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The man who starts my dreams

Jaume Capó Frau
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Me, the book.
Saint George’s Day, 1997

I am forty two years old, life pursues me every day and pushes me on, no doubt towards death and oblivion. That’s the way it is and there’s nothing I can do but regret it when I think about it. If I don’t think about it it isn’t because I believe I have managed to settle myself and gain a period of tranquillity. On the contrary, I feel I have deceived myself and wasted my time in vain hopes. At night, when the tedium of sleeplessness threatens to become even more bitter; when not even watching a film takes away the anxiety, no matter how absorbing or savage or pornographic; to say nothing of the scant options of a book of powerful verses, or the newspaper of the day that has just ended or a casual magazine; when thinking that thinking has become unnecessary; and when love fails to occupy more than a small part of the poor night. Having lost all hope of finding the warm thread of sleep and in the no man’s land of night not wanting or sending up a plume of marijuana smoke, looking at the lit up windows of the buildings across the street playing at on-off. For nothing to happen, it doesn’t rain, no cars go by. The telephone doesn’t ring either (why should it, at this time of night?), and there is no work to keep you busy (why should there be, when tomorrow will be a whole day to do it in?). No use at all counting seconds without making a slip, because they are always the same. It may be that they differ from one another less than one hour from another, and certainly less than one day from the next. Although when you get to the age of forty two you mix up the days and the seconds and even certain years.

Then I remember the man who starts my dreams. It’s more than thirty years ago now, but I can see him perfectly. He was in no hurry for me to finish my supper and now he is in no hurry for me to go to bed. And later he will be in no hurry for me to fall asleep. Because what he likes to do is to convince me that things happen even although you don’t want them to. The good things, the bad things and, all the more, the things that happen every day. Like the time it takes for a child to have supper, get undressed, put on its pyjamas, rumple up the bed and start to listen to its dreams beginning. The man who starts my dreams doesn’t pursue me down the corridors or shout at me to look sharp. He doesn’t look impatiently at the clock that is now a long way past the hour when most children went off to bed. He doesn’t even pay any heed to my slow, vague gestures that stretch out the time, that pull it out against me, against the sleepiness I’ll feel tomorrow when the man who starts my dreams switches on the bedroom light, sits down on the end of my bed and says, like someone who has spent the night watching over a body:

—It’s time to start counting the hours of the day that is beginning.

And I used to think each day that there were so many hours in which to count the hours of the day and regret, without cursing it, that it was precisely at that moment that I had to start to chase the hands of the clock. Of my new wristwatch, at eight o’clock. Of the wind up alarm clock of every night, at five past eight. Of the battery powered clock in the kitchen, at a quarter past. Of the Swiss clock in the dining room, from twenty past to twenty five past. Of the grandfather clocks in the front hall, striking half past... Now I am familiar with time. I know how long a second lasts and I can count up to two hundred without being out by more than two or three too many or too few. I can go for half an hour with my eyes shut and not be more than half a minute out if I imagine that it’s eight o’clock, five past eight, a quarter past eight, twenty past eight, and twenty five past. The grandfather clock strikes half past, just at the moment when the cord descends and the striker of another wall clock is released, producing a low sound from the metal coil which vibrates for the first time and is struck in a second chime of two quarter strokes. It’s half past.

With the office clock —even before it chimes— I can hear the living energy seconds before it strikes the quarters, and also the dying away of its sound. And afterwards I hear it the way my neighbour hears it. I am forty two years old, all rung out, and a little more. Somebody has congratulated me on my birthday, somebody hasn’t thought about it and will do it tomorrow or at the end of the month or next year, if it occurs to them. Most people, though, can’t imagine themselves congratulating me because they don’t even know I am here and that I live in this street —which some of them know better than my existence— of this city —which almost everybody knows. Not that it is any bigger or more elegant or livelier or more historic than a lot of others, but everybody knows it, or at least its name, and a lot of people could tell you what country it’s in and even find it on a map and tell you how to get there. But they don’t know that on many nights I think about them, one by one. About the ones that don’t know me and manage to live their lives without the least particle of me ever entering their minds, unlike me, lit up by the awareness of thinking about them, one by one.

Only if I can manage to remember the man who starts my dreams does the night become more peaceful and pass more quickly, like the expectation of a brilliant summer’s day you recount to your friends.

Translation: Graham Thomson (© 1997)
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Copyright ©Jaume Capó Frau, 1997
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Date of publicationApril 1997
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