I had to get up earlier than usual and be on the street by seven. My colleague, Helen, wanted to have coffee with me, in my class room, before the kids swooped in. This was pushing me. I prefer to shuffle to the subway, close my eyes to sourpuss passengers and meditate myself to work. It takes time to stock up for the morning’s run: banana for potassium, grapefruit juice to burn off cholesterol, hazelnut coffee. If I’d pared down on yesterday’s carb intake, I could indulge myself with some small thing resembling a breakfast roll. And I do like to hobnob with the New York Times book reviews with my coffee before my first class. Michiko Kakutani keeps me abreast of the current literary scene. But, hey–I try to be sociable.
Okay! Whatever Lola wants–that’s my secret name for Helen. I can’t help it–that woman pulls me like pollen does bees, like booze does a drunk.
After we slugged down some coffee, Helen looked me straight on. (I often use this expression to remind myself of the other’s orientation.) “How was your night?”
Her question lit me up. Here it was again–a psychic thing between us! “How did you know I had a great night?”
“So, what happened?”
There was something different about Helen this morning. Usually she talked a stream of words like traffic rushing on the West Side Highway about herself or her husband. How she pushed him out of the apartment recently because he made a crack about their kid taking after him when he did something good, after her when he did something bad. The kind of drivel that irritated me. So why was she focused on me this morning?
“Well, Helen–I dreamt I called up the Pearly Gates Dating Service, and they had an immediate match made for me in heaven.”
“I didn’t know you were considering dating again, J. G.?”
“So, guess who I was with all night.”
Her left eyebrow trembled, caught somewhere between believing and not believing me.
“Don’t you want to know, Helen?”
She stared uncomfortably into her almond vanilla decaf.
“Emma Thompson! Emma and I rolled on the floor all night. She is beautiful, especially in a seashell pink, see-through nightie. Cleavage to die for.”
Helen spread her nostrils and breathed deeply. “This is a dream, right? Emma Thompson is alive and well. She’s not in heaven!”
Helen may be straight but she’s no fool.
“Yes, a dream of a dream. There’s more than one kind of “Pearly Gate,” Helen. It was so real, so physical. I only wish heaven could feel so good.”
“I guess if you can have a dream like that, you’re getting over mourning for Lola.”
“Lola! Who’s Lola?”
“Isn’t that the name of your Ex?”
“No–It’s Dora. Where are your pearls of wisdom this morning, Helen?” I could hear the tension in my voice. She had spoken my pet name for her! Was it coincidence, or our psyches tuning in again? Then she was being her usual new-age self, puffing out info about the Conscious Heart and the Angels of Comfort.
I wasn’t listening–I was lost inside my private chamber.
“Are you okay, J. G.?”
I couldn’t respond. No sooner had I asked, ‘Where are your pearls of wisdom this morning?’ when I saw–clear as a picture and deep in my mind’s eye–a thatch of damp blond curls. And in that fantasized thatch, a large drop of viscous fluid clung to one hair. That one drop mesmerized me. Elixir? A seer’s orb? The real Pearl of Wisdom, entrance to my kind of Pearly Gates? It was all I could do to keep my tongue in my mouth for I wanted to lap the air in the direction of Helen.
“Well, I’ve got to go… got a first period class. Have a blissful day, J. G.”
As she stood and I stood beside her, her mass of blond curls sweeping my face, one hair, I swear, stayed in my mouth. I felt faint.
“You look tired, J. G.”– she was already halfway out the door. “I really think you should dream less and sleep more.”