Apricot - a vignette from memory
Years ago, when I was trapped in the small town I grew up in, I had a dream that warned me to get out. And indeed, I left, and have barely returned since, and here I am, thousands of miles and an ocean away. In the dream, I was spending the evening at the home of some friends of mine.
Now, these friends were in the same boat as I, clever, educated, and dying to live in the sophisticated world we'd all read about in the books of Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse. David and Jonathan were indentical twins who prided themselves on being gentlemen in an era of slobs. I could tell them apart by virtue of the fact that David was David, and Jonathan was Jonathan. (This astonished some of their old friends who still had trouble telling one from another.)
David was in my English class in grade 11, and we had been grouped together to share a table with two other lads, based on our teacher's assessment of a piece of our writing. It was rapidly evident that she had placed us together in order that we would have amicable class mates to pass time with- the rest of the class was composed of sporting thugs who seemed to resent being expected to speak English, much less study it.
Jonathan visited David in class one day. (Our school was run along the sort of liberal lines that allowed for charming, well behaved siblings to sit in on the occasional lesson.) He sat on the edge of our shared table and engaged me in a mild flirtation, the sort of attention with which I was quite unfamiliar, having been brainy and unpopular for my entire childhood. After that, David and Jonathan and I quite frequently spent lunch times together enjoying a certain bookish conviviality.
It's not surprising that they were the ones in my dream, offering a splendid diversion from the norm. We were the reassurance to each other that our vision of a glamourous world was reasonable, and to be sought. In the dream they were hosting a small party, and one of them offered to pour me a very small glass of a rare home made apricot liquer. It had to be so tiny because the spirit was very fiery. I don't think I've felt as intense a longing as I had, in the dream, to taste of that nectar. It seemed a tangible expression of the life I was starving for, of sophisticated adulthood. But when he brought me the drink, it was transformed into a cup of warm milk and honey.
Warm milk and honey is a wonderful drink to help children sleep. I had it often as a child. Honey is said to promote dreaming. I knew, in the dream still, exactly what it signified. It meant I was trapped in the familiar, the world of my childhood, barred from the exotic lands I desired to reach, my adulthood, my inheritance.
The dream left me feeling sad and desperate. It was not more than six months later that I left home to go to University in the state farthest from where I grew up. Left, changed my name and couldn't go back.
Sometimes, now, I have waking dreams that I have been sent back there, almost full-grown panics. I can count on my fingers the years that I've been free; if I went back now I could be trapped again as if I never left, those streets known so well, that claustrophobic, beautiful, park dotted, hill ringed city.
But I know that I have taken myself far away from there, that I have lived in the name I took and made mine, and made myself the person I thought I could be, transformed myself into the woman of my imagination. The strong, desirable, successful woman, the woman who's chosen the heady liquor of living and is licking every drop dry.
And I want to shout out to the world, so loud that David and Jonathan hear, wherever they have escaped to, across an ocean - the world we read about and imagined existed. It is lovely, and it is our birthright to take. It will not always make you happy, it will not always work the way you wanted or hoped or expected, but the pains you find in it are the pain of a tree pushing out new, budding, sticky green branches. This world is ours, ours to build and play in and climb over like the bars in a children's playground, and I am here, and I am here to stay!