dream interpretation

Drowning in the Fish Bowl: A Dream

Like the “box” built into the wall.

Last night I dreamed I was with friends in an indoor public place- a restaurant or a mall, maybe- filled with the half-height walls those sorts of places use to create the perimeter of a food court, or to divide one dining section from another. The walls were deep, and made of a light-colored wood.

One of the walls had a decorative box built into the top at the end, a bit like the newel post pictured here, and about 9 inches square. The side of the square facing me had been replaced with a piece of thick plexiglass so I could see the box was filled almost to the top with water, and that a gray and white goldfish and a champagne colored gerbil were swimming inside.

The gerbil was treading water desperately, trying so hard to keep its nose in the inch or so of air at the top of the box. I started pounding on the plexiglass screwed to the face of the box, trying to break it to release this sad little creature before it drowned.

(It just occurred to me that I gave no thought to what might become of the fish were I to succeed in breaking through the plexiglass.)

I looked around and saw no one with me seemed bothered that someone had doomed this fish by shutting it into a “bowl” where the water could never be aerated, nor that this gerbil was even more precariously trapped and was clearly on the verge of drowning.

So why wasn’t anyone else upset? Why weren’t they helping? Why weren’t they even looking?

I remembered I had a mini multipurpose tool in my bag, with a small screwdriver folded into it alongside its picks and files and blades. I knew the screwdriver’s tip was too small a size to remove screws as large as the ones holding the plexiglass in place, and began praying for help as I ran to the people around me, begging them to get involved as I searched for wherever I had left my bag.

I felt so alone, and realized I was scared. And no matter what I said, or however urgently I said it, everyone I met replied with silence. Frustrated, accusatory silence.

I found my bag, but when I pulled out the multipurpose tool I saw the screwdriver was now larger than it had been before. I ran to the box and franticly attacked the screws. As they came out they cracked and split the glass, letting the water rush out onto the floor.

(I never did see the fish again. Perhaps it was just there in the  beginning to help me understand the purpose of the box?)

I caught the soaking wet gerbil as it fell and laid it on top of the the low wall to catch its breath while I took my bag back to wherever I had grabbed it from. When I returned to the animal it appeared to be in worse shape than when I had left it only moments before, and none of the people standing around had stepped in to try to help it.

“What’s wrong with you?” I yelled at them. “It’s dying! Why didn’t any of you do something to help him while I was away?!”

More silence as shoulders were shrugged and backs were turned.

I scooped the little fellow up and cupped him in my hands, stroking his head and face with my fingertip and blowing warm air across his fur to dry him off. He opened his eyes and began moving around a bit. I was so happy that he was alive and recovering, and so angry that no one had done anything to help us. I didn’t know any more about what to do than any of them did, you know? They should’ve done something.

Why didn’t they do something?

Where They Are Needed: A Dream

“If stories come to you, care for them.” B. Lopez

I dreamed last night I found a fat, white, aquatic ferret with a black tipped tail like an ermine. Its claws were long, its fingers scaly like a lizard’s, and its teeth looked like they belonged in the jaws of a dinosaur we should be glad has gone extinct.

The creature interacted well with my current ferret brood, but kept leaving them injured after playing with them because of its deadly jaws and paws. It scurried in and out of my arms, up and down and around my torso, playful and chittery and surprisingly heavy in my hands. It was used to living under water and alone, but seemed so much to want to stay with us. It grew happier and happier, and more and more playful, even as its fur would dry and it would have to run back into a rocky pool to wet up.

And so I told it I would keep it as long as it wanted to stay.

I tried to create a place for it to live in my home, separated from my other ferrets so it wouldn’t accidentally hurt them, but every tank I found for it leaked.

Before I could find a solution, I woke up.

“Remember on this one thing, said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.”
– Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel


I fell back asleep and dreamed I was taken- not with force, but not by choice- onto a giant, steel ship. I was lead below deck to a giant passenger hold like a commuter car on a puddle jumper train. There was an empty seat to my left, so I took it and belted in. And then strapped in. And then belted in some more. What was this? Why all the extra safety measures for simply sitting in a seat on an enormous boat?

I looked up, and the ceiling above my head was a window full of twilit clouds and sky. The captain’s voice came over the speakers all around announcing that all personnel should find their seats because we were about to dive.

It was a submarine?

I panicked.


I looked up through the window. We dove. I could not determine the angle of our descent, except that I knew it must have been sharp as the ocean around us was almost immediately tar dark through the windows at each row of seats. I checked the ceiling view again. No stars, no sky, not even water. Just blackness. I pictured the window above me cracking and wondered if pressure or drowning killed more quickly.

“God? I love you.”

I gripped my arm rests, ready to die there in the unavoidable rush of an unchosen sea.

The captain’s voice came on again to say we would continue to take on passengers at various undersea docking points. We did so, each time diving deeper down to avoid the subsequent barrage of torpedo fire from the new passengers’ previous vessels. They were refugees of some sort. Were we taking on good guys? Bad guys? I never knew.

Golden Drawing Room of the Zimní Palác

I got up from my seat under the guise of looking for a restroom, and set about exploring. I found myself in an empty great hall with gold walls and vaulted ceilings. An exhausted group of five or so wilting strangers approached me. I assumed they were our most recent pick up, so I regarded them as fellow commuters.

They were heading toward a nearby bench, so I sat down on it to join them. The youngest in the group was a woman with auburn hair who looked to be in her 20s. She sat beside me on the bench, curled up under my arm, and went to sleep. Another woman, who carried herself like the leader of the band, her hair dark and broken, her jacket creased and worn, worked her face into a small smile for me, and leaned back against the wall behind us to go to sleep herself.

The hall was vast and silent, the walls glittering, the chests of the strangers rising and falling. I tightened my arm around the sleeping girl to keep her from slipping. She opened her eyes, thanked me, said she loved me, and went back to sleep. I stared ahead, wondering without care if anyone missed me in the dim tunnel of belted seating I’d left behind.

Suddenly a door to our left burst open, admitting four giant men, skin painted dark as the ocean, makeshift spears in hand, and looking for all the world like they’d just arrived from hiding in plain sight as a mannequin display. The sleeping group woke and leaped to their feet as the men demanded I join them. Not “them” the four men, but “them” the four men and the troupe of sleepers. I realized they had not been picked up, they had snuck aboard- and they were all working together.

“It’s time,” said the dark haired woman. “This is why you’re here. We need you to tell the captain. It’s over. It’s time.”

The painted men had set down their weapons and were changing into black pants and shirts from bags I had just noticed them carrying. “Yes,” said one. “She’s right. We can’t wait any longer. We are all here now and it’s going to work this time. You must tell the captain that this is right, and that you are leaving with us.”

“I love you,” whispered the younger woman. “Come with us. Tell the captain. It’s time.”

I felt the ship shift and dive, faster than before. A look to a window revealed more torpedoes speeding past.

“I can’t,” I said. “It’s not my place. I’m not a part of this. I don’t even know who you are. I’d get in so much trouble, and it will never work.”

I wanted all my excuses to be wrong. I wanted these people to be right. I wanted them to be heroes. I wanted them to save the day while I watched from the best seat in the house. And somewhere buried under fears of death by pressure and drowning, I wanted to be one of them.

“Help us. Please.”

“I can’t…”

I woke up.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
– Anaïs Nin

Paraguay Blog #8: Maybe it’s something in the (ice) water

Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud. Your assistance is requested in the F Wing…

Last night I dreamed I was watching a football game on TV.

Good grief…

© Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images North America

So anyway, I was watching this football game being played in Wisconsin during the dead of winter, so I suppose it would be safe to assume it was a Packer game. The field was covered in ice and several feet of packing snow, and was surrounded by tens of thousands of spectators filling the stands while two balding announcers  in outdated neckties commented on every last detail from their overhead vantage point in their special booth.

I was ready to “change channels” on this waste of a dream when the announcers began shouting excitedly about a football player who, upon being run out of bounds during a play, had fallen into a frozen pit at the edge of the field. Overhead cameras zoomed in, filming straight down into the abyss. The pit went down a good thirty feet before curving slightly, keeping the floor of the hole just out of view. There was a flimsy red, metal ladder hanging down into the hole, but it only reached down ten feet or so. Beyond that, anyone in that hole would be on their own.

Cheers erupted suddenly from the crowd as the football player, using nothing but adrenaline and pure strength, climbed up out of the pit and ran right back into the game. That is a person who knows the terrain. That is a person who belongs there. That, friends, is a hero we can count on.

Cue the National Anthem.

Click the image to read about a group of scientists who climbed into ice pits ON PURPOSE.

I had begun wondering what the point of this dream was when the announcers started snickering into their lapel mics, laughing and joking as the crowd pointed and hooted, rolling their eyes. It seems another man, a man working in some capacity along the sidelines, a man whose other job was as some sort of art teacher, had also slipped into the pit of snow and ice after being told by one of his superiors to jump across it.

“He’ll never get out of there!” The first announcer’s tone was shocked but gleeful.

“You’ve got that right,” responded the second. “So ah- what would you say those temperatures are like down in the pit there?”

“Oh I’d say it’s gotta be at least below zero, eh?”

“Oh you betcha. At least below zero. Maybe even less than that, eh?”

“Oh yeah. Yeah, at least. Or more. Yeah?”

“Yeah. Probably more. I just hope he can get out in time!”

More chuckling.

“Yeah, I hope so too. ‘Cause there’s no way they can get a rescue crew down there fast enough to save him before he dies from that cold. He’ll die down there in that ice pit, wouldn’cha say?”

“Oh yeah. Definitely. He’ll definitely die if he stays down in that snow too long. And all that ice? Yeah. I’d say he’ll probably be trapped down there too long and there’ll be no saving him.”

I wanted to wake up. It was all too uncomfortable and my brain was getting all squirmy. But I couldn’t. Not yet. I had to know if the man would ever escape the ice pit, so I carried on dreaming, refusing to let things go lucid and shuttering my conscious mind from whatever my subconscious mind was trying to work through.

Though God only knows that by this point I was pretty sure I had a lock on that “great mystery”…

The crew of the Endurance playing football out on the ice (© Frank Hurley)

The crowd was beginning to give up on the man in the ice pit, the man who was a mind finding its way in a world of muscle in an attempt to make ends meet, trapped in ice and snow so foreign and so lethal that it was already taken as a given he would not- could not- survive. The cameras were zooming out, and retreating. The players were lining back up to resume the game. The announcers were laughing their way back to more interesting banter about subjects like how far someone had thrown a thing, or how someone else had failed to catch it.

And then we saw him. Me, the crowd, the announcers– we saw an arm from the man in the pit as it clawed its way into view before the last camera finished moving away. The crowd held its breath. The man’s other arm inched higher up the wall of the narrow pit. He swung a leg out as he gained on the narrowest part of the pit near the top, pushing his back against one side and his feet against the other. Rescuers could have helped him at that point, but they didn’t even try. He had been as good as dead in their eyes. All this was just a bonus, just something to watch, his struggle mere filler before a commercial break during which he would be forgotten.

His hand flew up over the top of the pit, ice melting under his fingers before refreezing to his skin. Another moment’s struggle and he was free. Above ground. Safe.

But the crowd did not respond.

I wanted to tell the man to run, to get away from the pit, from the field, from that world where he did not belong, but of course I couldn’t. I was just a spectator myself, as guiltily silent as the tens of thousands watching these events take place in person. Maybe the people in the stands were holding back because they, too, felt powerless in their position as spectators? Or was it because for them it was all simply something unexpected they were only casually trying to figure out?

Whatever the reason it soon didn’t matter, because just as I reached that moment of wanting to warn the man to leave, someone on the sidelines pushed him back into the pit. The announcers resumed their babbling. The crowd returned their attention to the field. The players locked their eyes back on the ball.

He would be forgotten.

But not by me. Not even after I woke up.


Incidentally, when Googling the phrase “ice pit” the first result was for a place in Wisconsin where one can intentionally climb ice

Lennon/ McCartney/ Encouragement: A Dream

For Karin C. and Corey R. who asked: An unreadable dream with a plot but a fully unsatisfying ending. In three parts.

Part I: Lennon/McCartney/Encouragement

In my dream last night I was traveling somewhere with a much older woman I didn’t know and whose name I never learned. Let’s call her Mrs. Stranger. We were in an airport, waiting to begin the first leg of our journey, but the entire place appeared to be empty. And there, on the floor of this empty airport, I suddenly found myself giving birth. Mrs. Stranger held the baby, a boy, for a moment before handing him back to me and saying we should change our plans and take the baby to its father before continuing on. In the dream I never knew the detail of who the father was, but I did know I didn’t like him.

Athens Airport

I cradled my new son, trying to decide what to do, vaguely aware it was all just a dream. I began singing “Amazing Grace” to my sleeping baby and thought maybe I’d name him John, after John Newton, knowing even then my child had a life ahead of him that would require much grace. There’s part of me lately that’s really wanted to name my son Paul, after the Apostle, and I remember thinking either way I’d have a son named after a Beatle. I smiled. I remember thinking it was too bad I couldn’t name him Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement,” because I just might like Barnabas best out of the entire New Testament, and because all I wanted to do in that moment was love on my son and encourage him to hold fast better than I had.

I settled on John.

Mrs. Stranger and I decided we ought to leave, if not to introduce my son to his father then at least to wait at home until there were people working at the airport. As we prepared to leave I realized I couldn’t find my purse. It was a shiny red number identical to a black one I own in waking life. The purse contained my cell phone, wallet, black moleskine notebook, and a few other nondescript items. We scoured our level of the airport, as well as the floors above and below where we’d been. All three were equally abandoned, and none appeared to harbor my missing purse.

We left the airport and headed to a place that may have been home; not a house, not any building in particular, just a place that felt remotely like where we belonged. I didn’t want to be there. Something felt wrong. But we couldn’t stay on an abandoned level of an airport forever. People around us, more strangers to me, cooed over the baby. Some offered to help find my purse; none were successful.

An older man with thinning white hair was so excited to show me he’d found some raw materials to piece together to make me a new purse, and some new things to put in it; a new phone, a new wallet. But when I saw what he was using I didn’t want his help. He had sheets of heavy white plastic the size of manhole covers with handle holes already cut out. He was going to nail two pieces together, paint them red, and fill them with the new things for me. I wanted to be grateful. I felt sad he was trying so hard to help me when it wasn’t what I really wanted or needed. It wasn’t really my purse. I left as he returned excitedly to his work.

From that point on I don’t think I ever held my baby again.

Part II: Thrown Into the Sea

Mrs. Stranger and I left once again for our ultimate destination (a place I was never quite sure of) and learned we were to have an eight or so day layover in a town we were to pass along the way. We were ushered into an expansive luxury suite in an enormous hotel in the middle of the night shortly after our arrival. A porter brought in our bags.

“What floor are we on?” I asked Mrs. Stranger.

Forma Urbis Romae

“The twelfth,” she beamed, as she threw open the balcony doors and we stepped out to get a better view of our temporary host city. “Vegas!” she grinned, winking at me as we surveyed the stone, brick, and clay city laid out before us. In the smoky night air every light in every building was glowing, with enormous fire pits scattered throughout the city for added light, their garish orange flames leaping twenty feet in the air, towering over most of the surrounding buildings.

We knew it wasn’t Las Vegas. We had actually been sent to Babylon in the glory days of Mesopotamia. A historian’s dream come true! Yet I didn’t know what I wanted more: To hide in our room so no one would realize we didn’t belong in this time period, or to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore this lost wonder.

A dark mountain towered over the city to the left, father of a range of mountains that continued out and around the city coming almost full circle to encompass it on the right as well. I was sick with fear. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I missed my son and wanted to continue on our journey so we could ultimately return home.

And then suddenly there we were, out in the city.

Except it wasn’t some ancient metropolis like it had appeared to be from our window. It was a modern city, complete with a single-ride theme park. We approached their roller coaster, designed to look like a Chinese dragon. It’s body was light purple, with swaths of sour green stretching along its full length. Its head was also purple, with a curling white beard carved into waves around its giant face, its mouth open in a permanent growl, its narrowed eyes focused permanently on the track before it. The designers had intended it to look majestic, but it just looked grotesque. I balked.

“We’ll just ride it once,” said my companion, “and then we need to find a gift store to buy souvenirs for our friends.”

Nothing in me wanted to get into one of the waiting carts forming the body of the dragon. The heights looked so high I knew my stomach would spend most of the ride in my throat. The depths looked so low I was afraid I’d end up plastered to my seat from the speed of each descent.

“Let’s go back,” I pleaded.

Walking Dragon, Qing Dynasty

And then we were on the ride, soaring, dropping, hard right turns, hard lefts, but something wasn’t right. As we plunged down one of the hills I felt the back end of the line of cars come loose from the track. We continued on, diving so far down at one point I thought for sure we were going to plummet right through the tracks and continue on into the earth. Instead the track plunged thirty feet down into a man-made lake, and us and our ride along with it.

I figured if we kept moving at our current speed we’d travel the under water portion of the track quickly enough we wouldn’t all run out of air and drown. I held my breath in terror as the dragon sped along, when I turned toward the tail end of the line of cars and saw children being flung from them as one after another became so dangerously detached from the track they had begun whipping around in the water like a tail, threatening to collide with the rock and reef formations to our sides. One child tried grabbing on to the track as she floated down into the water, but it sparked at her touch causing her to draw her hand back in pain. And then she was gone, sinking into the unlit depths beyond our view.

I looked ahead in time to see my companion grab at some objects floating past her, just as the line of cars reached the next upswing of the track, ferrying us out of the lake. The dragon slowed to a stop to allow the remaining riders to disembark.

“I got our souvenirs!” she gushed, holding up the items she’d grabbed in the water during the scariest part of the ride. “Look– two rings! We can give these to…” and she named some of the people we were on our way to see. More people I didn’t know; residents of another unknown place.

“That’s fine. Let’s just go back to the hotel,” I begged.

And so finally we went.

I awoke briefly, then fell back asleep and found myself back at the airport where a male dog- a security dog? someone’s pet?- had just eaten one of the rings. Mrs. Stranger was wailing and screaming in anger and frustration over what had happened. I looked at the dog, watched its face turn mean. It began barking, slobbering, running loose through the airport, terrorizing the patrons. My stomach began to turn with anxiety. Waves of abdominal pain left me confused and unsteady. And then we were gone.

Part III

Pharaoh Hound

Mrs. Stranger and I found ourselves in a high-end apartment overlooking a large, modern city of bright skies and towering buildings made of metal and glass. The apartment- home to whoever it was we’d been traveling to see- was beautifully furnished with tall tables, plush leather couches, green marble kitchen counter tops. Even their dog, a young but full-grown female, looked expensive. One of those short-haired  slender dogs with legs like tapered candles.

I wandered around the kitchen, peeked into the bathroom, glanced over the entryway. During my self-guided tour I noticed the dog had come along side me. She was beautiful and affectionate. I pointed for her to go into the living room so my companion could see her. When she reached the living room, however, she snatched the second ring from my fellow traveler’s hand and ate it.

As Mrs. Stranger began screaming and cursing at the dog for what she’d done I felt my stomach begin to flip again. The pain was unbearable. I stumbled, fell, crawled into the bathroom, and faced a worrying decision: stay or go? I was too embarrassed to leave it in case I was about to be as violently ill as I felt like I was, but too afraid to stay lest the dog should become wild like the one at the airport had and go on to kill everyone in the living room, strangers all. Could I trust my companion to be prepared? But no; I knew I could not as she’d been so distracted by her own fury during the first dog’s rampage she hadn’t noticed how vicious it had ultimately become.

Weeping with pain and panic I collapsed on the floor. I struggled to rise almost as quickly as I’d fallen when I saw I’d just given birth to half a dozen or more crying, biting animals the size of my fist and covered in spikes. The pain had subsided, but I couldn’t bring myself to open the bathroom door because– what if these things escaped?

I felt like everything was falling apart. My life. This place. The world. And all I wanted was to find my baby, my John, my Paul, my Barnabas. But I knew it was hopeless to even look for him, so I woke up.

Tomato: A dream

“True love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT– mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich– where the mutton is lean and the tomato is ripe.” Miracle Max (William Goldman)

Always a bridesmaid…

I dreamed last night it had been arranged that three other women and I should marry four boorish young brothers from a wealthy family that was having trouble marrying off its sons. I found myself in a church I didn’t know, using a poorly lit room that had been converted into a dressing room for the four of us and our bridesmaids. All the girls were talking and laughing except me. I didn’t know what was happening and had no one to ask as I stood there alone with no bridesmaids.

I slipped my dress on over my head. Where the other girls were putting on traditional, white gowns with lace and delicate embroidery, mine was an ill-fitting smokey blue taffeta. As soon as the other girls were engrossed enough in their chatter to not notice my absence, I ducked out through a side door and into a dimly lit hallway. I was sneaking out because I had to find someone to whom I could tell the truth and seek help. The truth was: I didn’t know which of the four brothers I was engaged to and I didn’t want to go through with the wedding. I had to find someone to ask for the name and appearance of the brother I was to marry so I could at least walk up to the right one when my turn came.

I don’t know why I didn’t choose to just leave. Maybe I couldn’t?

As I walked the hallway in search of someone to talk to I remembered a home movie I had been shown of the oldest of the brothers. In it he was sitting in an easy chair in the living room of one of the family’s summer cabins. He wore a shabby, pale blue sweatshirt from the 80s bearing an old Pepsi logo on the middle of the chest. His blonde hair was greasy, thin, and spiked. His doughy face was mostly expressionless in its perch above his myriad chins and his stomach slipping out past the hem of his sweatshirt. The video ended when he got up to check on some activity happening behind the person with the camera. I hoped this wasn’t the brother for me.

Squirrely boys will be squirrely boys

I found a young man helping out back stage for the service. He seemed laid back and fairly unconcerned about the whole event. Thinking he was probably uninvolved enough not to rat me out, I confessed I didn’t know which brother to go to  when my turn came and asked if he could advise me. He was able to tell me I was engaged to the youngest of the four who it turned out was little more than a child. I asked what he looked like so I would know him when I saw him. He said he was “short, kinda squirrely,” and that he was being brought over with his small, black poodle on the family’s helicopter at that very moment.

My heart sank. My stomach dropped. My head maintained altitude. I thanked the young man and kept walking.

I never did find the boy.

I came upon a set of wide double doors that led into a room that was a cross between a concert stadium and a sanctuary. I wandered in the semi-darkness looking for the youngest brother while listening to the ceremonies of the first two girls. I expected the ceremonies to continue as I hadn’t reached my own unfortunate turn yet, but then, abruptly, it all ended. Two of the brothers had never shown up, so two of us didn’t get married. I was instantly relieved because I hadn’t wanted to marry this person, this boy, when I didn’t even know him, but humiliated I’d been left at the alter with thousands of people present to witness my abandonment by a child.

I went back into the dressing room to change and found that all of the girls were gone and the furniture had been changed back to suit the room’s original purpose. It was a choir classroom and a young woman with dark hair was directing a choir of school age boys in dark ties and white dress shirts. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone in the room. I said I just needed to find someone and promised to keep out of their way if they’d just let me through. All eyes were on me. I heard the students whispering, talking about what had just happened in the ceremony, snickering. I felt the teacher’s glare on the back of my head as I hurried by.

I passed through a door on the other side of the classroom and found myself in the back hallway of a small coffee shop. I made my way through it into the light of the coffee shop proper. To my right there was a girl reading at one of the tables, and straight ahead of me there was a man about my age working behind the counter. I walked up to the counter and explained my frustrating situation to the man; that it had been arranged that I should marry a young boy I didn’t know, that he’d never shown up, and that now I couldn’t even find the other girls I’d been with before the ceremony since they all left while I was away. He told me the same thing had happened to his boss,  a woman named Bonnie whom he spoke of with great affection. He said she owned the coffee shop and had been engaged to be married to one of these four brothers as well even though she had a good thirty years on even the eldest of them. He said she hadn’t even shown up herself.

Knowing that, it suddenly all seemed so silly now. So forgettable. Knowing I wasn’t alone, and that the situation could’ve been even more bizarre, did so much to soothe my worry as I gratefully accepted the fact that I hadn’t gotten stuck in something horrible and so could go back to normal life at my own pace.

I thanked the man and turned to leave when somehow I found myself talking to him on my cell phone. He was so pleasant, so friendly, such a change from these strangers I kept running into who didn’t know me, who made plans about my life on my behalf, and who then disappeared before I could get any satisfactory resolutions to my concerns. He felt like a friend.

We hadn’t been talking long when the man asked if I’d come over the next morning before work for some gum.

“Gum?” I laughed.

“Yeah, you know. Just– come on over before work and hang out. It’ll be fun. I’m afraid all I’ve got on me is gum so it’s all I can offer.” I could hear him smiling.

“…the lamb was sure to go.”

While still talking to him on my cell phone I wandered back down the hall I’d first entered at the shop and saw a door that was open just a crack. Through that gap I saw I had reached the shop’s office, and there inside was the guy I was talking to seated at the desk, talking to me and grinning. I opened the door and said it was just too hard to meet before work but would he like to hang out now? He said he would and suggested he could show me around the building. On our little tour we came upon a mysteriously cavernous storage room, like a warehouse designed by Mark Danielewski. My new friend called me over to see a red toy piano he’d found and excitedly began dinging out songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Several keys were missing, however, so none of the songs sounded quite right and we ended up not staying very long.

Before I knew it we were back at the outside door of the shop and I was saying I needed to head home. I realized I held in my hands a white piece of paper and a yellow CD I’d picked up in the warehouse. I handed them back to the man saying I didn’t even realize I’d taken them when he offered to walk me to my car. Thrilled to have finally found a friend in a dream I said yes. We walked outside into a bright summer day where I discovered we were near a harbor full of sailboats. The surrounding park was dotted with children on bicycles, sun bathers, and ice cream stands. It was idyllic. I never wanted to leave.

When life gives you tomatoes…

As we walked my new friend offered me a few pre-cut bites of tomato so sweet and ripe his fingers were dripping with juice and seeds. It wasn’t something I’d normally eat as a snack, but I was so happy for the company and the beautiful day I accepted a few pieces and popped the first one into my mouth. It was sweet, and melted on my tongue like soft chocolate. We kept walking, laughing, trying to talk between bites.

As we neared a line of trees separating the park from the rows of cars that were our ultimate destination, I found I couldn’t talk around the tomato at all now. As I’d chewed it had begun to swell, mutton-like, in my mouth with each bit, and had lost its pleasant flavor to the point where it tasted like nothing at all. I turned my back to my friend so I could spit my current piece out into the grass. He didn’t mind; he just laughed.

He asked if we could meet again and I was suddenly overcome with sadness because I knew we couldn’t. I wracked my brain for ways to make it work, half aware I was dreaming and so this was impossible, half confident this was reality and there was no good reason I couldn’t return. I smiled, said I’d try. “But you shouldn’t wait for me,” I explained, feeling like a heel for not being honest with him by admitting I’d never be here again.

He thanked me for our nice afternoon and asked if he could give me a kiss goodbye; I nearly cried. “Of course,” I said. He gave me a a quick kiss, smiled, and turned to walk back through the park to the coffee shop. I kissed the back of his shoulder as he took his first step away, turned towards my car, and forced myself awake.

Fog: A dream

There’s a place I come to quite frequently in my dreams. An open field, bare save for scattered, short trees. It’s always just at the edge of whatever place I’m in with the other participants in my dream. We’re  all of us together, doing whatever the dream is about, when suddenly we emerge into this wide, grassy place. I find I never look at anything in it more than a few feet above the ground. Maybe I can’t? The sky always turns gray, moves lower, the air grows very still. But why don’t I ever look up? Maybe I know I don’t need to; that whatever I need to see is at the level of the grass, at the level of the trunks of the surrounding, stunted trees, at the level of my own two feet.

Inevitably I lose my companions shortly after overtaking the field. I search for them everywhere, yelling their names, calling out for help, calling for them– Wait for me! I’m lost! Stop and let me find you! But they never stop. I never find them.

Inevitably I meet someone in the field- usually someone quite old, quite small- who doesn’t tell me where to go, just wanders the field with me during my fruitless search. It’s nice knowing I’m not alone, but wouldn’t it be nicer to have my companions by my side once again? But once lost they’re never found. Sometimes I hear them talking, laughing, running from me. And then even my new companion is gone.

Inevitably I reach the far edge of the field and begin the next stage of the dream. Alone. And it’s scarier. And it’s darker. And things happen faster and in bigger ways.


Last night’s dream- after wandering the hills, ruts, and grasses of the field yet another night- brought me to a place I’d never been before. I’ve forgotten much of it so I won’t attempt to recreate parts I can’t commit to the page with full honesty. But of what I do remember… Where was I? I was running from someone. Or something. Or someone. Or many people. Something frightening, but I wasn’t scared. Shot through with adrenaline, but not scared. I kept on running along the edge of a valley thick with trees to my right, and a plain of nothing to my left. Just running.

I found myself driving a truck. A beast of a machine. Tall like a house, wide like two elephants running abreast. I found myself driving this truck west along the top of a wall designed for just such travel. I drove faster, faster. I wondered if this was the Great Wall of China, wondered if I could be seen from space, worried if I met people I would run them over, worried how I would ever get down.

I stopped at a guard shack built atop the wall and found myself on the ground to the wall’s north side, hiding my belongings in a bookshelf buried in a cluster of bushes. I did this when I saw one of the shelves was filled with black clothing, all my size. I knew I’d be better off dressed in those things than in my own clothes, muted though my own colors were. Better off hidden, I thought. Better off out of sight. I laughed when I saw wrapped in my new black sweatshirt were three pair of underwear, also black. Wherever I was going I was going to be there a long time!

I left behind everything I had with me, save my purse which held my glasses, my wallet, and a pen. I dumped wrappers, lipstick, unnecessaries. I stuffed spare underwear and socks down inside it and took off running again through the trees, now joined by two male companions, one younger, one much older.

Where are we, I asked them.

Korea, the older one replied. Do you know you have brought word the edge is safe? Do you know she knows it’s a united nation once again?

The “edge” was something never explained to me. “She” was the new leader of Korea. Someone I didn’t know. Some name I never heard. She was no one to me, but she was someone to someone. And by running, by driving, by racing from a place where everything fell apart to this, I had proved it was possible to connect these two points. I had inadvertently proven whatever danger lurked in the plains to the south or the valleys to the north on the left and right of that unknown wall, it was passable territory now. It could be done. Done by anyone. Even me.

And I was glad I hadn’t known where I was, or what I had been doing, or I would have been too afraid to run, to drive, to go. I would’ve known myself incapable. But as things stood I knew something good had happened and that I had really done absolutely nothing to bring it about. I’d done nothing, and everyone knew it, and yet they were content with me. I could suffer no blame, enjoy no praise. My journey was separate but parallel.

And the three of us set off running.