Passage IPROSE FICTION:
: This passage is adapted from the short story “The Threshold” by Cristina Peri Rossi (original Spanish version ©1986 by Cristina Peri Rossi; translation ©1993 by Mary Jane Treacy).
The woman never dreams and this makes her intensely miserable. She thinks that by not dreaming she is unaware of things about herself that dreams would surely give her. She doesn’t have the door of 5
dreams that opens every night to question the certainties of the day. She stays at the threshold, and the door is always closed, refusing her entrance. I tell her that in itself is a dream, a nightmare: to be in front of a door which will not open no matter how much we push at the 10
latch or pound the knocker. But in truth, the door to that nightmare doesn’t have a latch or a knocker; it is total surface, brown, high and smooth as a wall. Our blows strike a body without an echo.
“There’s no such thing as a door without a key,” 15
she tells me, with the stubborn resistance of one who does not dream.
“There are in dreams,” I tell her. In dreams, doors don’t open, rivers run dry, mountains turn around in circles, telephones are made of stone. Elevators stop in the 20
middle of floors, and when we go to the movies all the seats have their backs to the screen. Objects lose their functionality in dreams in order to become obstacles, or they have their own laws that we don’t know anything about. 25
She thinks that the woman who does not dream is the enemy of the waking woman because she robs her of parts of herself, takes away the wild excitement of revelation when we think we have discovered something that we didn’t know before or that we had 30
“A dream is a piece of writing,” she says sadly, “a work that I don’t know how to write and that makes me different from others, all the human beings and animals who dream.” 35
She is like a tired traveler who stops at the threshold and stays there, stationary as a plant.
In order to console her, I tell her that perhaps she is too tired to cross through the doorway; maybe she spends so much time looking for her dreams before 40
falling asleep that she doesn’t see the images when they appear because her exhaustion has made her close those eyes that are inside of her eyes. When we sleep we have two pairs of eyes: the more superficial eyes, which are accustomed to seeing only the appearance of things and 45
of dealing with light, and dream’s eyes; when the former close, the latter open up. She is the traveler on a long trip who stops at the threshold, half dead with fatigue, and can no longer pass over to the other side or cross the river or the border because she has close 50
both pairs of eyes.
“I wish I could open them,” she says simply.
Sometimes she asks me to tell her my dreams, and I know that later, in the privacy of her room with the light out, hiding, she’ll try to dream my dream. But to 55
dream someone else’s dream is harder than writing someone else’s story, and her failures fill her with irritation. She thinks I have a power that she doesn’t have and this brings out her envy and bad humor. She thinks that the world of dreams is an extra life that some of us 60
have, and her curiosity is only halfway satisfied when I am finished telling her the last one. (To tell dreams is one of the most difficult arts; perhaps only author Franz Kafka was able to do so without spoiling their mystery, trivializing their symbols or making them rational.)65
Just as children can’t stand any slight change and love repetition, she insists that I tell her the same dream two or three times, a tale full of people I don’t know, strange forms, unreal happenings on the road, and she becomes annoyed if in the second version there are 70
some elements that were not in the first.
The one she likes best is the amniotic dream, the dream of water. I am walking under a straight line that is above my head, and everything underneath is clear water that doesn’t make me wet or have any weight; 75
you don’t see it or feel it, but you know it is there. I am walking on a ground of damp sand, wearing a white shirt and dark pants, and fish are swimming all around me. I eat and drink under the water but I never swim or float because the water is just like air, and I breathe it 80
naturally. The line above my head is the limit that I never cross, nor do I have any interest in going beyond it.
She, in turn, would like to dream of flying, of slipping from tree to tree way above the rooftops.