Down Blue Halls

blue-hall-editedThis was a dream I had last night.

I was in a school that was dedicated to the philosophy of martial arts. Not a martial arts school, an academic school. But they did have martial arts training and competition instead of other sports. I wasn’t attending this school; it had long since been closed down and vacant. I was walking through the halls, and although it was dark inside, I was able to see it as dark, cold, and faded, but also see it as well-lit, filled with the nervous energy of living people going about their schedules inside, and everything looking freshly painted and kept up. There were a lot of murals painted on walls by art students in the theme of martial arts, and especially of Bruce Lee. Several different paintings on the walls of Bruce, some in fighting stances, some of him looking mindful and at rest, some of him standing and talking martial arts philosophy with groups of students. The main color of the school’s interior was blue, which was interesting, because it was a very warm, energetic blue as I could see it under warm, bright lights. But as I saw it in its dark, vacant form, wherein the only source of light came from the streetlamps shining through the windows, it was an extremely cold, empty blue. Through the pulsating transition back and forth between the life and death of this building, I gradually found myself in the company of an escort…and then a few people…and then a group of people. A young woman was giving a very rehearsed description of all the things we saw as we progressed through the halls, giving the history of the school, and pertinent anecdotes of how and why particular aspects of the school were built and developed as we were seeing them. The dead school wasn’t visible anymore, it had come back to life. I could feel that I was no longer in my own time, but had slipped backward into the school’s history. But not the school’s history, the history of the people I was walking with. Or was it, perhaps, the history of one person? The young woman guiding us led us to an apartment within the school. She explained that there were a few apartments for the more senior members of the staff, as well as sections of dormitories for students (which were no longer in use and were closed off from the tour,) but this flat, to her, was special. It was obvious that she treasured this area in the way she spoke of every detail of the architecture. It was painted the same blue color as the rest of the school. She said that the staff flats had originally been painted white, but when this flat was slated to be repainted in order for her to move into it, she found some of the old blue paint in a maintenance storeroom, and requested that it be used in her flat. This was where she lived. Bruce Lee was present, silently sitting in on her tour. I couldn’t tell if he was listening to her or completely ignoring her historical lectures. I watched him closely, thinking that he looks so young. He couldn’t possibly be more than twenty years old. How fluent was his English at this time of his life? Could he even follow what she was saying? He wore a green tracksuit jacket with three white stripes up each sleeve. The lot of us stood uncomfortably close in her tiny kitchenette, a few breaking off to claim seats on the sofa and chairs of the living room area, a couple sitting at her tiny kitchen table. She grabbed a basket of tomatoes from her tiny kitchen worktop and passed it around, encouraging everyone to try one. She said she grew them herself, and had discovered this season that this is her favorite variety of tomatoes. A few people took one, and those who didn’t faced her pleading looks and persistent gestures of holding out the basket in front of them. A few of them caved and took one, although it was clear that they didn’t want to. A feeling began to creep into the room. It was unsettlingly tense. It was like a silent, invisible cloud of mortal fear, but suspended in a stage before it was clear enough to identify. I hadn’t felt even a hint of connection to any of the people in the room. There was a deep sense of they and I, a clear contrast, a very certain sense of division. The young woman sat down at her table, and she seemed bothered by something. I was trying to search for some clue as to what she was feeling, and maybe even why. I stared at her in the uncomfortable quiet of the flat. She was a light-complected white woman with straight, blonde hair, a bit longer than her shoulders. She had blue eyes, was on the shorter side of average, and was slightly built. She wore an open cardigan over a plain shirt. There was nothing at all remarkable about her. Her teeth were straight and white, and she often wore an obviously practiced and empty smile. But now her discontent was showing, and her posture began to wilt. She brushed a hand along the side of her head and, elbow rested on the table, rested her head in her hand. Looking down at the table top, she seemed to be drifting off into whatever concern was nagging at her. As I studied her, I began to argue with myself internally. This woman was as dull and boring as they come. If I saw her on the street, I wouldn’t even glance at her. The most remarkable thing about her was her complete absence of any remarkable features. She seemed completely devoid of any visually apparent character. But she was beautiful, somehow. Spellbindingly beautiful. I found myself unable to readily look away from her. Another woman appeared from some dark hallway inside the flat, and walked into the room. She had frizzy dishwater-blonde hair and glasses, and there was something about her that gave the impression she was on some kind of mission- she had come into the room with some kind of agenda. Her eyes were shifty, and she was sizing up everyone around her. She spoke, but I can’t recall what she said, or even what general subject it was about. I couldn’t see what she was doing, nor could I hear what she was saying, because I was so completely distracted by the fact that her words and actions were false. She was hiding something, and I had an immediate feeling of distrust toward her. She seemed to be showing compassion toward our hostess, but it was seeping with insincerity. The hostess snapped out of her thought process and began asking us what we thought of her tomatoes. Nobody had tried theirs by this point, so most of us were only just biting into them for the first time. She began to ramble about tomatoes, making polite conversation through a phony smile. I bit into mine, and it was very good. While I stood awkwardly in the middle of the walkway through the kitchen, (the only place I could manage to put myself in,) there were quiet rumbles of discontent through the crowded flat full of people. They were making disgusted faces at their tomatoes, exchanging looks of disapproval. Whether intentionally to hang onto the only positive reaction she had to work with, or unintentionally out of flattery, the hostess watched me devouring my tomato with gleeful eyes. I told her it was fantastic, and she offered me another. As I was eating it, I suddenly noticed that it was gushing blood instead of clear juice. This did nothing to deter my appetite, and I went on devouring the second one. People looked at me half horrified, half in disbelief. The hostess grinned, now genuinely, and rambled on about fertilizers and finding the spot with the most consistent sunlight through the day for her plants. Blood ran between my fingers, down my arm, dripping from my sleeve, pooling on the floor in front of me. Bruce was still completely disinterested in and disengaged from the group. I started to see a slight red tinge on the face of the hostess, and it gradually darkened and spread, until I was sure that there was blood all over her. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from- it was as if it just began to seep from her pores. It was caked in her hair, beginning to dry there. And then she seemed to be decaying before my eyes, just a little bit. I looked back down at the bloody tomato in my hand, and it was no longer bloody. It was just the remaining piece of a tomato. I looked up, and my hostess was fine. No blood, no decay, just her unremarkable, pristine self. I looked over at the shady woman with the glasses, thinking at her, “You killed her, didn’t you?” I began to feel certain of what I had suspected all along, that everyone in this place was dead. They had all been dead for quite some time. I took a few steps closer to the hostess, and I asked her what was bothering her. She made some vague explanation about how this was her home, the one thing in life she had been most passionate about, but that it would all end soon, as “they” wanted her out, and “they” always get what they want. Her passive cheerfulness began to crack, and a couple of restrained tears broke free, one tracing down her cheek, the other free-falling from a lower eyelash and splashing onto the table. I even surprised myself when I reached out and began to gently rub her shoulder with one hand. Abandoning entirely the polite social behavior of keeping it light and avoiding heavy subjects, I very frankly asked her, “How did you die?” She seemed to talk in circles, never directly answering the question, never acknowledging that I had just blatantly addressed the fact that she was dead. Her death seemed to be completely irrelevant to the situation, and she was entirely focused on the worry that she would lose her home. I started asking what I could do to help her, whether the solution was to help her keep her home, or to help her move on. Choked up and tearful, she just sat and sobbed about how important this place was, latching onto details that were completely useless in terms of identifying her problem and searching for solutions. I could sense that something had happened here, something tragic enough to lock these people in at this location in space and time. I was trying to probe my way into the heart of the situation, determine what had taken place. But the hostess kept making very ambiguous, cryptic statements that got me no closer to an understanding. The glasses woman pulled me off to the side in a doorway that opens into the hall, looked me directly in the eyes, and made some strange statement which both sounded like nonsense, and at the same time, came off as an attempt to change my opinion of the hostess. I don’t know what it was that she had said to me, but I could surmise that she was trying to manipulate me, and that she had ill intentions toward the hostess.

It was over. I was awake.