There was only one dream that was not hazy among all of Julian`s slumber fascinations. Every night he would see it in the deepest and most graceful hours of his sleep. Far away from the blaring horns of the factory which employed him, far away from its smoke and dust and burning sweat it would seduce out of his skin, he would meet the girl with blue eyes. They would talk until the first sight of dawn, holding hands as they walked along the beach of that lone island, watching the moonlit sky wink at them as its reflection in the seawater rippled.
And when he woke up, he would still remember her face more that he could fancy his own; beautiful, chaste, cast with a shade of longing. Yet he knew she was more than just a fanciful recurring dream. If there was anything that she was, she was real, hidden in some remote corner of the world. He would rehearse what he would say to her when they finally met in this real, messy world – “I`ve nothing else to give you other than my love, for eternity and beyond.”
His friends at the factory thought of him as a charming young man overpowered by the sheer monotony of their lives. “Monotony wakes up the most beautiful hallucinations in you,” they would say, in an attempt to explain away Julian’s delusions about the blue eyed girl. Still, everyday during lunch, they would gather around him as they ate, to hear him narrate what he had seen the previous night. Some of them had wives, none of them beautiful, and so they found it amusing to listen to Julian’s opulent courting of the most beautiful girl in the world, even though in a dream.
“Why don`t you ask her where she is in the real world?” some of them would ask him, at times to mock him and at times, trounced by the inexplicable realism that his stories had.
“It`s my dream, remember. I can barely be in control of what I say,” Julian would explain. “Besides, I would hardly have any idea about the real world while dreaming.”
And so time went on with its own sluggish elegance. Coincidentally, at about that time, word began to spread about the beautiful girl and her nanny who had moved into the neighborhood. Her mother had passed away after delivering her and her father had been killed in the war, or so they said. The only relation she now had in this world was her very old and fragile nanny, who had become blind with cataract and who always sat at the entrance of the house in an old armchair. The girl rarely came out of the house and even when she did, it was difficult to catch a proper glimpse of her due to the position of the house from the street. The milkman was the only person who had had a proper look at her and he asserted that she had beautiful blue eyes.
Within a few weeks, she became the talk of the town but no one dared to venture into the place, afraid that they would create the impression of an intruder in the girl’s mind. In any case, finally, Julian too heard about the beautiful girl with blue eyes. His friends, the men in the factory, mechanically ended up having sleepless nights, worried if Julian’s nonsensically enticing blabbering was indeed going to be true.
One fine day, the old woman was sitting at ease on her chair, her inflating and deflating torso being the only evidence that she was still alive. She was evidently diseased in her bony frame, her hair all gone, with very few thinning and fragile strands still remaining on her scalp. Cataract had blinded her succumbing eyes with a white membrane and as Julian approached her, he knew that it was only some time before her body too succumbed to her disease.
“You smell of fresh pine oil,” the woman said as Julian crossed the well-kept lawn.
“It`s a lubricant we use on the machines at our factory, not pine oil,” Julian said in dismay. “My dress is almost soaked in it.”
“Not your dress, my dear, your sweat smells of pine oil.”
Julian slowed down along his tracks. “Not the best way to approach a house of two women, but I`m returning from work. This is the only time I get to be free.”
The woman smiled and the wrinkles along her cheeks broadened. “I hear ambition in your voice, young man.”
“Only because I`m afraid to remain a dreamer.”
The two of them smiled in acknowledgement. The woman tapped on the adjacent wooden stool, asking her guest to take a seat.
As he sat down, Julian looked around the neatly kept place. Even the lawn was well maintained, if not fashionable.
“The whole place is well kept,” he said.
“Oh, we have quite some money to spend. The gardener comes once in a week and it seems he does work well for the money he takes.”
Julian nodded as he looked at the woman. Her disease had brought her very close to being a set of breathing bones.
“Who might you be and above all, what brings you here?” the woman asked.
“My name is Julian. I`ve come in search of a girl I think I may know.”
“In a way you might hesitate to sympathize with.”
The woman laughed in a way mildly mad people do, not stirring, yet taking constant breaths.
“I see you`ve come in search of love.”
“For love, yes, but not in search of it; to assert it rather. I hear you`re her nanny.”
“Her aunt, to be precise, but she calls me nanny. Her father was my brother. He and his wife are dead.”
A brief silence ensued.
“But I’m sorry to disappoint you, Julian, because this is the time of her siesta. A very odd time, yes, but that’s how she is. Shy at times, outgoing at others. Quite lazy for a girl of her age and too beautiful too. Which is why I don’t really trust in your instincts. Just because you see a beautiful girl in the neighborhood doesn’t mean that true love sprouts out of nowhere within you. Young men your age get lured in too easily and call it love.”
Julian remained silent, wondering how he could explain his state of affairs. He had thought of himself as a sincere lover, even if it had seemed irrational. When the first dreams had started to appear, it was just an amusing set of events, adorned by the sheer contrast of the shagginess of his life and opulence of the dreams. And the dreams were way too clear and distinct to a frightening degree. Yes, he did have numerous other dreams, but he could remember none of them the moment he woke up. But in this case, even the pricking feeling of the vapors of the sea lingered for a while after waking up. More striking was the fact that the dream appeared only during the night and never if he slept at any other time of the day. And it came without an end night after night after night until even his conscious affairs had become occupied by this one thought. It had ultimately convinced him into believing that it was an omen of love that was waiting for him.
Presently, he got up to leave. “I understand that it was not right of me to almost barge into your house and plead for love. But I will return tomorrow at the same time of her siesta, and the day after. And for every following day until you may get convinced that this is not a mere gambling of my senses. Then, you may let me see her.”
The young man with his lean frame took his leave, a hopeful decisiveness weighing down his steps. The old woman, listening to the fading footsteps, murmured to herself, “I wonder what makes his conviction so strong.”
As the sun mellowed down into golden the next evening, Julian came into the old lady`s house and the woman had kept a chair ready for him.
“You didn’t think I’d return, did you?” he said.
“Of course I did, but I believed you`d at least spare me from the stench of your sweat.”
And so they talked. And they did the same the next day. And the day after. Every time, Julian felt a sense of fulfillment after the meeting. The assurance that the girl he loved was just in the adjacent room, elegantly sleeping and that he was just so close to her and that he was refraining from meeting her by his own will gave him confidence.
“Do you know what I don`t like about men?” the woman would ask.
“No, what is it?” Julian would show eagerness.
“When men are in love, they become the biggest, dumbest idiots in the world.”
“Was that meant for me?”
“You and every other soul of your kind.”
“Thank you,” Julian would nod.
“But do you know what I hate about women?”
“They love men becoming the biggest, dumbest idiots in the world for them.”
And they would end up laughing.
“What would you do if I fell dead this moment?” she`d ask at other times.
“I`d be happy that I could go in and talk to your niece for a reason.”
And then she would sluggishly slap his face with her fragile hands.
He got to learn that the old woman used to paint when her age had been ripe and that her paintings used be bought even by the monarchs. He, in return, told her about his once disastrous attempts at playing a mouth organ. But despite his passion, he made her promise that she would not tell her niece about him until they both agreed on the right time.
Impending death lingered around every breath of the old woman and Julian thought it better not to inquire about her past so as to not bring about the complete shallowness of her present life into the conversation. Nevertheless, she always spoke of her day dreaming niece, who always found it amusing to sit at a corner of the house and dream of fairy tales. Julian figured out the likenesses and the differences between him and the girl he loved, which also made him wonder about the possibility wherein she`d find him unappealing. In that case, he would be a real man and go away from her sight forever to let her live in peace.
Gradually, more people got to see the blue eyed girl, when she wandered into the market place, or went about cleaning the house, or watered the plants outside. All of them were equally sent into a trance by her mesmerizing beauty and the profundity of her beautiful, blue eyes. Julian’s friends, who saw her, told him that she was exquisite and that theirs would be a match made in heaven. Julian didn’t get excited by any of these. He had given a word to the old lady and he would hold onto it, no matter what. He even resorted to taking longer, distant roads to work, so that he wouldn`t run into her by chance.
And so, one silent evening of autumn, Julian and the old woman were engaged in their routine exchange.
“There are deeper and more compelling emotions than love in this world, Julian. But only love has the power to make the other ones look pale in comparison. That’s why it’s not always wise to be lead by love.”
Julian nodded. He had yet not disclosed about his dreams, but now, he felt that they were closer than the routine talking terms. He went on to tell her about how he had seen the beautiful girl in his dreams, how they would talk by the sea, and how they would hold hands every night.
“It’s a face I’ve seen only in my dreams. But now, no part of my reality is complete without it.”
The sky was cast with a shade of melting bronze that evening. The whole street was relatively silent and only the sounds of returning vendors and cheery lovers at the corners of the street could be heard. That silence was deafening.
“I see in you a man of honor, Julian. Come back tomorrow morning, and you can meet Anna.”
The whole place was crowded when Julian came to the old house the next morning. People were dressed in mourning. He slowly walked past the crowd. On the courtyard, lay the lifeless body of the old woman. Her niece was sobbing with her back to Julian, along with a few relatives who had come in from the next town overnight. As he got closer to the corpse he heard them speak in distress.
“She was a beautiful soul. It`s a pity she had to die in solitude.”
Julian moved towards the man who was speaking. “Why wasn`t she married?” he asked.
“Well, she had her own delusions in her life. Always spoke of a handsome man she used to meet in her dream. She wasted her life in anticipation. Poor soul.”
As a vestige of overpowering insight occurred to him, he turned around to look at the weeping girl. She was a really beautiful girl with deep blue eyes. Julian didn`t quiver. She was indeed a blue eyed beautiful girl. But not the one he saw in his dreams. His gaze fell on a bureau that had a few paintings and photos of the old woman. His groping hands led him to a very old photo of the old woman, taken when she had been a young girl. Pinned to it was a painting made by her. He steadied his breath as he gazed at his portrait, beautifully tracing every detail of his face. And he took one more look at the young girl in the photo and smiled. The beautiful blue eyed girl in his dreams had never been closer to him before.