In one dream, a dream encountered once each month or so (last niht!), a password to an email service or the passcode to the office desktop itself can not be remembered. His hands don’t work. Did they ever? Or interruptions prevent him from typing it in within a fifteen-second countdown, and the entire screen is taken up with 1-5, 1-4, 1-3 … .
He has been away from the office for so long—a decade—and he sees the voice mail light flashing on his phone, but he can not remember the four-digit access code. How many messages? he wonders.
Even without the password, he catches a glimpse of the waiting emails and they scroll by quickly without him touching the mouse, and he has a deadline to meet that somehow exists simultaneously as “just missed,” “about to be missed,” and “missed a decade ago, so why are you dreaming about a job that was three or four jobs ago”? Is this even his cubicle, anyway?
No bosses are visible, but unseen forces are the only ones required in dreams, happy ones or nightmares.
He is at the door of one of the three or so retail jobs he worked at. He is at the door or he has unlocked the door and he let himself into the store and has now discovered that he can not remember the passcode to switch off the alarm that is about to go off now that he has broken in. Passwords: life appears to be a series of secrets for which every other human knows the codes but he can not remember them, if he was ever given them.
Doors and doorways. Ancient remembered histories of buildings that in fact are no longer standing. His first job was bagging groceries in a grocery store, a job that was pursued and won upon receiving his New York State “working papers” at age 14. More than 30 years ago.
Yet he still shops there in his dreams and he is certain that the layout of the sales floor in his dreams precisely matches the layout of the building as it was in life. Because the building is no longer there, this can not be tested, so of course his layout indeed matches it to the square inch. There was a passageway between the grocery and a large department store next door that was never manned by any security officers. Stolen, now empty, food packages were frequently found in the department store, and stolen, empty clothes boxes were found in the grocery aisles. He stands in that passageway. Both buildings are empty. He is not supposed to be in there.
The house he grew up in is the one he must get to. A house he lived in for six months almost 30 years ago is one he must get away from. The house he lives in now is never a dreamscape location, is never visited in dreams, until it becomes a house he used to live in. Two years ago, when he saw the house he grew up in for the first time in over a decade (so much smaller!) he could not inhale because the tears surprised him. He wanted to smell the front yard, to get down and smell it, to confirm a long-ago life.
He is on a college campus, a vast one, larger than the two he was a student at, and he is on the opposite side of the campus from where he must be in a matter of not-enough-time. He has just learned this. From whom? The dream opens with error assumed. He rushes. The buildings that ought to be crowded with students and professors are empty and his favorite short-cut buildings are clown-car crowded. He has forgotten the papers he is rushing across campus to return to students for a class that last met twenty-plus years ago, or he hopes (dreams inside the dream) he will remember what he was supposed to lecture about whenever he arrives.
The sheets and blankets on the bed are a tangle around his waist when he awakens, or they are on the floor, which is evidence of walking motions, even though walking in real, awake, life is a challenge for him, yet he awakens each morning in exactly the same position he remembers falling asleep. Does he “walk” all night, or does he move just once but in a frenetic passion?
For most of his life he has preferred falling asleep to waking up. This has changed. The vexing passwords remain unremembered, but the doors and passageways in buildings that are now dust, like the one in the photo above, oh, they remain vivid. No flies on them.
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A previous version of this appeared in May. I lightly edited it (for flavor!) and included my thoughts on dreams below. Martha Kennedy used the title I wanted to use in her post today, darn it. (You ought to read her every day that she posts, and buy her book already!)
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for July 27 asks, “What is the best dream you’ve ever had? Recount it for us in all its ethereal glory. If no dream stands out in your memory, recount your worst nightmare. Leave no frightening detail out.” Well, dreams do not have meaning unless the person dreaming them believes that they have meaning … for them.
For me, they do not. Dreams do not do much of my psychological heavy lifting. At most, they are reminders, sometimes gentle and sometimes not, of things I need to think about and accept or things I think I need to act on. Conversations with others in dreams are not conversations with those others (that former professor is not thinking about adjusting my grade, and that ex is not thinking about reaching out to me); they are monologues and my psyche has for some reason or other decided to cast some of those thoughts and feelings, all of them my thoughts and feelings, in the guise of that individual. Tomorrow night, the same thought may come from a different face. My dreams are me telling me something about me, but this is only because this is something I choose to believe for me. If it is different for you, that’s great. I have a pedestrian view of dreams because life has its magical and meaningful moments, so I do not feel the need to make the portions of life such as dreams super-magical and super-meaningful.
The photo above is of an IBM building in which I worked in 2005. It is a long hallway. This is also one of the first cellphone photos I ever took, which is why it is small and fuzzy. That’s why I repeated it. The three openings that you can see on the right side of the hall are not office doors; instead, they are hallways as long as the one we are gazing down, minus the windows. Our offices were down those halls. We can see three of them, maybe four, in the photo. If you can see four, there are two more hallway openings like them that are too far away to be seen. It was a long damn hallway. The building is dust now, I believe.
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