A Dream Variation in the Style of Jørgen Leth

by Maren Loveland

Here is the perfect woman. Here is the perfect woman. Watch her. Watch her as she bites into the thick peel of an orange, pulling it off with her deftly moving fingers to reveal eight plump wedges whose color melts like marmalade in the sunlight. Her eyes gleam as each slice slips down her throat. Watch the vitreous juice drip down her palms, her wrists, her forearms, her thighs. How does she function? How does the perfect woman function? We will investigate that here, now, sometime.

This is what she looks like. Here is the cavernous curve of her ear. Here is her upper lip with two points, like the peaks of freshly whipped egg whites. And the other lip. A fledgling crescent moon, the color of rhododendron petals in summertime. Look at her eye. Look at the eye of the perfect woman. Notice the faint scar above her eye, the unintentionally self-inflicted scar. Watch the gold-flecked silken liquid fall from her eye. We do not know why the perfect woman cries this way.

The perfect woman is in a room. The room has no edges; it is limitless and eternal and made of glass. It is full of nothingness and everythingness, encompassing her presence, both corporeal and ontological. Watch her as she dances without any music. How does she move this way? Watch her touch the velvet ears of rabbits and medium-sized dogs. Four labradoodles limned in buttered light make their way across her path. She presses her ear against the ribcage of a greyhound named Emily, who is dead now. Why does she feel these things? Why is she moved by them? Even she does not know and does not wish to know.

Watch her fall. Watch her as she falls to the ground, entangled in her limbs, again and again. She falls into the ground, and the grass makes painterly stains on the knees of her jeans, eternal scars of viridity. The perfect woman is thinking about Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume 2, her aquiline nose so brilliant, and her sinewy arms wielding that incredible sword that slices and stabs and kills. The perfect woman now sinks down into an old second-hand floral couch covered in stains, right next to her sister. Her sister inhales deeply from a poorly wrapped homemade joint and exhales the billowing smoke from her nostrils, filling the dimly lit garage of pink light with the vibrant scent of weed. It emanates into the sisters’ fingers and hoodies and brains. The sister wants to watch the film Primal Fear. The sisters fold their heads into each other, like two sleeping mourning doves at daybreak. How does the perfect woman feel? She feels fear, and peace.

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

THE PERFECT WOMAN

What is this music that’s playing? It’s “I Know It’s Over” by The Smiths. Who is this voice that is speaking? It’s me, the writer.

The perfect woman says: “Today I experienced something which I hope to understand in a few days. I looked in the mirror and saw a nun who chastised me for calling my mother a bitch when I was a teenager. I looked in the same mirror and cried because I hated my face. I was surrounded by darkness. I don’t know what it is supposed to mean.”

What is the perfect woman thinking about? Love? Death? Soggy toast on the sidewalk? Cigarettes? Apple cake? Misogyny? Sex? Violence? Robin’s eggs? The nails at the hardware store? Racism? Anger? Spearmint? White peaches? Is she thinking about peace? Egg yolks? We do not know what she’s thinking about, but we can guess.

“What is a perfect woman? Is it that dark-haired Danish beauty, who sinks into her skinny shoulders and traces her fingertips along her knees? Whoever you are that’s talking, you’re wrong about me. It can’t be me because I wipe the residual toothpaste around my lips onto the bathroom towel instead of just washing it off in the sink, and my mom kicked down my bedroom door after I slammed it in her face, and I haven’t returned Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot to the library for three years. I wished for the death of the grandfather who groped the women of my family.” 

 The perfect woman lies on her belly while she slumbers. She dreams about rigatoni pasta and fires and golden retrievers. She rests on her stomach while watching the film Milk with her younger sister, clutching a pillow in her arms. The sisters don’t look at each other. They go to a dingy Waffle House and cannot make eye contact, but when the old server with the spider limbs grabs the sister’s shoulder, the perfect woman wants to bite through his wrinkled hand and crack the bones. The perfect woman says nothing, just watches, because she believes she is helpless. Now, look at her drive the car, the 2001 Honda Civic. Look at her while she mouths the words to a 10,000 Maniacs song and sinks into the purple midnight horizon electrocuted by neon signs and the blurred light of floating streetlamps, into the nothingness and everythingness.

“I can remember my mom coming out of the bathroom crying for no reason. I think it was because of miscarriages or cheating or something like that; I can never know for sure. These unspoken moments of pain drift in the wind of eternities and memories, never comprehended. They can’t be understood in a few days, or weeks, or years, or lifetimes. They have the consistency of Greek yogurt as I try to get those viscous pieces of reality out of my head and into the street where I can feel them in between my toes and under my heels as I try to walk away unscathed.”