A hallucinatory deadhead fantasy dream.
A dream fragment.
First, a disclaimer. I used to be all about writing down my dreams. I stopped doing it around when I switched the blog over to WordPress, partly because with the old site design I could separate them out from the rest of the content, inflicting them only on the interested. Actually I could still do that with the new site design, but am lazy. I guess the real reason is that I used to be a much better dreamer. Back in 2004, I actually practiced at it. I kept to a routine, meditation, little mantras before bed, note-taking, memory exercises. These days, I’ve allowed other preoccupations to take over my attention. So basically I just want to say sorry if this is boring, it probably won’t happen again. I just happened to have an interesting dream with some beer and sci fi violence that lent itself well to narration. Thank you. Read on, or not.
PS. I am using a more link, so those of you reading this in syndication are mocked. Continue reading »
I am making my way through the hauntingly familiar streets of a South American city. There are landmarks I remember: street corners, alleys, shortcuts I know I have taken before, though perhaps I can’t recall in what order they ought to come or where they lead. But I have been here before. It isn’t just a feeling. I know I’ve been here.
A broad, crowded city square. Spices on the air, the smells of barbecue. Fried plantains served in the peel from a vendor’s cart. Uneven cobblestones. There is a breeze, a sense of open water nearby, a cool palate of greys and blues punctuated by the bright colors of people’s clothes. I feel no sense of claustrophobia, yet the buildings and awnings crowd in so close I can’t see the sky.
At the west end of the square is the opera house, a breathtaking, intricate marriage of baroque and neoclassical styles. Staggered clusters of pillars, three-tiered and set with alcoves where larger-than-life marble figures in robes lounge together discussing philosophy and art like the figures of Raphael’s _School of Athens_. I lean over the rail at the edge of the curb and stare at them for a long time, astonished, more moved than I have every been by anything in the Old World. What a pompous idiot you’d have to be to criticize this place as the product of crass colonial aspirations. There is more earnestness in this facade than in that of the Coliseum.
But I stir. My attention wanders, and I follow it. There is so much more here, all so different, new. I am so glad to be back.
My cousin Luke lives in this city. His apartment is only a few blocks away, on the tenth floor of a high-rise overlooking a strangely monastic tropical garden. Moss everywhere. Weeping willows. A plaque, bearing a dedication describing the rigors undergone and good works achieved by students attending a convent school in Peru. A peaceful place, especially at dusk, with the warm light from the windows of Luke’s building trickling from above. He lives alone, in a narrow, ascetic room with his bed built into the wall behind a lightweight cotton curtain. I was there last night; I slept on his floor. Now I am trying to find my way back.
Instead I take a right, a left and a right and find myself in a cul-de-sac among the back streets of the city’s Little Tokyo. An asian dude in a black running suit gives me a suspicious look as I make my way past his posse towards a spiral staircase, vaguely recalling a shortcut somewhere above opening onto Luke’s street. But as I lose myself among the cloudy veils of laundry lines and sharp looks from old ladies on balconies, I begin to have my doubts.
Suddenly I hear my sisters calling from below. “Hey, Boon! What are you doing up there? How did you get all the way over here in Little Tokyo? We’ve been waiting for you!”
Sheepishly, I begin to make my way down again.
I never make it, but awake instead.
Erin and I and some of our friends pull off a desert highway into a small, dusty parking lot. Above us, beyond an embankment overgrown with sage, a tower looms: an iron scaffold red with rust, with a stairwell spiraling inside it. We are piling out of the car, stretching and preparing ourselves for the ascent, when a thin young man with sandy hair and a windburned face approaches us. He welcomes us and inquires after our drive in such a way as to encroach upon the boundaries of our personal space.
But then he is backing away, moving on to the next car. He must be some kind of greeter. So I shrug off my unease, collect my cane from the back seat and lead the way up the embankment to the tower.
The stairs are rickety, skeletal, shifting and creaking in the dry wind. The desert surroundings, washed out by the sun, share their palette with grimy, moss-covered sandstone. Those we pass keep a tight grip on the railings. They all seem to have lost something in the course of the ascent, dropped it over the side or lost it through the gaps between the steps. They ask us if we’ve seen any of these lost items. We haven’t, which is odd. Unless someone is collecting them up and ferreting them away after they fall.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought my cane. I try to remember whether I locked the car.
At the next landing, five or six stories up, I lean out over the rail. Below me the sandy-haired young man is tampering with the driver’s side door of the car next to ours. “Hey,” I shout. “Stop that!” The young man looks up.
The wind rises. The tower rattles and begins to shake. From somewhere above us comes the creak of shifting metal. A section of iron scaffolding tumbles past us toward the ground. The whole structure is coming apart.
“Down the stairs. Back down the stairs, quick!”
The tower lurches under our weight as we turn and rush back the way we came. In my hurry the cane flies out of my hands and slips through a gap. I can hear it clang and ping against the metal as it falls. Giant pieces of the tower dislodge themselves all around us. The sky opens above. Each time we round another flight and glimpse the parking lot, the sandy-haired young man remains frozen in place, gazing up, his arms at his sides, while around him the other tourists are piling into their cars and pulling away.
The wind and vibrations cease the moment we set foot on the solid concrete of the tower’s foundation. In fact there isn’t even any wreckage on the ground. The tower is intact. Nobody else seems to notice. They’re all still fleeing for their cars.
I turn back, look around the base of the tower for my cane. I discover the entrance to a hidden room underneath the stairs. Inside I find not just my cane, but a half-dozen others, as well as umbrellas, handbags, sets of keys. I stoop and enter the room, reaching for my cane. There are footsteps on the stairs. The sandy-haired man blocks my path. His expression and stance make it clear he has no intention of allowing me to leave.
The kleptomaniacal magician closes; we circle. A shadow crosses his face; when he emerges he has changed and grown into an enormous, shaved-bald mongoloid man, proportioned like a professional wrestler. His immense hands flex eagerly.
I flip the cane in the air, catch it again by its slender black shaft, the better to make use of the knotty head as a club. As I do so, I realize a transition has occurred in my own physical form: I am completely comfortable and unsurprised to discover that I have become Erin Hoffman: an agile little woman with a long, whiplike ponytail, a hard, faintly amused expression and a waist-length black cape.
The mongol lunges; Erin whirls out of his path and backhands him across the face with the head of the cane. He stumbles, then recovers, comes at her again. There is a dull thud as her next blow catches him square in the temple. He stands immoble, seeming to stare off between the gaps in the iron scaffold at the desert sun. The cane blurs in the air, thumps into his skull a third time, and he topples backwards into the sand.