Like the Black of the Blackest Ocean

After a few months, I wondered why my hip flexors and hamstrings were stiffer than I expected. It didn’t make sense. Every day, I stretched my legs out to the sides in smooth, well-earned splits and lay my chest and face down on the floor. Thirty years after I took the first steps in pristine ballet slippers, I knew to take long, deep breaths and relax into the stretch. Then I could sit up and resume conversation. When I lived with Ned, it took months to realize I was dreaming this every night. Every day, I thought I’d already done that stretch. It seemed so real. My dreams are often so vivid I have to check with Siobhan.

Tata: Did we eat sushi with a six-foot, dickey-wearing rabbit?
Siobhan: No, but we once went drinking with a poll-taker in a chicken suit.
Tata: Funny, I still feel full…
Siobhan: Oh! And there was that birthday party at Jose Tejas when we hired a seven-foot banana-gram for Uncle Crease and she ran across the dining room, shouting his name. People dropped their vibrating pagers when the two tallest people in the room were a dead-ringer for Rasputin and a former Rockette.
Tata: They were dancing like a cornfield in a tornado. I remember that! But no bunny?
Siobhan: Was I talking backwards, maybe? Drinking in reverse? Telling everyone to eat me?
Tata: …Yeah…
Siobhan: You were dreaming Christmas with your family and if I were you, I’d count throw pillows.

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, of which I am acutely conscious because it is also the 42nd birthday of Miss Sasha’s father. When my dad thinks of him, Dad says, “Yeah…I know why sobriety is a virtue.” To be honest, John Kennedy figures into my dreams – not the way Jon Stewart does, or for that matter John Cleese. Sometimes, John Kennedy sits down next to me on the edge of pier and tells me he thought about the shark-infested waters off the Cape after PT109 sank and he swam from island to island in the shark-infested South Pacific. He was terrified but there was no other way to save his men. I tell him Marilyn died before I was born, and yet I miss her like sweet air after a storm. He knows, he says, as the sun warms his tanned shoulders. He will never be much older than I am now.

Sometimes, he sets himself down next to me, all backache and nightsweat. Even so, he says pain is just another fact of life, like rough skin and loneliness. I tell him he’s ten years too late with advice like that. He says he used to talk to Bobby in the kitchen when neither could sleep. The last thing anyone needs is my brother and four sisters and me hogging White House mint-chocolate chip at four any morning – not to mention no fresh fruit would be left behind.

So I know he’s a dream. I mean, plainly: he’s been dead since I was nine months old. When his son’s plane went into the Long Island Sound, I gasped for breath for days while divers scoured the ocean floor an inch at a time. I think those nights, John Jr. sat with me, talking about being tall, paper quality and hair care products. He didn’t know his father much better than I did until then. Their meeting at my place was hard on all three of us.

I’d comment further but some things should be private, even if they’re made up by my subsconscious to shout at me about my own life.

In the crates on Sunday, I found photographs of the time Ned, Robert, Laurie and I found watermain construction on the Lower East Side. I suppose it was 1999. We climbed in and on giant concrete tubes. A policeman cheerily volunteered to pretend he was arresting Ned. Ned and I both had luxurious hairstyles. Robert, one of my oldest friends, looks every inch a study in teutonic black leather style. Monday morning, he called at what would have been an alarming hour in L.A. except that he was in New York, recruiting for a party this Saturday. He says he’s been dreaming about me again. I didn’t know, but I’m not surprised.

I wonder if he’s met John-John.

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