I still dream of Shanghai

Shanghai Bund in the 1920's

He held my hand and all I could remember was the elation, when he took it. His hands were large and a little rough. There was a sort of ecstasy, as if I had been waiting for a long time for that moment. I turned to look at what was a blurry haze that was his face, and recall remnants of a conversation about pool.

I then waited till it was quarter past 8, too early for bedtime I know but I put on my boots to go sleepwalking.

In those boots I saw the sun shine through the windows while the clouds tried to get through its rays. A lady called, she wanted to leave a message but before she could speak the phone floated away with me on the end to a place I had never been. The lady called back, and then spoke in a melodious dial tone I could not decipher.

She whispered, “I still dream of Shanghai.”

I looked around me. The bund, 1920’s. That and a man on the street I was drawn to follow. He stopped to sit on a bench, before lighting a cigarette. The lady on the phone was still whispering

“I still dream of Shanghai.”

“When was the last time you were here?” I asked.

“I have never been,” she whispered back, and she laughed.

God help the girl, I thought, and the alarm clock rang. I woke up homesick for a home I had never even been. Day dreaming of a man I had never seen.

I waited till it was quarter past 7, too early for bedtime I know but I put on my boots to go sleepwalking.

Funny things happen when you’re awake at five a.m. A car stalled in front of me and stopped in the middle of what seemed like a stream. Stars shine from underneath upwards and we float, fly, firstly upside down and then round and round. I tried to get into the car but could not step in quick enough. It flew off. I looked down at the stars. The ones beneath my feet. The floating telephone rang and I picked it up.

“Hello,” said a man’s voice, “call me back.”

I put down the phone again and picked it back up. I did not have his number but the man spoke through the phone whispering the number to me, in a sing-song tone.

I pressed the numbers into a cloud in the air singing along to his number sing song.

“Fifty-five, thirty-three, nine ninety nine, fifty.”

I dialed it 3 times until I heard a tone. And then there was his voice. I chased the voice until he told me he did not exist. He laughed. I let go of the phone but he called back, this time lamenting of dreams he once had.

“I still dream of Shanghai,” he whispered.

“Shanghai, why?” I asked.

“She was there,” he whispered, “you were there.”

He was lovesick for a love he never had dreaming of Shanghai.

“God help that boy,” I thought. I woke up asleep, dreaming the same dream.

Then I waited till it was quarter past 6 and I put on my boots and went sleepwalking.

Funny things you see when you’re walking around at four a.m. Perfection inverted, truth be told. I turned off the sun and turned on the moon, and switched on the flickering stars in the dark night sky. The moon stood still, as I on the earth inched my way around it. The sun circled around us. It had a face, the sun, and it spoke to me.

“Why are you turning me off at such an early hour?”

“I still dream of Shanghai,” I whispered.

The sun frowned. “But you have never been.”

Dreaming of a place I have never been, possibilities of seeing what I have never seen, maybe even feeling what I have never felt. I still dream of Shanghai.

“God help this girl,” the sun said aloud.

I woke up confused, and then went back to sleep, I did not take off my boots and I kept on sleepwalking.

I went to Shanghai and roamed the same street. The city lights blinked and I ran, anticipating the feeling I felt once in these same magic boots. I turned the corner and there he was. Across the road in a black taxi. His face shone in the moonlight as he waved to me. He pointed at a bench on my side of the road and I nodded. I walked, nervous, not daring to run, not daring to seem too keen. He made his way towards the bench.

The seconds ticked as our hearts beat. I could hear him. In his boots he ran. His trench coat flapped in rhythm behind him.

Our hearts a beating, walking and running in rhythm, I am a woman in love, my heart inflated.

“We met on this bench in Shanghai last summer, remember?” he asked.

I nodded and then paused. I rubbed my eyes, but i have never been to Shanghai. Never been not even once in my life.

He kissed me, a long delicious kiss on that bench. A reunion, with a man I had never met in a place I have never been. I sighed. He took off his boots and waited. He wanted me to take off mine.

The phone rang, and floated around us.

“Do not pick it up,” he urged, “do not wake.”

I fought to stay asleep but I could not. I answered.

“Hurry up, you will be late for your flight,” the voice screamed in my ear. My eyes opened.

“Flight to where?” I asked.

“Shanghai.” I got up slowly and looked out the window.

Shanghai. I have to go.

I took off my boots.