One afternoon in July, Askar and I were walking down East 57th Street, conversing in Russian and dodging businessmen.
“I had a dream, A.,” he told me. “You were in it.”
“What was it about?”
“I dreamed I won the lottery.” Askar's creased face bore a smile as if he savored an actual win. “Ten million dollars, all for me.”
“That would be nice,” I agreed.
“Yes. So the first thing I did was call you for advice. You always give me such good advice.”
“Don't mention it, Uncle Askar,” I mumbled.
“But I must. What would I do without you in this country? So I gave you a call and I dreamed that you told me that the best way to invest was in real estate.”
“That's what I dreamed, A.; 'Uncle Askar,' you said, 'I have heard about a skyscraper going cheap, only two million. It's a steal.' Then you got on the train to come see me in the city while I picked up the phone and bought that skyscraper.”
Tiny wrinkles spread around his eyes when he smiled. He wasn't looking at me as we talked: his eyes swept the street. What he really saw, though, was a glass tower, a gleaming tooth in Manhattan's jaw, all his. The palm of his hand sliced the air, punctuating the words.
“I took you there, A., to see it for ourselves, and on the way you told me that we should invest the rest of the money in a tropical island somewhere.”
I nodded thoughtfully. “I see,” I said.
“When we got there, it was this huge building, over a hundred stories high. The guard at the door barred our way until I told him: 'I just bought this place. You work for me now!'—and he immediately jumped aside. As we walked in, the first thing we saw was a giant swimming pool in the lobby, full of pretty girls, all naked.”
I felt a smile on my lips.
“I turned to you then and asked if we should go have some fun. But you reminded me you were married and said you couldn't do it. So we skipped the pool and went to the elevator.”
Thanks for dreaming me this way, I thought.
“It took us straight to the top, the very last floor. That floor was one huge office with glass walls; you could see the entire city in every direction. And the furniture, A.,—the desk and the chairs and the sofa—they all floated on air. I couldn't believe my eyes. Then you told me that it was the newest fashion: furniture held up by a magnetic field.”
By then I, too, saw that office, dull evening sun painting everything orange. I imagined the chairs escaping like mercury from descending rumps.
We passed a bum sitting on the steps of an office tower as he asked if we could spare some change.
“So I picked up the phone to see about buying an island,” Askar concluded, “and then I woke up.”
“That's quite a dream, Uncle Askar.”
The bum trailed our Russian indifference with a disappointed glare. “Why don't you go back to your own country?” he grumbled.
I stopped, whirled around, and shot back: “Fuck you!”
He didn't respond; he didn't even hear. He was looking into space through greasy hair, muttering on the steps, deep in some imaginary world.