In the dark of one night when I was fifteen years old, I dreamed I was standing on the purple crust of a small planet, watching a nearby star undergo a catastrophic explosion, ejecting its mass in the form of human eyeballs. I can remember even now, more than twenty-five years later, how terrifying it was, how I woke up with a copper taste in my mouth, nauseated at the prospect of being abandoned in a void of space, being watched by disembodied eyes as I tried to find food, shelter, companionship. I’d been reading a lot of science fiction at the time—Isaac Asimov, in particular. (If you’ve never read his short story collection, Earth Is Room Enough, I recommend it. Or at least my angsty, fifteen-year-old self would.)
The dream stayed with me, returning several more times with more detail. It began to take on meaning in that peculiar mien of a superstition. The eyeballs became benevolent watchers; the purple surface of my desolate planet came to represent a fortunate path. Whenever I had the dream, I assumed something good was soon to happen. And so I wanted somehow to capture my lucky dream, but at the time, I didn’t have the words to describe it to my own satisfaction. (I don’t think I do even now.) But I knew an artist who worked in some capacity for my step-father, and for my sixteenth birthday, I commissioned him to paint it for me.
In Ivan Turgenev’s novel, Fathers and Sons, published in 1861, the character Evgeny Bazarov, who claims to have no artistic feeling, says of a picture of a Swiss mountainside, “The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.” I totally understand that statement. Although I spend my days and night reading and writing books, there are times when words don’t work to fully express a thought or desire or dream—but an image does.
This week, something compelled me to look up the artist who painted A Night to Remember. I hadn’t spoken to him since the day he gave it to me. On the portfolio page of his website, it was mentioned that he’d done “countless paintings over the years that did not leave behind a trace – let alone a photograph.” So I sent him a scan of my painting, letting him know how much I still treasure it. He was very gracious, and told me that he remembers painting it, and the enjoyment he derived from doing so. What a lovely feeling, closing that long-ago loop.
My painting sits on the top of my favorite bookcase, where I keep all sorts of treasures and mementos, and of course, books. I still think of it as a good-luck charm. (Even if it’s not, I still love the exploding eyeballs.) And if you’re ever in need of a custom painting of a dream of your own, contact Jack Connelly. You won’t be disappointed.