Monday, June 4, 2012

Between the covers

       I wake shifting sheets. I am in a small room somewhere in England. There is a cemetery nearby and a garden out back. I am in a book.
What book? Sisters. An apartment. The cemetery. I search to recall as if in the aftermath of an evaporating dream.
          I sleep and half-wake again. I cannot see the cover. The book is not a recent read. The sisters have come from America. There is a man living in the apartment downstairs. There is someone living in a flat above as well. I feel the cozy comfort of small space, the sofa’s cushions.
Half sleep. Toss. Rearrange the pillows. It is 3:17 a.m.
The sisters may be twins. May not be twins. Once I was reading books that all had twins in them.  "Cutting for Stone" was one. That places the reading at three years ago, before I was blogging about books I read. I remember "Cutting for Stone," but not the book I am in. 
I sleep and wake. The sisters have come to visit an aunt? Maybe I am writing this story.  Strange things happen in the apartment.  Like levitation.  I read this book. I didn’t make this up. 
Dawn arrives and I toss the covers aside. I make breakfast for our houseguests, a cousin from Israel and his wife who grew up in London.  Her voice curls in soft cadences.  She calls the overdone blueberry pancakes “lovely,” – a word she also applies to her travels, the landscape, our visit.  I have only coffee and green tea; she prefers black, but graciously chooses coffee.  Last evening, we sat intimate as schoolgirls on my couch while she showed me all the books on her new Kindle Fire. We swapped titles and descriptions of books we had read or were planning to read.
Likely all that talk and her lovely lilt launched me back into this book. What book?
         I go to work.  All day a sense of the book intrudes as I try to call up the title, more details – and perhaps the writer. To little avail. In the past when a book has arisen in half sleep, it’s been one I was reading or had just finished. Usually I wake with some great deep insight, which is I often decide is either not so great or completely silly on waking.  This is different. The title and plot remain out of conscious reach, and I roam the vague setting like an invisible observer, an unseen under cover sleuth.
A few days pass, our guests depart, and I remember that comfortable half-conscious world. I determine to give it a name. I type in my clues: twins, book, England, cemetery in an advanced search. Abracadabra. Google gives me the answer to my dreams: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I seek a little deeper into cyberspace and much of the plot is revealed and remembered: Two American twin sisters move to apartment near Highgate Cemetery in England. Their aunt Elspeth has bequeathed the flat to them on condition that they live there a year and that their mother, the deceased’s twin, not visit. There is indeed a garden out back as well as upstairs and downstairs neighbors, including one of Elspeth’s former lovers. The deceased returns as a ghost to haunt the nieces. She practices levitation, controls a Ouija board, grows stronger in her abilities to interact, and eventually finds ways to return to work on unfinished business.
           Elusive title netted.  Case and cover closed.
 Yet, I preferred that sense of being under and between the covers, a delicious mix of dreaming and reading, not quite knowing what was happening and surely not knowing what might happen next. How wonderful if my final sleep could be like this.  In one version of my personal heaven I’m tucked into my favorite books, wandering amid their plots, invisible to the characters, haunted and .... haunting.  
 Given time I might even practice a little levitation.   And if I turn out anything like Elspeth, I may want to consider what character I would most like to inhabit.
Oh the choices. . . .