What Dreams May Come

I had the craziest dream this morning (I’ve been up all night).

The dream was narrated by a man “off camera.” I and about 14 or 15 other people were trying to escape from wherever we were in Africa because we wanted to leave before our stay was up. We ran across a dirt yard dressed in what looked like blue paper hospital gowns over white pajamas to a taxi, a van with windows that was probably meant to hold 8, and crammed inside. A woman had her elderly mother or grandmother with her, who was the last to get inside. She sat on my stretched out legs, on my calves, specifically, which were supported by somebody else underneath. The man driving the taxi starts off.

Scene change. We’re on the plane. Six of us sitting in two 4-seat rows facing each other, like you sometimes see on commuter trains. A Japanese man wearing a darkish purple-brown jacket, like a lighter shade of burgundy, sat hunched in the window seat across from me, staring through the glass. The window seat next to me was empty. We take off. Everyone else in my section prepares to go to sleep by covering their heads with huge bath sheets, except me and the Japanese man, who still sits hunched over and staring out the window. The lights dim until there is just enough to see by. I don’t have a towel, but I close my eyes. When I open them a couple of seconds later, I see the Japanese man has shifted in his seat, still hunched over, but facing forward and glancing around at the rest of us as if sizing us up. I think, “he’s a hit man.” If he is, it doesn’t bother me and I close my eyes again. When I open them, he’s in the seat next to me, twisted so his head and torso are facing the seat rest. There’s a spot of light playing over us in the row. It eventually lands on him and roams his body until it reaches his face and finally rests on his open brown eye. He’s looking at me. We stare at each other for a few minutes, then he says “will you marry me?” I make an incredulous face and answer, “why?” in a tone of voice that matches my expression.

Scene change. I’m in an apartment in America, alone. The narrator is talking about how to convince the immigration authorities you and your spouse’s marriage–in my case, the Japanese man–is legitimate, and not for convenience so the foreign-born partner can stay in the US. The narrator says “the best way to convince the authorities that your marriage isn’t a sham is to have some items around the house that are native and traditional to your spouse’s native country.” He directs my attention to a an object wrapped in paper, like a present. I start to open it. The paper is thin, but there are layers and layers of it so that the wrapping is quite thick. I start unwrapping, not by tearing the paper apart, but by peeling it layer by layer as if I was doing some kind of demonstration. There are two such presents, one cylindrical (which is the one I was opening) and another that looked like origami (which I left untouched). Then I’m in the kitchen, and I open a cabinet over a counter. The narrator says, “another way to convince them, you want to get two boxes of authentic Chinese green tea from China, but leave the boxes unopened. Place your wedding rings on top, the man’s on the left and the woman’s on the right. Though some people wear their rings, this is the traditional way married couples display them.”

That’s when I woke up, thinking “what the fuck?”

The dream had a part that came before the escape from Africa but I’m not going to tell you about it. Not because I don’t remember, but because it represents a long, pre-medication period in my life when I was super-depressed and believed no one cared about me and desperately wanted someone to do so (which is why I married my asshole first husband.) In the dream, I did all sorts of humiliating things to get two people important to me to care. The only things I’ll tell you about it is that Daisy was in this part, as well as a smallish and lively medium-brown dog named Skippy. My dead sister was in it too, and as usual, we were at odds. Being at odds characterized our relationship from the time when we were children until after we’d graduated from college. Oh, yes–I remember those times well.

What’s really strange is that I remember the dream’s details in such astonishing clarity. Nowadays, I usually don’t remember my dreams. I remember dreaming, but when I wake, the dream memory rips into shreds that float away, like ethereal strips of smoke blown in the wind. There was a time, in those super-depressed days, when I always remembered my dreams every night, and again with astonishing clarity. They were nightmares. The dreams always involved sharp objects–knives, large, jagged glass shards–anything sharp enough to cut. And blood. Lots of blood, night after night. I was either slicing someone, or someone was slicing me. I was never frightened in these dreams. I was enraged, the kind of rage where you don’t care what the fuck happens to you because you’re hell-bent on killing someone. To be honest, the dreams were monotonous. Most people wake up from these kinds of horrific nightmares afraid or even terrified, but not me. I was so used to them I just rolled out of bed the next morning without even thinking about it, assuming I could roll out of bed. Occasionally, I didn’t have those bloody dreams–they were merely unpleasant. Those didn’t bother me, either. After all, at that time my life was unpleasant, so what was the difference? To be honest, my life is still unpleasant, except I’ve found ways–one way, anyway–to make it bearable, and that’s by writing stories. During those hours, the real world slips away and I’m immersed in worlds of my own creation, ones that I like vastly better. Sadly, I always have to wake up from these dreams, too.


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