What I rarely do (but so many of us have prayed for) is go back into the same dream (ala situational comedy), and immediately pick up where we left off—with the handsome man with the flashing eyes and the etchings he’d like to show you. Your brain isn’t taking reservations and it’s standing room only. So sleep or watch, but either way the curtain’s up and the show must go on.
Now, don’t you naysayers tell me how you don’t remember your dreams, let alone having more than one in a night. Your brain and mine don’t work the same, and you should be grateful. I don’t get much sleep. I trade it in for long, plot filled dreams where I am someone I don’t know in real life, with a life and a history and events of my own. When I wake, I worry about what happened to them: did they escape that horrible vacuum-tornado that filled the garage ceiling and stole Diane’s child? If Susan was really so happy being a stay home mom, making sandwiches for her kids lunch boxes and reminding them to hurry or she would put milk on their cereal RIGHT NOW and it would be all wet, and that made them show up toot-sweet—if she was so comfortable, why did I feel such dread, every time I looked at the stack of mail by the telephone at my kitchen desk? I’ve been men and women, children and the elderly. On half the occasions when I am myself, it’s an alternate time stream. I spent a month in high school dating a boy named Freddy whose mother just hated me and thought I was trash, but every night the dream started with me waking up asleep on Freddy’s big chest, as we’d dozed off on his 70’s style couch, and awoke only to the sound of his mother slamming the screen door on her way in, already bitching about the day she’d had.
Last night, I had the same dream three times in a row. Three separate times where I dreamed it, woke up, thought about how wonderful and peaceful it was and how I wished I wouldn’t have woken up just to roll over or shift the blanket, or have a pee, and three separate times I went back to sleep and started that dream from the beginning. Then I had a fourth dream, and that’s why I put this story down. It’s kind of a love letter for Jessie, and KiKi.
I was driving a car. I haven’t legally driven a car in almost a decade, so these are usually stressful dreams for me, but this time, I was driving a car, with the windows open and everything smelled like wildflowers. It was wonderful. The landscape was gorgeous: hills so high it felt dangerous to drive on straight roads, but the other-side would have roads so windy they felt like hairpin turns, stopping my heart and catching my breathe. Between these hills, as seen from the peak of the first one I always started up—was endless, boundless green. Flats of curlicues’ and long stretches of straight-aways, roads that were more like highways they were so wide, and roads so narrow the tall grass came in the windows as I drove by. It was like a fantasy of Ireland—nothing but charm and welcoming green and the freedom to explore it without feeling like a trespasser.
The first time I drove the road, all I could think about was how high this mountain was, and when it peaked, how it really was just a hill—I could see higher ones from here, some even in my path, if I kept going—but so much windier and scarier on the way down. But as I started, I realized I had control of the car, and I could even stop if it got to scary, so I let myself drive, and I relaxed and I made it most of the way down the mountain before I woke up.
It had been so peaceful and lovely that I was disappointed it was over, but I really did feel the call of nature, and these things happen, and blah blah blah, I went to the bathroom. I was so tired; I don’t even remember getting back into bed. But I do remember having that same dream a second time. This time I made it all the way down the hill, and on the straightaway, I realized, all of these lands used to be inhabited. There were landmarks that as long as I kept my eyes open, would point out ancient looking railroad tracks mirroring the path of some of the roads. Some of them were higher, and the roads far beneath, so I couldn’t make them out, just trust they were there, until the road took me to a bend, but if I was careful, and studious, I could see little rough cinderblocks, on their own set of casters, at seemingly random points of the railroad. Some were so old, or so mistreated perhaps, that they were nearly illegible, unless the word was very short. But some were in near mint condition, with the grass trimmed neatly around it, as if someone was in charge of preserving this stretch of the highway, and the little cinderblocks themselves. On each stone was written only one thing: Grapes. Strawberries. Helium Fruits. Cucumbers. Thyme. Each black, on little casters, on little railroad tracks, mirroring real railroad tracks, built before the time of the road I was on, was simply there to remind travelers that this was once all farmland, full of edible goodness! The first time I figured it out my car swerved a little, and I wished desperately for a camera. But instead, I kept my eyes open, and counted them up as I drove. It made me feel like whistling.
That dream didn’t end quite so abruptly. I don’t remember how many I saw, or what varieties they all were, and I certainly don’t have any but the pictures of them in my mind. But I did wake up, and I did feel disappointed, but somehow lighter and happier, and I did roll over, and once again go back to sleep.
The third time, I picked up the dream nearly where I left off. With a whistle on my lips, the wind in my hair, my hands at the wheel, I was already descending the windy side of the mountain. This time, I wasn’t worried at all. Windy roads make for safer passage than straight ones. I got this. But this time, the road had other travelers, and I was VERY surprised to see them. This time I KNEW I had been here before, and I KNEW that no one had traveled this road with me. I even felt sort of possessive of it. ESPECIALLY when I realized the station wagon in front of me was driven by a couple of younger guys, who were taking some of those hairpins so tight they were driving right over the grass, leaving tracks and scars on the hill face. They were whooping, and encouraging each other. The road was so narrow, there was no catching them. And the proper thing to do might have been to honk, or even to slow down in case they got themselves into trouble and dragged me down with them. But instead, incensed by the way they were mistreating “my” idyllic landscape, I sped up to catch them. The faster I drove, the sharper the turns. The sharper the turns, the more of the grass I myself tore up, and who knows how many ruts in the mud I left in my attempt to show up the very people I was now imitating. But that didn’t’ matter to me—I was angry and I was feeling more than a little hurt that anyone was here (though I told myself it was the way they were acting about BEING here that was upsetting). But soon enough, I turned a corner that revealed that we were not alone either. There were cars full of families in front of me. Little compacts pulling up behind me. In the distance, maybe a hundred cars, winding their way along the roads, even on paths I wasn’t even eventually going to take, as they didn’t seem to intersect my own. And just when this revelation nearly made me hit the brakes, right past my window, two people, a man and a woman, in proper jumpsuits and gear and tri-colored parachutes went gliding down from the top of the hillside side winding around each other and sharing glances through goggles that made me feel like none of us were really here—only them, in that moment.
I gave the young men their wide berth, and they chose an immediate turn at the bottom of the hill. I had slowed down, but soon enough I left the compact out of reach of my rearview mirror. The road stretched out behind and before me, so I let go of my interaction with the others, and just went back to cinderblock spotting. I hit a beautiful, well maintained straightaway and the wild grass became neatly trimmed, the road well maintained, the cinderblocks all standing upright and well preserved on their little casters. I was just trying to read one that I finally determined said “watermelons” though I was convinced it said “Waltermelons”, and I was imagining the whimsical day someone thought to name the melon after themselves, when I glanced forward and realized that I had driven right into the edge of town without even seeing it coming! There were women in bonnets behind white picket fences plucking fruit from tall stalks and putting them in their aprons, and two men in straw hats, wearing jeans and white t-shirts and carrying baskets of strawberries. Just as I thought, those are the most beautiful strawberries I had ever seen, the woman at the white fence, just a foot away said smilingly, “You think those are good, you should try these helium fruits!”
I actually woke myself up laughing in surprise!
This series of dreams had been so good for my spirit, so simple, and yet, so healing, that I almost got right up out of bed and wrote it down then and there. I didn’t want to lose any of it—the hill top view, the quaint little town, the cinderblocks on their very own rail. If it was a town I wanted to move there. If it was a country I wanted a nice long visit. If I could just taste a helium fruit to know, were they really better than strawberries as big as plums?
I don’t wake up with a smile on my face often (or often enough?) but I was feeling wonderful, and refreshed. Actually, I was feeling well rested, which I realize even now is a feeling I don’t recognize since it’s been so long. Even as the draw to get up and write it down wore off, and I decided simply to go back to sleep one last time before my alarm went off, I felt a little sad that I would never see it again.
That’s when I had a fourth dream. This last piece of my night happened well after the 10am medications alarm went off, so as you can imagine, it’s well and truly morning while I slept. And having gone back into the same dream three times, falling asleep was natural and peaceful. The fact that I woke up at the end so close to Noon means I surely found actual, restful, dreamless sleep beforehand. I don’t even recall how the dream started—it was just like other describe: random and formless and not worthy of note. But eventually it solidified into my normal plot oriented (if not always interesting) dreams.
I was in the basement playroom of one of these new modern homes with all white walls and all beige carpets of the stain-guard variety. There was a lot of space, and not much furniture, just a large beige sectional couch, a huge screen TV with just enough play furniture to imply there were children who lived here. I remember my Aunt Donna came in, very tan, long permed blond hair, and hands on her hips. I could hear running children coming down the stairs and I just KNEW that if I stayed here one more second I was going to end up babysitting. She pursed her lips, put her hands on her hips and scanned over the various game controllers and antique arcade games, but just as she made eye contact with me and opened her mouth, I bolted. I took the first door on the right, and slammed the white door behind me.
It looked like a very pathetic guest bedroom. There was a bed, and a nightstand, and a sofa-table against the wall, but it might as well have been a cheap motel room for all it lacked in hominess. I could see books on the floor peeking out from beneath the bed, but they were for very young children, and there was no way Aunt Donna was going to believe I was “too busy to babysit” if she caught me pretending to read Little Golden Books. As far as I was concerned, the only thing going for this bedroom was the sliding glass doors on the other side, so I ran, but was very, very quiet about the doors, so Aunt Donna would think she had me pinned, and could put me to work when she was ready for me, like it or not.
The house I left was exactly like the ones I passed as I started walking. In that very dreamlike way, I aged up, from the insolent teen who thought it was okay to shirk her duties when grownups required them, to the softer, slower, shaved headed version of myself I dread recognizing in my mirror most days. I walked past two story white house with brown roof and two car garage after two story white house with brown roof and two car garage after two story white house with brown roof and two car garage. It was so repetitious; it might as well have been green screen in a classic TV series. I took to watching my feet as I walked, instead of my surroundings. But soon the black top turned beige as well, and then I noticed grass growing right up next to my sneakers, and I stepped right off the stone and onto a narrow dirt road, with grass as far as the eye could see on either side. I looked up, and was delighted to see to my right, a set of railroad tracks, with a very old and very word cinderblocks, on little collapsed casters that must have read the name of some wonderful fruit or vegetable, some time, long ago. Even its state of decay seemed charming to me. I had never walked this road before, only driven, and everything seemed so much more vivid and real on foot. Just as I wondered how I would ever get where I was going on foot (as I walk very slowly, and as often as I am stopped by the pain, I am stopped by the fear of the pain) my Dad said, “We won’t walk forever. You can do it. Mind if I join you?” And my Dad started to walk the path with me.
There were no cars I could see this time, but I knew they were out there now. We never did climb the hill, but stuck to a part of the path that was long enough to see the straightaway in both directions for miles. I told him all about the cinderblocks, and, being taller than myself, he pointed out some he could spot higher uphill sides, or deeper in long grass than I could. Soon enough we came to the little town where the people were harvesting. Most everyone was at home, I suppose, because only one woman was left, putting helium fruits into her apron. There were only two more red-purple ones for her to pluck from their green husks—two or three more remained, but they looked slightly deflated, and their color was closer to yellow or green than red or purple, so she left them to ripen or die. My Dad waved at her, and she smiled and tipped her hat. I got the impression they knew each other, but it might have just been friendly flirting. My Dad was a handsome man—he still had the majority of his hair, and his legs were strong and lean, like when I was a child.
I had assumed it was the outskirts of a small town, but we passed so quickly through, and it stretched out so much further to the right that it became obvious this was just the furthest reaches of one little corner or a much more prosperous county. But we only saw a house or two before humanity left no more mark on our journey than the old railroad tracks and the cinderblocks memorials.
It felt to me like we could walk forever, but the sun was starting to go down, and I was getting cold. The road look us in a huge winding curve around an enormous patch of heather that swayed in the wind like it had been planted for harvest (though I have no idea what heather could be harvested and used for). When the road hit a straightaway again, it was right in front of a modern, brown paneled building with sloping roof top and pinnacled entryway that I assumed was a church, except for it’s very non-denominational insignia and a sign that simply read “Welcome”. I would have kept on walking, but Dad said, “I think I grew up here!” and he seemed so excited he grabbed my hand and started walking up the path.
We didn’t head straight for the door. Instead, we headed around the left side, through a little cement patio with overhang, to see a children’s play area. It had tetherball and swing sets, and my Dad was beaming like a grownup who forgets why they ever stopped indulging in snow cones after just one bite. I could tell he didn’t recognize the place, but he seemed really happy that it was here. We walked around the building, and on the other side was another patio, to match the first, but this one contained stands to hold kickballs and soccer balls, and a cage full of bats and various sports toys. It also had two long leads, like you attach dogs to, to allow them to run, and each of them had toys attached, that the church seemed to have prevented the theft of by attaching them to the leads. One was all white and looked a lot like a pogoball (from my childhood) but the other my father went straight for. It looked remarkably like the helium fruit, only all silver, like a balloon made of tougher material. He tossed it into the air, and it seemed for a moment it was capable of some sort of trick, but he was standing at the end of it’s leash, and didn’t get enough air time to complete whatever he expected it to do. He looked so crestfallen my chest hurt. I immediately reassured him I can get it off, and started messing with the lead’s clasp, trying to take it off without ripping it. But my Dad had turned away from me in disappointment, so he didn’t notice my victory when I quite nearly got it off. I suppose stealing from a church wouldn’t have really made him that happy anyway, but it really felt like it was worth a try.
When I looked up to tell him I’d nearly got it, he was already walking away from me. There were sliding glass doors on the church patio, and voices coming from inside. My Dad walked right in, and introduced himself to what I can only assume were volunteers, as they had card tables set up in a nice big open room, with carpeting and vaulted ceilings, but no insignia. I, feeling not even remotely that brave or social, took my time entering. The doors lead through what is basically a concession stand that many churches have, for gatherings and events. There was a large soda dispenser, and an industrial coffee maker, cabinets and countertops with a large open “window” that looked out into the meeting area, where I could see my Dad, and rubber mats beneath my feet, presumably for the ice from the soda fountain. On the right there was a restroom, and on the left, the room opened up and then ended in a huge wall of windows, looking out at the fields of heather. It was a spectacular view and made me earnestly want to get back on the road. But it was noticeably warmer here, and my Dad was already talking to a group of people and sitting down, so I went to join him.
When I arrived, I pulled out a metal folding chair, but my Dad sprang to his feet. Without a word, just a big cheesy grin, he started toting and hauling, unloading giant grey Tupperware tubs filled with ice and food, that he dragged from a little room no bigger than an office that was just filled with totes, and then unloading the food into giant refrigerators and vending machines outside the concession area. A plump, jolly little man I assumed was some sort of pastor rubbed his hands together with glee and started helping my Dad, though from what I could tell all they had in there were frozen giant soft pretzels, and small boxes of orange juice with the push-pull-open tops that they gave out in elementary school lunch lines. The half a dozen men and women who, it seemed, had just been having a break when we arrived, seemed to gain vigor from Dad’s earnestness and started doing all sorts of chores, like breaking down the tables, loading more totes with party supplies, and setting up folding chairs.
I sat there feeling foolish and helpless for a while, because though they smiled at me, they only talked to one another, and my Dad. My Dad was too busy to talk, and too helpful to stop, so I got out of my chair and wondered to the little office space with all the totes. It too was paneled in the dark brown wood with black between that I associate with imitation lodges and self-renovated garage-come-man caves. I could see there was a desk and book shelves, but only barely, behind all the totes. And off at the end, another set of glass doors—where more people were unloading more totes into the room. So I tried to make myself handy, and started opening the crates one at a time. If they contained, ice or food, I dragged them over to Dad, and the fat little pastor, who smiled and stopped coming to the room, and just started unloading the crates faster. But though there were many, many more crates, I ran out of those containing foodstuffs. When I came out to tell Dad we were done, and maybe even hint we could leave, he had already unloaded the last one, and was on a ladder helping the women take down decorations in another room. Almost no one was still in the main area, just me, and the two or three women I could hear in the restroom, who were cheerfully cleaning it, and gossiping about their children.
One woman told another that her daughter had always been such a good girl, and that just recently she had made friends with that boy the whole town was worried about, because he smoked, and didn’t seem interested in anything to do with the community. Her friend told her how kind it was for her daughter to take him under wing like that, and maybe he needed to hear it from someone his own age, if he was going to come back to the church someday. But the girl’s mother seemed unsure, and said that she had told her daughter there was no one in the world who doesn’t need a friend, but that she was only allowed to hang around with that boy in their own house, while her mother was home, so that he wouldn’t be able to smoke while they were together.
I cringe thinking about it now, but from outside the restroom I chimed in that that was some good advice. Teenagers who find ways to break down social norms in rebellion usually have more than one way of doing it, and her daughter could easily find that bad boy attitude attractive. Both women stopped what they were doing and just stared at me. Then they smiled oh-so politely, and went back to cleaning, smiling and looking back at me, but no longer gossiping. I felt so bad for ruining their fun, and for being caught eavesdropping, that I went outside to look for my Dad. He and a few other men had taken the ladder outside and were up on the roof with hammers, banging away at something that needed repairs. When I came outside, I shielded my eyes from the setting sun, and looked up at my Dad who looked so healthy and young, helping these strangers as a brief interlude to walking this long road with me. I smiled at him, and he stopped, and stood up. He was wearing work gloves, and holding a hammer, but he smiled and he waved at me.
And that’s when I woke up. I woke up to my Dad smiling at me. I dearly, dearly wish I could have a video of that dream, so I could replay it when I needed it. He looked happy. He looked young. He was helping people that didn’t even ask. And he was walking with me, which made the walking easier, and the journey go by so quickly. I miss him a lot. It was really, really nice to see him again.