As is the case with most of my dreams, this one unfolded in fragments, shifting and mutating with no regard for a persistent narrative, nevertheless there was a sense of a beginning and an end, as well as some semblance of a back story, so I thought I’d try to capture it all before it disappeared from my consciousness.
The dream featured some familiar themes, running late and getting lost being among them. A much less common motif was that I was sharing a 3-bedroom off-campus apartment with two Boston University students, a young man named Ravi and a young woman named Jasmine, who preferred the nickname “Jazz”. Evidently I wasn’t a student and worked at night somewhere at the end of the Blue Line in Revere.
Ravi and Jasmine knew each other previously, but neither knew me, nor was there an explanation as to how I came to share an apartment with them. Ravi was polite and friendly to me, whereas Jasmine rarely spoke to me. Given our schedules, our paths would cross at different times of day. In the morning, I came home from work while Ravi and Jasmine prepared for classes. More often than not, they would be having coffee or tea at the kitchen table. Ravi usually stayed behind to chat with me while I prepared something to eat, whereas Jasmine either left for school or went to her room, closing the door behind her.
After eating a light meal, I usually went to bed for a few hours, waking up to an empty apartment in the early afternoon. I’d make coffee and then either read or write at the kitchen table for several hours.
Ravi always got home before Jasmine. We’d typically engage in some cordial small talk before settling into our routines. Since I was the only carnivore in the household, we never shared mealtime together. I’d make a light dinner and sip a glass of wine before returning to bed for a few hours, leaving for work around nine.
One afternoon I was surprised to see both Ravi and Jasmine return at the same time, chatting as they climbed up the stairs.
“What’s the good word?” Ravi asked cheerfully.
“Lugubrious,” I replied. He looked it up.
“That’s a terrible word!” he complained.
“I like the way it sounds much more than what it means” I offered as a weak explanation.
“What are you reading?” asked Jasmine. I was relatively certain that it was the first time she had ever asked me anything. I almost didn’t know how to respond.
I handed her a collection of haiku poetry, one of many scattered around the apartment. She leafed through it briefly and handed it back to me.
“I don’t get it,” she said before going to her room and shutting the door behind her.
“I she’s warming up to me,” I said to Ravi.
“I wouldn’t take it personally,” he said. “I think she’s reluctant to form too many attachments given that classes will be ending soon.”
“That’s very perceptive,” I replied. “In a few weeks we’ll be packing up and going our separate ways.”
“You won’t stay here?”
“I can’t stay here. It’s student housing, and I have to clear out in May like everyone else.”
We talked about it a little more, but it didn’t provide any further clarity as to why I had chosen this odd living situation.
The weeks continued to pass, with Ravi and I continuing our daily light banter, and Jasmine rarely engaging me in conversation. When she did, it was always a bit terse, but never quite crossing the line to the point of rudeness. One day she caught me by surprise.
“Why is it that you never call me ‘Jazz’, always ‘Jasmine’?” she asked. “It’s much too formal for flatmates.”
As was usually the case around her, I was tongue-tied.
“Oh, I don’t see it as formal or informal. I just think it’s a very pretty name.”
“Well I don’t think it suits me,” she stated bluntly.
I had a reply in mind, but held my tongue, not wishing to be seen as flattering or flirtatious. Instead I just said “as you wish.”
She pivoted, not angrily, but no doubt decisively, and returned to her room. We didn’t speak again.
Ravi had witnessed the whole thing and seemed about to offer some sort of observation, but thought better of it. We spent the next few minutes in awkward silence.
Before we knew it, there were only a few days left before classes ended and we’d all be moving on. I asked Ravi for a special favor. I asked him to delay his return to the apartment for a few hours so that I could meet Jasmine alone. In order to ensure this timing, I would have to leave work early — before the T stopped running — but I considered it worth the effort.
Ravi agreed to do it, but not without adding, “I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t see this working out in the way you might be expecting.”
I told him that I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and that he was probably right.
On the appointed day, I hurried out of work to the Wonderland T station. I had forgotten how infrequently the trains ran late at night, and found myself pacing nervously. The same was true when I transferred to the Green Line at Government Center. Overall, a trip that would normally take between 30 and 40 minutes took over an hour.
When I arrived at the apartment, neither Ravi nor Jasmine were there. For the first time in months, the door to Jasmine’s bedroom was left open. Her room was empty, and anything she might have left in the kitchen or the small living room area had been taken as well. On the kitchen table was a sealed envelope with my name on it. It was a letter from Ravi.
I want to assure you that I never told Jasmine about your plans for this evening. This morning she told me that her last final had been cancelled and she chose to leave as soon as she found out instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. When I suggested waiting around so that she could say goodbye to you, well… I think you know the rest.
I found myself so angry and disappointed that I cried. Then I laughed at myself for crying. And then I cried some more. Then I decided to write the rest of this letter as if I were addressing Jasmine and not you. It’s a letter I wish you would have been able to give to her.
Because you did not stay, you never had a chance to hear Paul read poetry to you.
Because you did not stay, you never had a chance to hear him tell you that he loved your name because it was poetry, and that it was beautiful, sacred and holy.
Because you did not stay, he’ll never have a chance to tell you that he loved you even more than he loved your name, and even more than I loved him.
Assuming that Ravi stuck to our agreement, he wouldn’t be returning to the apartment for another hour. That would give me just enough time to retrieve my car, pack up my belongings, and clear out.
I tucked Ravi’s letter into the book I was reading and began gathering my other books into a box in my room.
I wrote the following on the back of the envelope that had been addressed to me:
the unstruck triangle
makes a sound