On the morning of my presentation at a life writing conference called The Story of the Story I had a dream that felt so real it still seems as though it actually happened. I dreamed that when it came time for me to present my paper in the Noel Stockdale room within the library at Flinders University I went ahead of the others to set up and to tweak my paper for the last time.
In my dream an old friend, who is now dead, LB was the conference convenor. LB once lectured me in psychology. He was born around the same time as my father.
People had already arrived in time for the third day of the conference to begin. They sat in rows faces turned towards the front in readiness. LB asked me to start. Some people were still rustling papers and chatting to one another, so I had to repeat my first sentence. Then I started fumbling my words. I lost my place on the page and could not find it for what seemed like ages. People shifted in their seats and began to talk among one another. I could not regain their attention. I tried from the beginning and spoke loudly but my words would not flow.
I had rehearsed and rehearsed. I had tried hard. Now here it was: my turn to present, my turn at last, last speaker of the conference, and I could not get the audience to listen.
I tried to catch LB’s eye, to plead with him to get the audience to settle, but he would not look at me. The people in the audience then seemed to lose patience altogether and before I knew it they had decided to break for morning tea.
I had lost my opportunity to present. It had passed without my saying a word of what I needed to say. I was devastated and stood at the podium in tears. There was a small group of people nearby, the ones with whom I had shared a car en route to the conference. They ignored me, too. I was furious, but flooded with tears.
In my dream LB had become a medical doctor not just a PhD. I wailed to a woman nearby about how unfair he had been in not insisting to the audience that I be allowed to have my turn. I had tried so hard to prepare and now no one wanted to hear from me.
I woke sobbing and nothing felt as if it would ever be any good again.