Dreams are an important part in everyone’s lives no matter how much one tries to say otherwise. However, to some people, their significance overshadows even the limits of rational thinking, becoming life-altering forces of undeniable power.
Stephanie Reynolds was sure to be included in the latter category. At the age of eight, she decided she wanted to become a doctor after a vivid night fantasy, and she eventually did almost twenty years later. On the day of her thirtieth anniversary, she called off her engagement to an orthopedist on account of visions of misery that assaulted her and, more than a decade later, her subconscious told her the time was right to pack everything and leave gloomy Britain behind in search of the American dream.
On a September Saturday morning, Stephanie did just that, crossing the ocean until she reached California. She had no idea what to expect from such a decision, except one thing: according to her innermost self, true happiness was in store if she sought hard enough.
It wasn’t hard for her to get a job at a renowned clinic in San Francisco and, luckily, she had enough savings to afford a nice place near Lombard Street and its famous hairpin turns. Her excitement was genuine, and she couldn’t wait to discover the pleasure of new experiences in her new life. However, disappointment was the first thing to show its ugly head after a while.
For some reason she couldn’t understand, Stephanie found herself feeling empty and disgruntled after only two months living there. The colors of the city began fading into grey in her mind, the charm of the steep streets replaced by visions of charred paths leading into chasms of perpetual darkness. Something was definitely wrong and, for the first time ever, she started doubting the essence of her dreams, and longing for a return to her roots and familiar faces.
This sensation of hopelessness lasted until the day she found herself wandering near Golden Gate Park on a day off. The scents and sights of the Conservatory of Flowers stirred both her senses and curiosity. Next thing she knew, she was walking around the beautiful 19th-century greenhouse, admiring in awe the variegated marvels of nature and thinking to herself if all the beauty of the world was being drawn to that place with the purpose of awakening her joyful smile.
Everything was simply too stunning and a sheer splendor to behold. The tropical flowers and the aquatic plants were many people’s favorites and she couldn’t help to agree as she felt refreshed and invigorated simply by taking the time to look at their shape, whilst clearing her mind of all thoughts of sadness in the process.
She rapidly found her way into the Special Exhibit section that was bound to evoke many intriguing images. The show at the time was dedicated to the 60’s decade, featuring the most emblematic chromatic motives of the hippies’ non-violence ideology. As expected, everything in that area was garish and with a psychedelic hue, one she loved for it reminded her of a concept of innocence she wouldn’t mind reliving. Unfortunately, time’s arrow flew in one direction alone and, at the awareness of it all, a profound sigh escaped her lips.
“Things were way simpler back then, weren’t they?” Someone said behind her, suddenly.
Stephanie turned around to see a woman with light-brown hair, roughly about her age or perhaps a bit older, wearing a long dress with as many colors as the flower beds around them. Friendliness would be the best word to describe her gestures, her eyes, and her voice.
“Indeed, they were. I was only a child back then, but I remember it all.” Stephanie said and sighed once more.
“Oh, so do I: the sights, the sounds, the music… and of course, all the lovely flowers everywhere. My name is Deborah, by the way. Deborah Cairns. I’m one of the persons in charge of this little exhibit.”
“Nice to meet you, Deborah. My name is Stephanie. Let me tell you what a wonderful job you did here. It’s almost like actually being there once more.”
“That’s the idea. We want people who visit to remember the spirit of that age.”
“You’ve succeeded admirably.” Stephanie replied and then averted her gaze as she felt the approach of an unwanted tear.
“You look sad, dear,” said Deborah in a mellow voice. “Feel like talking for a while? Maybe I can help you deal with whatever’s bothering you.”
“It’s nothing. I…”
“I promise you I’m very good at exorcizing bad thoughts and feelings.” she insisted, placing a gentle hand on Stephanie’s right shoulder. The touch was subtle, yet reassuring, infused with the same sense of friendliness she had felt coming from her from the first moment.
“You’re going to find my problems to be quite ridiculous…”
“Nonsense!” Deborah smiled. “That word isn’t part of my vocabulary. Come, there’s a quiet little spot over there where we can talk.”
As they sat on a stone bench partially hidden from the main path of the exhibit, Stephanie took a deep breath and started opening her heart. The warmth emanating from Deborah’s ways made it easy for her to talk about her dreams, her motivations, her hopes and her frustrations, without fear of shifty eyes or scornful remarks. Her almost otherworldly charisma made her feel very comfortable about herself, but also quite tingly.
“I dreamed of bliss, yet I’m beginning to think there’s none to be had, here. Before, I always felt this force, this hope, driving me forward. Now, I don’t. It could be I’m just depressed, yet I feel there’s something more to it.” Stephanie concluded.
“Could it be that you’re simply confused in regards to what true bliss really means?”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“We live in a world of definitions where everything is rationalized to the extreme. The problem is most of our guiding rules are wrong, and fail to grasp the true emotions that live inside each and every one of us. I believe your dreams have shown you a glimpse of something your brain can’t process straight because it’s something beyond its capabilities.”
“You’re clearly talking in riddles, Deborah.”
“Am I? Are you sure you’re not the one that’s hearing riddles? Riddles come from the mind, but I’m talking about secret paths of the heart, desires of old trying to be awakened…. I want to help you do that.”
Admittedly, Stephanie was intrigued. The tingling sensation heightened.
“And how do you propose to do such a thing?”
Deborah got up and placed her hands on the nearest flower patch, revealing a polychromatic blossom whose petals softly wiggled between her fingers. It looked like an oversized chrysanthemum, though it was obviously something much more mysterious than that.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Stephanie said in awe. “What is it?”
“Flower Power, dear…” Deborah responded, caressing the plant’s center with the tip of her nails until a small cloud of pollen was expelled, enveloping the Englishwoman’s world. There was a moment of extreme lucidity followed by a rapid descent into the depths of narcolepsy. Languorously, Stephanie’s head sank in her lap, in perfect peace.
… a room decorated in silvery hues and cold, metal bars sliding across her naked body…
… walking through a lively party with an expressionless gaze and wearing a rubber catsuit…
… a large Jacuzzi with cascading flower petals, and a friendly, but ultimately powerful voice telling her to go down until commanded otherwise…
… an eager tongue tasting the utmost source of delight…
Dreams? Reality? Who really knows? There’s only one absolute truth: after that day, Stephanie never felt sad again.