To Dream a Dream of a Life
Cliff sat in his leather recliner scrolling from one channel to another, getting a full grasp of each show within a near millisecond’s view.
“Hey Lorena….wanna Netflix and Chill a bit,” asked Cliff.
“Have you put the dishes away like I asked,” replied Lorena.
“No, but I am enjoying the beer you have just given me,” said Cliff.
“What beer? Are you drunk again?” she asked.
“No, it’s the buzz kill that you’ve just delivered, yet again.” Cliff said.
“Hmpf”, Lorena grunted as she dried the dishes, deliberately clashing them.
Cliff stared at his dull and dented white gold wedding band, tightening at every clashing dish. He then looked at the 75” flat screen TV strapped with new wireless speaker system, reminding him of its exorbitant cost suckered by the slick salesperson who convinced him of the virtual surround sound, sans wires, sans discomfort.
“This movie looks interesting,” he said. "The protagonist in the film can go back in time by simply clenching his fists and thinking back to the time he’d like to revisit. The protagonist can then change his timeline. He was able to meet the woman of his dreams, marry and have his kids."
“Hey, Lorena, if you could go back in time and change something, would you do it”, Cliff asked.
She popped her head out of the kitchen. “Do you really want me to answer that” she asked.
“Seriously, would you do it? If yes what would you change?” Cliff asked.
Lorena stopped the clanging in the kitchen and slowly poked out her head.
“Hmmm…if you want the truth, I would…” she paused, “…nah forget it. I don’t have time to think about nonsense…what if …what if…Why dwell on whether we should have turned left or right?”
She went back to the dishes. “It’s not like changing things would give us a maid. I still have to do the dishes. It would not change anything.”, she said.
Cliff shook his head. He continued to watch this time travel fantasy. He decided to try this experiment. He clenched his fist and thought about the time he first met Lorraine. It was back in Puerto Rico when he was visiting his grandparents. It was the last time he saw them alive. He felt if the meeting was different, that if he could be more of the man than the victim then maybe Lorraine would have seen him differently. He suddenly felt dizzy. The room was spinning around and Cliff felt queazy. He opened his eyes gasping for air.
“Lorena?…are you there?,” he asked.
Silence. There’s an eerie quiet.
“Are you going to help me with the dishes or what? You know I have to work too. I rush home…cook your meal…”, Lorena said.
Cliff realized that while he was clenching, imitating the protagonist’s actions, he held his breath, shutting his eyes too tightly causing his self induced vertigo.
Cliff sighed, snuggled his body as a dog does when getting comfortable into a position. Cliff fell asleep.
He opened his eyes because he heard a rooster crowing at it’s usual time 5 a.m.
“Nieto, quiere tú cafe ahora o después,”cried out a very familiar voice. Clearly a voice from a the past. Do I want coffee now or later? Where am I? What’s going on? Cliff thought to himself.
“Abuela?…Grandma?…que hora es…what time is it?” Cliff asked, all confused and dried mouth. The rooster continued crowing, sun now beating its heat onto his forehead.
“Cliff…hay que nombre tan Americano…nieto levantase y toma tu desayuna,” said Clifford’s grandmother. Get up and eat breakfast? She is always complaining about Cliff’s non Spanish name. She would have preferred Tomás or Alberto or even Mario.
This has to be a dream. Cliff’s grandmother died 10 years ago. He looked down to see a non-existent beer belly, and looked at his now existent abs! This is a dream, but the sun and the coffee and the breakfast eggs had that strong aroma. Cliff decided to continue this reverie until he woke up.
“Abuela…what’s happening to me? Is this real,” he asked.
“Español nieto…si quieres quedar en mi casa tienes que hablar en español no ingles.” She told Cliff. Cliff would have to speak Spanish not english if he were to stay in her home. The front door shut loudly and another familiar voice boomed.
“Este gringo nieto mijo estas durmiendo todavia?” My long dead grandfather asked my grandmother whether his gringo grandson is still sleeping. Cliff needed to understand how did he get there. Was he really dreaming?
“Cleeeef..vamanos. Tenemos que hacer la compra y visitar a mi hermano” , Cliff’s grandfather told him that they must get the shopping done and later visit his great uncle.
“Ok abuelo déjame bañarme (let me tan a shower)” Cliff says. Cliff rushed to the shower, which is actually a single pipe that flowed cold water. Clearly the old country way of waking up. As Cliff was shouting due to the rush of cold water, he heard his grandparents laughing at his plight, he remembered this trip. This was the day he met Lorena, his cousin’s neighbor. This was the day when he made a fateful decision that changed everything. At least he could change the outcome in this dream. He could be the writer he always wanted to be. He could conquer his fears. Well, he has nothing to lose.
Cliff got out of the shower, and straight to his room. “Gracias abuela,” he says as he took the cup of coffee, towel tight at his waist, “I’ll be right out”, said Cliff smiling as he shut the door.
Que él dice? He heard his grandmother muffled question about what Cliff said. Lorena had a boyfriend named Jose. Jose challenged Cliff to a fight at the barn for the honor of his woman. Lorena was smitten by Cliff from first glance. Cliff needed to change the outcome. Instead of Lorraine feeling sorry for Cliff and winning her hand because he got his ass whipped, he needed to win this fight. He saw a white guyavera hanging in the corner. The guyavera is a very Caribbean shirt that’s covered in a floral design with four pockets on the the front of the shirt adorning the pecs and waist areas. The shirts were very typical and traditional. This one was laced with the traditional coquí.
“Vamanos, let’s go”, Cliff said.
The reality of this dream astonished Cliff. He remembered the drive to the market. His grandfather noticed that Cliff was wearing a guayavera.
“Los guyaveras dan poder que no sabes tiene in tú corazón,” said Cliff’s grandfather. So this shirt gives powers that’s in our hearts. Let’s see.” Said Cliff.
“Cuando nos vamos a las casa de tío,” Cliff asked at what time they were going to his brother’s home. That’s when Cliff met Lorraine. I will be different. I will change things. Cliff thought to himself.
“Como a las doce. Tenemos que hablar con mis abogado un rato.”, said Cliff's grandfather. He had to speak with his lawyer and visit his brother at 12. Cliff checked the mirror. He planned new words, new actions with a new determination.
When Cliff arrived at his uncle’s home, he was greeted by his cousins, his uncle while the family dog jumped at his chest every 10 seconds. Throughout the bustle Cliff was searching, reaching out his head, any hint that she was there.
His aunt asked whether he wanted some rice and beans. He accepted knowing that a refusal is deemed a great insult as well as an excommunication. Cliff was sitting watching everyone, thinking that he got the day wrong. Kids kept bumping into Cliff. Several of the young cousins asked him to play ball. Cliff promised to some playtime later.
Tap tap tap on his shoulder. “Puedes jugar”, said a small cousin. Do you want to play? Cliff said no and threw the ball nonchalantly. Cliff was slowly swirling the remains of his meal. His uncle and his grandfather were all laughing, drinking and listening to the music as other cousins were dancing on the porch.
Tap tap tap…”quieres jugar?” said another cousin. Cliff shook his head again as he slowly sipped is soda. He wanted to wake up as he slapped his face shaking his head violently.
“Any harder and your brains will likely come out of your ears,” said a familiar yet young voice.
It’s her. She sat lady like, shoulder length hair, smiling, near laughing at my actions.
“You…uh…hi my name is Cliff,” he finally said.
“You are the college student, right? I am Lorena. I live down the road. They say that you’re an English major. You want to write stories right”, she glistened with teasing delight as she swirled her hair in Cliff’s direction. Cliff also detected a slight bite of her lower lip when she said “right”.
“Yes, that’s me. I guess I’m here on spring break.”, Cliff said.
“That’s a weird thing to say. You guess? Are you on break or not?”, she asked.
It was at that time that a tall dark skinned buffed latin man came to the table, with two drinks in hand. “Lorena, who’s your new friend?”, he asked.
“Cliff, this is Jose Miguel, my boyfriend. Jose this is Cliff. Deporte bien ok?” said Lorena. She told him to behave himself as if I did not know Spanish.
“Mucho gusto, my pleasure to meet you,” he said as he tried to crush my hand. Cliff learned a long time ago that the handshake is the first impression that a real make can make to another. The first time, Cliff jokingly remarked about Jose’s strong grip. He remembered Jose’s joking sneer as he tried to intimidate him. This time Cliff stood up and met Jose’s handshake.
“Much gusto en conocerte también,” said Cliff. It was nice to met you too. Cliff grip Jose’s hand like an iron vise not letting go, looking straight into his eyes. Jose looked away and lead Lorena to a dance. Lorraine looked at Jose then laughingly looked at Cliff, with a wink.
Cliff felt energized. He watched them dancing and slicing through their salsa. Everyone on the island knew how to salsa. His mother taught him, continually reminding him of her days when she won high school contests. He remembered a move she taught him of grabbing the woman’s hand on a back twirl from her partner. He guess that it’s the latin way of tapping a gentleman on the should for a dance. Cliff walked to the beat and grabbed Lorraine’s arm and continued to dance to the beat.
The was a collective gasp as Jose’s face blushed from the overt move. Lorena giggled and continued to dance with Cliff. Cliff looked into her eyes, grabbed her waist swinging and clapping to the beat. Jose tried to repeat Cliff’s move but Cliff directed Lorena away and sashayed across the yard. Cliff continued as the song changed to a slow heartbeat to heartbeat dance. Cliff felt her pulse complementing his. His exhale became her intake of air as he breathed in her breaths. Jose was fuming whispering to his friends. When the song ended, he approached Cliff.
“Que estas haciendo hombre? Who do you think you are? You come form the big city and disrespect me? I will teach you a lesson. You and me in the barn now,” yelled Jose.
“Jose, stop it. You are taking this too seriously. It’s only a dance,” said Lorraine.
“I will deal with you later,” said Jose as he shoved her hand away from him. Cliff approached Jose with a fuming anger. Cliff now had his chance.
“Let’s go. I am not afraid of you,” he said.
They both marched to the barn where the chickens were beheaded. This was where the pigs are slaughtered. This was where the boys settled scores.
“Ok college boy. Write me a story of your broken tooth.”Jose said shoving Cliff away.
Cliff remembered that the first time, he walked into Jose’s fist. So instead of charging in, he stopped after the shove and stood Bruce Lee like and waved his left hand taunting Jose to come forward. Jose charged forward. Cliff ducked and matador like side stepped Jose allowing Jose’s forward motion to continue past Cliff. Jose stumbled to the floor. Jose then took a pitch fork lying on the floor as he wildly swung it, stirring the chickens as they jumped with surprise. Cliff never remembered this part so he dropped to the floor and swiped Jose’s legs causing Jose to fall backward to the floor, knocking him unconscious.
Cliff gets up and looked at Lorena. Everyone was cheering Cliff, while some were trying to revive Jose. Cliff went to Lorraine looking into her eyes.
“Well, how you like me now?”, said Cliff.
Lorena threw her arms around Cliff’s neck. They locked eyes, locked bodies and locked lips. Their publicly/private embrace created a stirring within his loins and heart. He started to smile an started to blink.
Cliff was smiling and blinking. He’s sitting on his leather chair staring at the 75” TV. No, he said to himself, that was real. It felt so real. Was this all a dream?
“Cliff come to bed,” he heard Lorena shout from bed. “Maria please shut the door after the dishes.”
“Yes Ms. Lorena. Mr. Cliff, do you need to heat a bath for you?,” said Maria .
Cliff looked at Maria clearly a maid. Cliff rubbed his eyes tightly. He looked around his apartment wondering whether the dream was real. “What is that box?”
“Tu sabes…you know it’s box of your new book,” said Maria.
Cliff got up and peered into the box. It’s filled with hard cover books entitled “The Chronicles of Cliff”. He flipped open he book and saw various stories that he had been working on over the years. He saw his Valentine story and his Secret Santa story. He was still wondering how this was possible. He quickly grabbed a stainless steel top and spun it. He watched the top spin until he fell on itself.
“Cliff, let’s Netflix and Chill like you promised.” said Lorena.
Cliff smiled. He looked in the corner as he got ready for bed. He looked at his wedding band, bright, shiny new as the day they wedded. He nodded at Maria as she smiles at him. He notices a worn guyavera in the corner of the room. He sauntered to the bedroom ready to chill.