Just think it and you are there. No, I’ll stay here where its safe. In my dream world.
The telephone rang in the distance again. Jensen didn’t hear it. He just continued to drift in his thoughts. Jensen was caught in a whirlwind of precious moments, dreams of achievement, peaceful relations with family. This time the answering machine picked up.
Day one had passed. Day turned into night. Jensen lay in the darkness of his room. He was thinking. All the mechanisms of his brain were working harmoniously to sustain his dream life, but he was awake. Not really, though. Somewhere between the shadowy dreams of sleep and the always-intrusive nuisance, reality, like Jensen.
Jensen was thinking about the greatest car he ever owned. His promotions at work. His dog, which had long since died. His honeymoon. The birth of his son. He thought of stocks he had bought and sold for a major profit. He thought of achievement and love and the wonderment of new things.
He didn’t think of those things he did not want to think of. Divorce. Estrangement. Alcoholism (which he had kicked years ago). Infidelities. Greed. Bitterness. Resentment. Hatred. Rage. Silent repression.
The door bell rang. Jensen stirred in his bed. He heard voices. One of the very same voices that was on that damned machine. The voices of reality calling him. Intruding into his world. The knocking persisted. Jensen shut his eyes. He rolled around in his bed. No, his thought-world called him. He retreated even more into this state of perpetual bliss.
Day one turned into day two, and day two led to a string of day threes and one day four. There had been phone calls and knocks at the door. The darkness turned into light and then into darkness. Jensen was now completely absorbed in his world. He was no longer sleeping. Nor awake.
He was driving contentedly down the path to his old summer home, when he heard the crash of the front door. The intruders of reality were in his home. They hurried up the stairs and into his bedroom.
Yes, he answered.
Are you okay?
The faces swirled and mingled with the darkness of his room and the sunlight beaming in through the window. Of the intruders in blue, there was one dressed differently. It was someone he knew. Someone he had pitched baseballs to and held on his knee as a child.
Who are these fools? Do they know who I am? How dare they intrude on my blissful state. My perfect chrysalis. I do not have to answer to them. Look at these fools. They load me onto this portable bed. They strap me in. They fire questions at me as we move. Soon we are in the ambulance. Where are they taking me? To the hospital.
I do not feel like answering their questions. I choose to live my life in my thoughts. I am driving down the interstate in the greatest car I have ever owned. The children are meeting me at my summer home with the grandchildren. My wife is in the passenger seat. Everything is perfect. I am a man with a perfect history. A perfect past, present, and future. I have a perfect life in my thoughts. Everyone is contented, well-adjusted, and fulfilled.
What would happen if one retreated so far into one’s psyche that all that sustained one was fond memories of the past, dreams of a perfect present, and ambitious hope for the future? All one needed was the fertile soil of memory and the seeds of a life once lived.
If one could master this thought-life, this chrysalis of perpetual thought, one could be perfect.
Copyright © 2009 by William Blick