©Elisa Salasin, 2011

I’ve been having this dream, off and on, for a few years now.  It goes something like this:

We’re sitting in our family room, watching TV.  My mother is sitting next to my father, which in itself is pretty weird because the old man packed up and left when I was still in Pampers.  But there he is.  He doesn’t say much and every time I look at him he seems blurry around the edges.  I play with the antenna on top of the TV—these old rabbit ears, like we had when I was a kid—to see if that helps focus my father.  But it only makes him worse.  I put the rabbit ears back in their original position and my father sits back and smiles, not at me, not at my mother, but at the TV.  He’s getting blurrier.

While we’re watching TV, I notice that my brother Dave is on this reality show we’re watching and I say to my parents, Hey, that’s Dave, but they don’t seem to care.  Part of the storyline of the show—which, by the way, I’m having trouble following because I keep looking over at my father who is getting blurrier and blurrier—part of the story is about my brother.  He’s happy and successful, just like he is in real life, but then something happens—I think it has something to do with an insect bite—and he loses everything: his job, his wife, his house, his generous benefits package.  And at this point my mother is crying and even my father, blurry as he is, is sobbing quietly into his bathrobe.  And this, I know somehow, is my cue, and that I should start crying, too, because this is probably the saddest thing that’s ever happened to my family, if you don’t count my father.  But I just don’t feel moved.  I don’t feel like crying.  I don’t even feel that sad.

The next thing that happens is very weird.  Dave’s wife Patti walks in the room and sits down right next to me and puts her head on my shoulder and starts stroking my back.  I want to tell her that I’m fine, that Dave’s the one who needs her now, but I don’t say anything, and she keeps stroking.  And I try to get some tears going so at least Patti thinks I’m in a bad way, but I can’t.  And in my dream I think to myself: I’ve never… been… happier.

©John Levine, 2011

John Levine teaches writing and public speaking at UC Berkeley.  His plays have been produced across the country.  His play “Work in Progress”—which is actually not a work in progress—will be produced by Ross Valley Players in February 2011.  For more information: http://rossvalleyplayers.com/raw

3 Responses to “Never Been Happier by John Levine”

  1. Marty Williams Says:

    All right! Great (and odd) humor here, John. I don’t know how you do it. The detail of the progressively blurry father crying into his bathrobe followed by the brother’s wife stroking the narrator’s neck is creepy wonderful. Gives whole new resonance to the stock phrase, “I’ve never been happier.”

  2. Steve Tollefson Says:

    I loved the narrator’s getting up to adjust the rabbit ears to make his father clearer. I also like the line “I try to get some tears going….”

    It’s an amazingly full, complete piece in so short a space. Packed with things to think about.

  3. Bruce Greene Says:

    John,
    The notion of adjusting rabbit ears to clarify your father’s image is so powerful and full of possibility. What a wonderful take on how important dream emotions can be. Enjoyed your piece immensely.

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