map Reaching Out

by Victor Rangel-Ribeiro

Published in Issue No. 87 ~ August, 2004

If you¹ve got to call him, call him, my wife said.  Now eat your breakfast.


Don’t get mad at me, I said.  Two nights in a row I¹ve had this dream. Last night it just went on and on; last night it was terrible.


On the other hand, she said, it could be — since you were also dreaming so long about not being able to go to the bathroom — it could just be one of those dreams meant to wake you up so you could go potty.


You talk like the grandmother that you are, I said.  But I don’t think so — the two parts were quite distinct.  The parting from Ed part came first.  The closed-down bathroom sequence came later.  Two movie sets, one script.


Tell me again, she said, refilling my cup.


I could use some toast too, I said.  It started with we were all together at a great big house, turned out like it was the house where I was born, same layout, but I only realize that now, and Ed and Dolores were there, and other close friends.


You haven’t talked to Ed in years, she said.


Still, he was there, I said.  I can’t help that — there he was, right in the middle of my dream.  It was great, to be laughing together again, so much, after all these years.  He told the story about the greasy latkas, and it broke everybody up, as it always does.  And then, suddenly, we were caught up in a long and growing line for lunch.  It was one of these buffet things, where people hang on to their plates and mill around, it seems like hours before you can get at the food.  Ed stepped away for a moment, I didn¹t catch why, and that¹s when we became separated.  And the lines just became longer, became huge, you’d think it was Grand Central Station at rush hour.  I don¹t know where all those people kept coming from, strangers, hundreds just milling around.  And I kept trying to cut ahead of people who were cutting ahead of me.  And I kept looking out for Ed, hoping he¹d join me before the food ran out.


You must have been really famished, my wife said, handing me another slice of toast.  You didn’t eat so good last night.


The dream wasn’t born of hunger, I said,  It was a social occasion, I told you that.  Until the food bit, we were having a rollicking good time. All of us.


Well, I must have been having rollicking good time too, since I was in your dream, she said.  I¹m just sorry I didn’t dream the same dream.


Laugh, if you like, I said, but it would have bothered you too, bothered you no end, you can bet on it, same as it¹s bothering me, to have Ed disappear like that. But that’s not all.  Some guy shows up and says — we’ve got to go.  Right away!  The place is being sold.


Your house? she said.  Where you were born — being sold just like that?


It was a dream, I said.


Some dreams are premonitions, she said.  It could be true.


Then I see Ed and Dolores again, I said.  They’re looking at me, and I want to tell them, to ask them what do they know about it, but you make me a sign, and I back off.


That part’s unreal, she said.  Most times, you want to say something, I can step on your toes, kick you in the shin, there¹s no stopping you. Like when we were at Millie’s the other day.  Lord knows I tried. I even said —


Let’s keep your Aunt Millie out of this, I said.  I’m telling you my dream, I said, and this dream is about Ed.  It has nothing at all to do with Millie and her fancy aches and pains. So you can just forget about what happened at Millie’s.


Okay, she said.  So you backed off.  Are you saying I keep coming between you and Ed?


All I’m saying is, I backed off, I said.  Next thing I knew, we were all packing.  Cousin Hortense asked if we had room in our car.  Seems she wanted to give us a keepsake — a broken-down antique with wobbly legs she should have thrown out years ago.


I said no, but you said we should take it, after all it came from the old house, from my house, you said, and we could find room for it in the trunk if we stuffed clothes in the drawers and other things between the legs.


Freud would have had a time with your dream, my wife said, but that part sounds like me, all right.


And then, all of a sudden, we were out in the garden, I said, out by the old wrought-iron gate, pushing through groups that were leaving.  And I was hurrying about, looking for Ed and Dolores.  I had to say good-bye, don’t you see?


I can understand that, my wife said,  You probably wanted to kiss Dolores. You¹ve had the hots for her for years.


That is gross, I said.


Gross, yes, but certainly true, she said.


Forget the psychoanalysis, I said.  I¹m not telling you any more.  It was Ed I wanted to say good-bye to, not his wife.


Freud would have had a ball with that one, too, my wife said. Goodbye, Ed!  Hello, Dolores!


And then they were gone, all of them, I said, and that¹s when I had the urge to go to the bathroom.  Here I’m rushing round, looking for a bathroom and finding every one of them locked, and all the time I’m saying to myself, hurry up, hurry, you¹ve got to get it over with and say goodbye to Ed.


So now that you’re finally awake, my wife said, and have relieved yourself, and have just about finished breakfast, what do you want to do?


I have the strongest urge to call Ed up, I said.  I’m going to call him up and wish him goodbye.


But you can’t just call up and say that, she said.  We’re not going away.  In fact, we’ve just come back from a vacation.  You can call and say, hello, we’re back, haven’t talked to you in years, but not, for heaven’s sake, hello, goodbye.


It’s a compulsion, I said.  I’ve got to do it.  I’ve got to say, goodbye.


Then pick up the phone and do it, she said.  Don¹t mind me, but I do think it’s a fool idea. Either Ed will think that you think he’s going to die, and that will bother him, or he’ll just think you’re going to die , and that will bother him, you’ve gone bananas, and that will bother him too, or it just might not.  Lots of us think you’re a little bit crazy, she said, giving me a little hug.


So dial away, she said.


The phone rang and rang, with no one answering.


Try again later, my wife said.  Maybe they’ve gone shopping.  They might just be out in the garden, she said.  They’ve got a big place there, and you know how Ed likes to potter around the garden.


I bet that’s it, I said aloud.  I bet he’s out there, just pottering around.  But in my mind I prayed, dear God, let him not be dead, please let him not be dead.


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Victor Rangel-Ribeiro was born in Goa in 1925, migrating to Bombay in 1939, where his short stories were first published in the late 1940s and '50s. His first novel, Tivolem, earned him the Milkweed National Fiction Prize in America and was short-listed for the Crossword Book Award in India, as well as being selected by Booklist as one of the "twenty notable first novels" of 1997-98.