The Polygamous Pilot's Ghost
Dreamed 1990/9/25 by Chris Wayan
My roommate's a high-altitude test pilot. He's famous, a risk-taker, and a charmer, especially with women. He's out on a mission one day and leaves me there--won't say why, but there's a bad-boy gleam in his eye.
A knock at the door. A woman ask to come in. No, to MOVE in!
Now, our apartment is peculiar: a central living room and kitchen with at least six bedrooms opening off it like the petals of a flower. And most of the bedrooms are empty, for "guests" as he euphemizes. So I let this woman in, and I help her move her stuff into one of the empty rooms, without much question. We start talking, and I find I like her myself. But I can't easily tell if she's attracted to me as well. I think his pheromones or his charm must saturate the place--this woman, like others before her, seems flushed and excited just to be here, it gets her hot.
I flirt with her shyly, expecting her to snap "It's HIM I want, not YOU!"
She purrs instead. I slowly adjust to the idea I might just be sexy too. We curl up together and talk (about the Pilot, of course).
The doorbell rings. It's another woman, wanting to move in. This one I know slightly. She too flirts with me, and I help move her into a different bedroom.
A third woman knocks, then a fourth. A fifth. I expect a huge fight when they all get together, but they seem quite unjealous. And ALL of them flirt with me, though I'm too shy to do much yet... despite all the hints they give me!
The next night is stormy on the ground. The radio says it's an ice-storm, miles up where the Pilot is. He's on a difficult, high-paying industrial job: hanging radio cables on the dome of the sky. You can see why it's high-paying, since it's technically impossible. Nothing to hang them from. But if anyone can, it's the Pilot.
Ice forms, and the cables grow heavy and drag him down. I warn him by radio, as I see the loops drag, snagging on high-tension powerlines. He keeps trying to lift them, to clear them... He climbs higher, then the radio crackles "Coming down."
Dead silence. Dead silence. Now, and forever.
Months later I'm in a Southern California coastal town. On impulse, I climb a steep little street full of planterboxes of trailing subtropical flowers. A plaque stands in the middle of a flowerbed on the corner.
It's the pilot's memorial! Nearest thing he has to a grave, since his body vaporized in the electrical explosion...
My intuition knew, and led me here. I feel sad, miss him, but as the folk song about him says, "I can pass without grieving, now."
His ghost shows up that night. He hints he's anchored to the plaque till he finishes his earthly business. He called for me for months and at last my intuition drew me there. I feel glad to see him, though I wouldn't have thought he had much unfinished business, given his risky, for-the-moment life.
"What was dying like?" I ask. "How's Heaven?"
He says "Oh, heaven... I just felt like I went a little further than normal, up past the clouds till they became a floor, and there I met some old friends, and I stayed. It isn't much different from flying the usual way. But then," he laughs, "flying was always heaven for me."
He frowns translucently and adds "But I want to ask you--who do you think I should return to meet in their dreams, and console?" I'm puzzled, wonder if ghosts forget their earthly existence so fast... but he remembered me, came to me as soon as I made contact with his grave. Slowly I get it. He just never could keep track of all those women, even in life! Trusts me to decide who was just having fun with him, and who truly loved him and misses him.
I start writing a list, then realize he can't take that back to the spirit world. Have to tell him names and bedrooms... oh, yes, it's definitely plural, four or five. You'd think that being a spirit, he'd see clearly who he loved the most. Just the opposite. He's confused by how STRONG his love is for so many of them! Just not a monogamous man. Each shared a different side of his life, and the rooms they chose reflect the diverse parts of his character. They weren't a flight from intimacy: polygamy was his path TO intimacy.
THREE MONTHS LATER
This dream made no sense to me at the time.
But last month, an art-gallery owner I'll just call Jose saw my dream-art and offered me my first real show. I printed out and cut and pasted and sealed and mounted three dozen huge prints. When I arrived to hang the show, he said "I don't want you to pock up my walls. Hang it without nails or tacks. Use tape or something." I protested but it was either Scotch tape an entire art show, or no show at all. He wouldn't help. I did it, tottering alone on high a ladder, dizzy with fever--I had the flu.
The night of the opening, I'm still sick but force myself to go. I find him drunk; he insults me, then my work, then his own reception guests. Apparently being sick doesn't excuse me from making a beer run--though he's already had so much he's lurching and slurring. By the evening's early end he's barely coherent and in a foul mood. He says "The show is canceled, we're through, come tomorrow and take your shit down."
I'm so sick by now I don't care; I'm glad to go home to bed, show or not. As he shoos us out the door, the poor people living in the housing projects across the street (a gallery with a promising location, yes?) throw eggs at us and laugh.
In the morning I and go over to take down my pictures. He meets us in the doorway and says "Someone broke in and tore up one of your paintings." His eyes glint with malicious pleasure. He's about as convincing as a toddler saying "a bad man did that, I didn't do it." They're really computer prints, so it just means a lot of labor lost, not a unique work. So I grit my teeth and just gather up my surviving prints and leave.
I get home to learn we got an eviction notice: our landlord fled the country to avoid taxes, our house is being sold--we have to move.
A friend of one of my housemates has a flat in her own house open up and offers it to us. Serendipity. I go up to look at it...
And it's on the street in my dream! Steep sunny quiet, with tiny dead-end cross-streets, and flowerbeds on the corner. A rough, bronzy rock where the dream-plaque was. And suddenly the dream makes sense.
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