Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dream Island Obsessional Park

It doesn't take an advanced degree to get the point behind some dreams.

Last night, I was stranded in a swamp. There was no way from where I was to safety, save train tracks. It didn't seem smart to risk kissing the express, or falling into the fetid slime, so I sat, and soon a braver guy in a suit decided that he had to get to me from another similar tussock. I envied how quickly he was able to move. Then he tripped and went into the soup.

Luckily I had a metal cane, sort of like House, with a hooked handle that I used to fish him out. Me and some other guy got him to land. He smelled like garbage juice but wasn't as dirty as I would have expected.

The train stopped to get us, so we got back to civilization. He started behaving oddly. So did the other guy. We wound up heading back to an apartment. I had the keys; it wasn't my place; I had figured out at this point that it also was neither of theirs. They were going to rob it, needed me to open it (fingerprints, see?) and then they were going to kill me and take all the stuff.

They were watching me pretty closely. I had to be careful. I swapped keys, jammed the wrong one in the door, and snapped it off. And then they turned into ridiculous action film villains, hollering "NO" and dropping their guard. I cudgeled them both with the cane. Sweet, sweet violence! Garbage Juice Guy got it first, and stupidly, the other guy just stared at him going down while I slugged him a few more times. He seemed rather shocked when I clobbered him next.

Now, I would say, "It's over... finally, it's over..." but I know better. They're probably lying in wait for me behind next Tuesday.

The night before that, I found myself back at my high school, as a teacher. Dream Alma Mater is on my regular sleep itinerary, and it's usually bad times; variations on the standard anxiety theme such as never being told where your class is, none of the rooms are numbered, etc. Though I've never been underclothed for a final exam, it's still bad. The only consolation is that the building is different each time. (Once it was a mansion with a theater and a grand ballroom, and since I didn't know where class was anyway, I spent the entire time exploring hidden passageways. Best anxiety dream ever.)

This time, I was the teacher. It also turned out that somehow, nobody knew which subject I was handling. I joined the dream on the first day of school, or I'm sure I would have asked during the interview.

There I was, sitting in the staff room, and finally I found a bag of stuff. "This is everything you need to know," another teacher said. Nobody handed it to me. I just knew that this was my bag, and my stuff, and I'd better figure this out or people would think I was an idiot. Nobody else was told what to teach - they just showed up and grabbed their bag; get with it, Fly.

I dumped the thing out. There were some pencils, some nametags for kids, and a lump of modeling clay in a Ziploc. Terrific - I'm teaching ART, the least grammar-like of subjects; a thing I love and am bad at. (Where's Tracey when you need her? Her bag probably had the script to Oklahoma or something.) "Fine," I said. "I'll start with some basic line stuff. Perspective, geometry." I'm actually a little proud of dream-self for hitting on a plausible first lesson plan six seconds after art instruction was foisted on me. "Where's the classroom?" (Like they were gonna tell me this time.)

Well, the answer was, all the other teachers had left, and thus where I was, was class. The kids came in and took a nametag, then a pencil, and then a seat. They giggled at the functional sink and commode that were sitting in plain view along the back wall. "I'm not using them," one girl sniffed.

"There's a bathroom behind that door," I said, and it was true. "Well, I don't care," she said. "Then you don't need to go on about it, do you?" I said. (Exhibit A why I wouldn't be a good teacher.) In the meantime, somebody wrote my name on the chalkboard. It looked something like this: Mr. Çaß~..#ƒ. The class laughed. "That's not how it's pronounced," I said. "Or spelled." Or anything else. I wrote it properly - it looked like this (Mr. Nightfly) because the class ws stocked with invisible chalk.

Well, welcome to ART, anyway. "We're going to start very simply - lines, angles, and simple shapes. No matter how complicated a picture looks, it starts with geometry, so that's where we're going to start."

You're reading this right - I applied grammatical principles to ART, and thus spawned a math lesson. The snotty dream kids were having none of it. Who could blame them? Their nameless teacher was writing in invisible chalk, who was going to be able to follow the lesson nobody liked? There was heckling, and counter-heckling, and as soon as I vanquished one little pissant, two others rose to take its place. I woke up half-expecting a pink slip under the alarm clock.

If only I could be that lucky. I know that sooner or later I'll be called back for another go. Graduate any time you like, but you can never leave.

The night before that dream was the one I'm stumped on. My Dad was in it. He hasn't paid a visit in quite a while. He looked great. My whole family was there, I think. He was relaxed, he laughed, and I can't remember what he said, except that it was a short stay. I don't know if a message wandered in from the outer world - alarm soon, be quick! - so I said, "Dad, I can't tell you how good it is to see you again." I had a lot more to say, but this was all I got out before it ended.

I had wanted to introduce my wife. I wanted to tell him that I was happy, and everyone was getting along, and life was good. When I sat up I felt cheated - and then I felt ashamed of my pettiness. It's the first time I ever got the chance to say anything to him. It was boorish not to be grateful for a glimpse and a quick word. For hours I questioned myself. You suspected that you only had time for one thing, and you said that?

I didn't get it; I don't get it. I am not at all the sort who forwards endless sludgy spam about loved ones visiting us in dreams, and now they're angels! And scroll down and forward this to everyone in twelve counties, for blessings!!1! Mostly, this is why. This dream was hardly anything like those shmaltz-and-turd sundaes. No neat bow, no pat ending. (I had more resolution with the other two.) I am leaning toward happy about it, but... hell. At least last night had closure.

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