I dreamed a dream

  • Posted on June 3, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I Dreamed a DreamTalking about poetry with others, and my excitement at discovering flexibility in my forms, I found myself explaining the background to Not Rising. That seems unfair on you who can only read my blog (if you’re interested, that is!) But it explains the layers in the poem, and the echoes ran through my weekend just passed, in France with a concert band, in the midst of Reims’ Joan of Arc festival.

Some time in late spring last year, I went to a Suzanne Vega concert in Brighton with my PSA (previously significant other). The end was in sight for my marriage, but Suzanne Vega was an early feature in our musical past togetherness, and she doesn’t visit Brighton that often. So when the concert ended, having gone through all the old songs we knew so well, it was a moment I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t want to stay with it either. And as I looked down from the circle, and listened to all our applause after her encore, the clapping died away like the end of a sudden rainstorm, the lights came up, the stage became dull and dead, and as people rose and threaded their arms into coats, I suddenly saw a flock of birds rising.

So there we were, Suzanne Vega was packing her guitar and thinking about something to eat and drink, her roadies were packing up, the gig was done. The birds were flown as I sat there, everything special was gone. And empty. It spoke for everything that was happening to me.


And so this weekend. I appreciate people who can talk openly with me and ask. This is ordinary stuff to me now, it’s just my life. And it opens some people up to me, to speak as maybe they don’t to many others. Being on tour (OK, just a Friday to Sunday!) in France made me remember the uncertainty of the first time away with a band: do others really know what I am? Or is there that uncertainty that will always say ‘this close, but no further’? Who would share a room with me? As it happens other women members of the band have been perfectly fine about it. Yes, I am a woman; unusual, but without doubt a fellow woman.

The dinner table conversations can be interesting, in terms of what people say about me and my PSA, especially if they know us both. I think we are all agreed on ‘tragedy’ that there was an absolute impasse. I am just as mixed about it as they are. Away from the evening conversations, we all muddled our way through the Reims Joan of Arc festivities. Lots of interesting stalls, musicians and performers, costumes everywhere, and a city we were fascinated by. Every now and then I would be separated from the others who were in a little offshoot group, and be alone in the melée. I wanted to look around, wanted to tag along, wondered which way would be most interested to go, stopped at a jewellery stall and bought a pair of earrings. At once relieved not to have to hunt for equally suitable gifts for others (because it can be a burden, can’t it?), I was aware that every other time, my wife would be there to share comments, choices, directions, and say it was time to sit down for a drink. That absent voice at my shoulder was a bit hard to bear, and still is.

Twice I played the solo ‘I dreamed a dream’ from Les Misérables, and a number of people individually said how moving it was, the way I played it:

There was a time, when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving …

But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather …

Yes, it’s my song too, and my heart is in it every time. And yet on Saturday night, a chilly night after a hot restaurant, when we trooped off to see the light show at Reims Cathedral, I was happy to walk alone awhile. Simply to be so whole, and so free, and safe, out and about in the city at night, was an amazing feeling. Maybe a summer dress had been a bit optimistic, but I could have danced my way home. Why is the price of happiness sometimes so high?

Well over a year ago, the cheque that I had written and laid down, was cashed and the marriage, the love, the everything was over. I had hoped the cheque would be torn up, with a kiss, but it was not to be. And here I am being terribly ordinary, even more ordinary than I used to describe ‘being transgender’ all that time ago, not performing as I used to have to. No lights or applause or even ‘I do think you’re being brave!’ No audience, just getting on with it.

And I cry and I dance, and I play moving solos. And the weekend is over. And I am lonely, because there is no-one at my shoulder to say ‘that’s nice!&#8217. Sometimes still, when the music is over, I’m not rising.


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