“My Dream,” an essay by Jody Kennedy
for Karl Ove Knausgaard
Karl Ove Knausgaard and I are stuck together like two halves of an oyster shell, or maybe something a little more solid like a lynchpin. The atmosphere is on fire. It’s like we’re in one of those Hollywood movies where two lovers are running towards each other in a meadow filled with flowers, except Karl Ove and I aren’t moving. Karl Ove’s head is resting on my chest. My hand is resting on his head, my fingers buried deep in the waves of his beautiful, gray hair. I close my eyes and try to keep quiet. I don’t want to disturb the neighbors or let on to Karl Ove’s wife.
Karl Ove and I are in his studio. I straighten my dress (I don’t usually wear a dress) and sit down on the couch. The couch is nondescript. Karl Ove straightens his t-shirt and faded blue jeans and sits down at his desk. He lights a cigarette, a Chesterfield, the same kind of cigarette my father used to smoke. The smoke creeps across Karl Ove’s desk, covering coffee cups, ashtrays, random seashells, feathers, and photographs, maybe, of his wife and children.
I find my laptop and open it. Karl Ove opens his laptop. I notice we have matching laptops. It’s another sign. Karl Ove begins typing. Tap, tap, tap, click, tap, tap, tap, click. His face glows in the soft light radiating from the computer screen, the same way it must glow by firelight, or lamplight, or by the Aurora Borealis so marked in these Nordic countries. But I don’t care about the Aurora Borealis, the lamplight, or the firelight though, all I care about is Karl Ove’s face glowing, and how he looks like an angel, I think.
Tap, tap, tap, click, tap, tap, tap, click.
I wonder what Karl Ove is writing. I wonder if he’s working on a poem, a haiku maybe, or maybe just a word. I begin to type, too. Tap, tap, tap, click, tap, tap, tap, click. The keyboard is on fire. I love the idea of me and Karl Ove working side by side. I wonder if Karl Ove notices my fingers gliding across the keyboard. I wonder if he’ll like the memoir I’m writing. I hope it won’t bother him that I’ve been with other men. Karl Ove takes a drag off his cigarette and goes back to typing.
Karl Ove’s wife enters the room through a doorway to my left and stops. Karl Ove doesn’t look up. The couch I’m sitting on is directly between Karl Ove and Karl Ove’s wife. Karl Ove’s wife is wearing black lingerie. The lingerie doesn’t look like normal lingerie, though. It looks like an old corset Great Grandmama Iðunn used to wear. There’s a red lace thread running across the bust line. The thread reminds me of a vein running through stone.
Karl Ove’s wife looks at Karl Ove. “It’s late. I’m going to bed. I expect you immediately,” she says, her voice strained, her face contorted.
“Yes, mother,” Karl Ove says, without looking up.
I notice Karl Ove’s face has lost its angelic glow. He looks serious and gloomy now.
Karl Ove’s wife looks at me. She knows everything. She knows Karl Ove and I made love. She knows I had my fingers buried deep in his hair. A woman knows these things. I sit up straight and try to look innocent. I was much better at lying when I was younger.
“You are not allowed to appropriate my husband,” says Karl Ove’s wife. “I don’t give a damn if this is a dream or not.”
“I’m not trying to hurt anyone. Besides, this is my dream and a person can’t really control this type of thing,” I say.
“You better be careful or you’re going to end up in trouble for defamation of character, invasion of privacy or worse,” says Karl Ove’s wife.
“At least there weren’t these kinds of situations when Socrates was around or Plato would have had his ass in a sling,” I say. I think of the nuns and the auburn-haired priest in the memoir I’m writing and hope, by God, they’ll understand.
“Ass in a sling?” Karl Ove’s wife looks confused.
I look over at Karl Ove and wonder if he’s appropriating this conversation I’m having with his wife.
Tap, tap, tap, click, tap, tap, tap, click.
“And the truth is — ,” I say, looking back at Karl Ove’s wife, “I’ve never read a single one of Karl Ove’s books, not yet anyway.”
Karl Ove’s wife turns abruptly, her expression like a General Major, and leaves the room.
“God, your wife — ” I start to say to Karl Ove, but then stop just short of saying — tyrannical, oppressive, buzzkill. I don’t want to criticize Karl Ove’s wife. I just made love with her husband for Christ’s sake. I had my fingers buried deep in the waves of his beautiful, gray hair, I —
Karl Ove takes another drag off his Chesterfield and continues typing.
There’s a brown tabby cat purring next to me on the couch. The purr fills the room like semi-automatic gunfire or a bomb blast. The cat is young and sweet. I run my fingers through her fur, making slow, deliberate passes from her forehead to the tip of her tail. I wonder if Karl Ove hears the purring. I wonder if he sees how good I am with cats, with his cat, I mean.
I notice the couch. It’s no longer nondescript. It’s made of a dark, rich, mahogany leather, a Chesterfield couch made in England, maybe. The arms of the couch look like fists minus the thumbs. The back is lovingly cross-stitched. My father would have liked this couch, but not my mother. I wonder if Karl Ove’s wife likes the couch.
I suddenly remember Karl Ove is married and I’m married, too. Everything feels complicated. The cat is purring louder. I hope my husband and Karl Ove’s wife will forgive me. I hope Karl Ove will forgive me. I look over at Karl Ove and notice his face is no longer gloomy, but wholly radiant as if maybe the word he was struggling to possess has finally offered itself up. Karl Ove snuffs out his cigarette in an overflowing ashtray, smooths back his hair, and smiles. The cat stretches and yawns and jumps off the couch.
Jody Kennedy’s poetry, nonfiction, and photography have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Sun Magazine, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Born and raised in the Upper Midwest, she now lives in France and is at work on a second memoir. More at her website.