Jennifer’s Dream

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jennifer's dream

Jennifer's Dream

By Leonie Rowland

For audio guide, click the play button below.

You are barely there in the gallery, so when your flatmate says, ‘You’re mad at me,’ you respond with the first thing you see. The plaque on the wall says

       Welcome to Jennifer’s dream

and below, there is a paragraph of text, which you begin to read aloud: ‘I am not anything, I am not anything.’
       ‘That’s good,’ your flatmate says, ‘because I thought you were mad.’
       In Jennifer’s dream, the room is red, and there are so many paintings to see. They push out from the walls like jutting heads, and you think they might be reaching. When you ask the guard, he says, ‘No, ma’am, it’s just the display.’ Sunlight streams through open windows, and you are afraid that it might burn.
       The second plaque says

       Jennifer speaks in tongues

and in the painting, a woman sits on a high-back chair with twelve tongues falling from her mouth.
       ‘No one is there to hear her,’ you say, assuming there is sound in the paint world that does not make sense to your ears. You picture it like the trickle of water, listen as the pitch becomes increasingly urgent, and even though the only danger is overflow, your heart is pounding.
       You relate to Jennifer and her tongues, which are in motion but not as they should be. They aren’t tasting. Soon, they will be flailing on the ground.
       ‘Are you mad at me?’ your flatmate says, and for a moment you hear Jennifer speaking, hear her say, ‘What is there to be mad about when food is lovely, and you are already dying?’
       ‘You’re mad,’ he says, ‘you’re mad.’
       ‘Did you fill up the kettle?’ you murmur, watching as Jennifer nods and wanders out of frame. When you glance at the next plaque, the painting is called

       Twelve tongues

but there are only eleven. This is what they say:

       1. There are too many days to go on like this.
       2. On the left arm, there is blood.
       3. There are nights that taste of vinegar, and in them you shall rise.
       4. On the right arm, there is remorse.
       5. Make sure the kettle is full but be careful not to touch it.
       6. Make sure the kettle is empty but be careful not to touch it.
       7. Bring the pot to boil but be careful not to touch it.
       8. Empty your kitchen of vital signs.
       9. When water is boiling, it burns.
       10. Empty your kitchen of vital signs.
       11. When water is boiling, it burns.

       Your flatmate takes your right arm and pulls you away, places you in front of another painting. This one is called

       Jennifer swallows her eyes

but the title is wrong, because the eyes are staring out of Jennifer’s mouth: unswallowed, seeing. Your flatmate says, ‘Are you mad at me?’ but he sounds so far away.
       Jennifer’s eyes are a tasty shape. They are watching a pot boil. Your flatmate is beside her, gesturing frantically. You say, ‘No one can hear you,’ and he turns, catches the handle with his left arm. And the pot, a hungry circle, flips from the stove and hits you. It bites you, and it burns.
       You don’t realise that shapes can taste until this moment: a pasta spiral is different to a shell, just as circles enjoy us whereas rectangles don’t.
       You want to warn Jennifer about the circles, but your lips are too busy moving, saying something like, ‘The clocks are turning back.’
       ‘Jenny,’ your flatmate says, ‘Jenny.’
       ‘Why are you calling me that?’ you reply.
       The gallery is hot now. You run to the bathroom, find a cubical, and lock yourself inside. You hate the taste of vinegar, which is rising up and up. When you exit the cubical, words flash across the mirror:

       Jennifer goes to the bathroom

       You approach the sink, and they change.

       Jennifer washes her hands

       The water is cold, the way you like it.

       Jennifer sees her face

       It is melting in the blistering heat.

       Jennifer screams

       You’re not mad, you’re not mad. You’re not even here.

       Jennifer wakes up alone

       Your flatmate is outside, waiting.

       Jennifer wakes up alone

       But you stay in the bathroom, standing still

       Jennifer wakes up alone

       until the words are quiet

       Jennifer wakes up alone

       and the lights go out.  

Leonie Rowland

Leonie Rowland

Leonie Rowland lives in Manchester and has an MA in Gothic literature. Her debut chapbook, In Bed with Melon Bread, is available from Dreich, and she is Editor-in-Chief of The Hungry Ghost Project. She has recent work forthcoming in Wrongdoing Magazine, Pareidolia Literary and Not Deer Magazine. You can visit her website at http://leonierowland.com.

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