Three DreamsQingqing “Cath” Cai (BFA FD 2021)
I dreamed of whales last night. Whales in a gym, huge, all aground, lying very silently. Suddenly, there seemed to be fish jetting into the room, and they stuck onto the whales. Some whales stayed the same but others began to mutate. They shed and revealed their red, grainy flesh. The flesh stretched and clawed the fish, who clung on like parasites before finally being absorbed. The whole process ended within minutes. The whales’ skin grew back when the fish were fully absorbed, and they swelled much larger. This is the origin of cultivated whale meat.
My ex was a cancer patient in my dream last night. In a great, vast, empty field sat I, in the middle. He ran toward me, smiling, from the edge of the field and away from his friends. I imagined this field, although unfamiliar, to belong to my high school. His childhood friends, as scarce little dots along the horizon line, gently glanced at him.
A wind gushed my hair all over my face and I struggled to untangle it. When I did, he was standing right up close against the flesh-colored blur that is my nose, in the center of my vision. For a second I thought I saw Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter—the first film I saw on the big screen, which forbade me from sleeping for consecutive nights. During those seconds I was blinded, somehow his hair shed, his scalp crusted, his skin cells shrunk into a paste-like whiteness that glued haphazardly onto his skull. His eye sockets were two transparent blue-black dents, within which the curvatures faintly suggested a smile. I had to decide if I was scared. After waking up, I absolutely was, but was I? In that moment? His teeth I couldn’t remember the looks of, but I’m sure they were yellow and snarled, just like Voldemort’s.
My ex was not yet a cancer patient when I saw him in my dream, but became one after I woke up, when I thought of my father. My father was a cancer patient. He had paste for skin and dents for eyes. His teeth were fine though.
I have become increasingly uncertain about most of my dreamed encounters. The only colors I saw were the nasty, burning green of the field and the tiny red cap glowing on my ex’s friend’s tiny head—a tiny dot at the far end of my vision.
My grandpa tells me about the Korean War. After the Civil War, he says, China didn’t have much. Food was scarce, so he joined the army to eat. They were about out of food when passing the Yalu River. It was cold, snowing, thick snow. They all were given a piece of bedspread the thickness of a sheet of tissue, and they slept.
He says, “What can you do,” and he grimaces and cries. “We were so tired, so tired, I’m getting teary talking about it,” he says, but he is crying already. “That thin, only that thin,” he says, gesturing toward the bedspread. My grandpa is 89 years old. How much longer can he shed tears like that? He made me mushroom chicken stew today, seasoned a bit too heavy.
I told my mom about the stew, then about the story, and she grimaced, too. She didn’t grimace and cry but grimaced because it wasn’t true. “That isn’t true, that’s completely false,” she said, “The war wasn’t the Korean War. The river wasn’t the Yalu River. They were out of food well before passing whatever river wasn’t the Yalu River.”
She paused for a fast second, grimaced again, and cried. “Do you think your grandpa has Alzheimer’s? Might that explain the stew, too?”
Cath Cai likes to imagine licking the first rough texture she sees everywhere she goes.