My eyes closed for a moment and suddenly everything seemed slower. I sat down trying to make sense of it: things were more tactile, filled with more sensuality, absolute feeling—I knew even as it unfolded that it was a dream. Was it? It must be, for what else could it be, so abundant and ominous?
I rested my spinning head on the sofa and watched the ceiling. After some time, the colour cream, or ivory, split into three distinct but barely visible hues: a pistachio-like pastel green melting into a pink so soft that it looked like your brown eyes, cut at the bottom by a harsher shade of white, which reminded me how as a child I never liked the limewash on the old houses in Rajasthan—the white was always tinted with an indigo like blue; we called it neel, for the harsh summers. One could even see the strokes of the brush, and the walls, like water, were cool to touch. It seems so beautiful now, to make a thing easier to bear by adding something to it. To make white more bearable, less harsh.
A notification on my phone distracted me: an email from V, telling me that my resignation had been accepted and that she was disappointed but wished me luck anyway. I opened my laptop to read it again—I never like reading emails on my phone—and it started playing a video, paused at 13 seconds from last night when I had just wanted to sleep. A runway, and people gathered around it, watching and observing with greed and caution when a mauve tree, leafless, emerged from under the ground, all grown already, with an upholstered chair besides it, as an unexplainable and uncertain music played in the dark background.
I pulled the screen close to my face, thinking that doing this would somehow take me inside this locked reality, give me, if nothing else, a chance to see for myself what goes on behind the stage. On the screen appeared a woman in a brown coat with flowers of leather, upturned—white, brown, black—looking on from a distance, like a pair of frighteningly observant eyes I remember seeing in Delhi, captivating and unreal against sombre colors, when another woman came, wearing a veil and a green coat with two identical orange fur foxes with their malevolent eyes studded with twinkling stones, surrounded by shrubs, and then darkness before a fur coat so brilliantly red as if stained by its own blood came walking till the edge of the screen. The music changed to a marching tune, hinting at a future that will return to us someday, and this unsettling feeling only grew at the sight of keys on flowing fabrics; keys hanging at the side of those sparkling necklaces; keys and keys everywhere, without anyone to tell us what they were for, which doors they unlocked, and which ones they closed forever.
The music slowly started to seem familiar, its patterns somewhat more recognisable. What was being said eluded me in that hazy state, however, and all I could make out was that keys followed red each time—“an army of women”, someone had written in the comments below. An army of women? Fighting for and against whom? I had watched this video many times before, always only appreciating its sense of rhythm and colour, ignoring that it was so similar to the world of Mario: fire-spitting flowers, warp zones, the perpetual reminder of evilness, visuals so engrossing that one didn’t need to know who was being killed and why, who was dictating this story and why were we playing for a side we knew nothing about?
My eyes—“I am insane from seeing”, as Duras once wrote—I closed them, for a moment, perhaps more, and then I remember nothing but switching off the lights in the brief wakefulness of 3:57 AM, which still seems vague. I open my laptop and replay the video. I recognise the music of Tchaikovsky. Was it last night that I saw a dancing black swan? It must have been a dream. What else could it be?
The video, which is beautiful and exquisite again, keeps playing. I still can’t tell what is going on, but I know that something is happening against someone.
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