Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Then I am trying to restore the back of a building. It seems to need painting. Is what I have painted good or not? Who is in charge? There are words on the walls, but the question is not what they say, but how do they look. Inside the rooms are full of things I don’t care about, and I’m trying to get the kids to understand that can’t let just anyone in, into the bathroom. Everywhere I turn there are flounces and trim, things I don’t like or need.
I am busy trying to get rid of someone who is being kicked out, kicked off the team. The color green is a marker, trying to keep it in mind. Tension remains in my upper arms and neck. I am getting help to get rid of someone, thinking I am someone else. How do I know? Living under the roof like a refugee, they will clear out Costa’s stuff. I read “inlaid” when the word was undone. I broke the sentence off, knowing how it might continue.
There was a large map on a table. We were adding water to it with a kind of spongy roller device. Someone showed us a specific area to make sopping wet. Then someone whose origin was that area came by and we showed her that her area was really wet. At first she didn’t get it, but we knew eventually she’d be upset. There was a wild man with little black legs and a handlebar moustache who showed up like a crazy revolutionary. It was if his legs were singed. I forgot to call Paul on the Epiphany. Then someone in my dream complains.
Later in a new dream there is a storage unit that has a way to remove something from it because there is a blue light inside it. The blue light is key. I am not worried that my dreams slip away, I no longer feel worried and I sense that I am no longer searching and anxious about it. The search is mild. The blue light keeps shining.
Monday, December 28, 2009
She was tall and elegant; the woman who came to stay, but there was something wrong. I sensed it. The back details of this dream have faded but I remember the woman offering to show us. She closed the door of my bedroom and began to peel off her clothes layer by layer. There were several layers: a long sleeved dress, followed by another, then an underskirt and two t shirts, an under blouse; so many layers of clothes and as she took one layer off after another I guessed out loud,
‘It’s because you’re thin’.
I was right, I could see already her pencil thin arms, but hers was not an ordinary thinness and when she finally peeled off the final layer of her underwear and stood before us naked I could see that it was a problem not only of thinness but also of digestion or some such ailment. It had so impacted on the texture and thickness of her skin that every item of her internal organs and structure was visible beneath the thin layer of her skin. Like a translucent membrane, it held the parts in place.
I could see the shape of her heart beating, the layered lines of her rib cage. Her intestines coiled like a thick string of beads and the little sack of her stomach bulged to one side in the middle near a smaller sack, her bladder.
I write this to describe the image of a woman who carried her insides on the outside, like a heart on her sleeve and this to the extreme. She reminded me of those illustrations you see in doctor’s surgeries, the ones designed to demonstrate the location of the various parts of the human body, the parts we cannot see.
In my dream the woman became my child and I knew that I should feed her. I sat her in front of a bowl of chicken pieces and began to entice her with other foods, left over Japanese food, sushi and sashimi. Elsewhere I took some noodles from the plate of another child who was eating nearby and encouraged my thin girl to eat up more and more. I knew that if I could feed her well enough over time her skin would grow thick and she would no longer need to hide herself behind these multiple layers of clothes.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
The head nun, who was a cross between the head mistress from my schooldays in the late sixties, Sister M, and the principle of my daughters’ school now, handed me a slip of paper. It included a description of the role I was to perform in the school play.
I looked at it briefly and felt disappointed. I was standing in the middle of the schoolyard down near the quadrangle when the head mistress, whom I shall from now on call Sister M, came over to ask whether I was happy with my part.
‘I’m not really,’ I dared to say. I dared only tell her because somewhere earlier in my dream I had read through the school manual and in it I had seen written that there was a place to complain about parts allocated in the school play if you were not satisfied.
Even as I told Sr M that I was unhappy with my part I thought I should keep it to myself. I should have swallowed my pride, but it was too late, it was out.
‘It’s a small part, I know Sister M said but we need to give the main parts to those who are best able to take on particular roles, even so this one gives you a chance to demonstrate your skills.’
One of my sisters stood nearby. She came over to see what all the fuss was about. Sister M left and my sister read through the description of my role.
‘It’s not so bad,’ she said. ‘You’re part of the roaring forties, a small part maybe, but you’ll be on stage most of the time.’
I knew then that I should not have complained but the idea of being on stage as part of the chorus in the background, nodding and smiling, gesticulating or whatever else was required, did not pleased me. Against my wishes, I began to cry. By the time Sister M arrived back with two other possible roles in the play that I might prefer I was sobbing.
I did not want these parts. It was okay. I felt apologetic and embarrassed, but as I write down my memory of the dream now, my sorrow was tinged with anger. I knew it would not do to cry, but I could not stop. Then whether I decided it was strategic for me to suggest that I was worried about other things, like how I might do in my final year at school, I do not know. But I took this line.
It was around March during my matriculation, the title of my final year at school. It seemed a more legitimate thing to be upset about than the role I would have in the play. Besides as I sobbed, I realised it was true. I was worried about my schoolwork.
I had slipped behind. I had been sick, in the same way as my oldest daughter, who in the dream became my daughter who had been sick with glandular fever the year before and virtually lost the best part of her year ten year. I was now worried that I would slip further behind, too.
I had always imagined that when you work hard then you will be rewarded with good results, but this was not happening for me now. The role I had been allocated in the school play, a small bit part on the sidelines was proof of this.
The head mistress held me in her arms to comfort me but I felt on display, the entire school of girls were watching. I did not trust the head mistresses concern. In between turns of talking to me, and holding me between the folds of her billowing black habit, she was dealing with the usual school business. She was introducing herself to would be parents of other schoolgirls and dealing with other teachers’ concerns.
Every time she turned away, I looked around me through blurry eyes at the schoolyard and wondered what I was dong there. The whole place seemed to have changed. I could no longer feel connected and I was convinced I would now fail my final school year because things no longer made sense to me as they once did.
There was an entire subject, a foreign language, something like Polish that I was meant to have studied that year but I knew not one single word of it. I wanted to tell Sister M about this but she was busy talking to yet another set of parents and by the time she came back to me the rest of the school were seated at tables for lunch. I was now back in boarding school.
Sister M looked around for a space at a table for me. The girls were all familiar to me but I could not feel a connection with any of them. I sat down at the far end near a group of girls mid conversation. They looked at me but did not engage. They did not ask questions nor did they seem interested in why I was upset. They were not judgemental about it. They were simply indifferent. I could have been invisible for all they cared.
A lizard appears from under the skirting board, long and black with a face like Batman, or Zorro, a face whose patterning gives the appearance of a mask and the lizard darts into the room where the schoolgirls congregate. They seem unbothered but my baby boy follows and wants to engage with the lizard.
I warn him off. He’s too young. I tell him when he is older and taller, then he can talk to the lizard, but not now.
For now I hope the lizard will disappear but I see that the lizard is also interested in my child. Perhaps because they are of similar height, at least they would be were the lizard to stand on its hind legs and reach for the ceiling. The lizard and the small boy eye one another off until I scoop the boy into my arms, and the lizard streaks away.
I turn to the gathering of schoolgirls with the odd boy in between.
‘Could you guys please tidy this place up before the end of the day?'
One person only responds with assurances that they will. The rest are silent. I comment on this to my oldest daughter who has walked into the room. I do not want to embarrass her. This is easy to do at this time of the day, but I want help with the mess.
Later I walked down the road to retrieve my property. After I crossed the Canadian border the houses grew charmingly antiquated and decrepit, the pavement rain-dark and grass-cracked. Everything exuded a barely perceptible aura of Europeanness.
At the garage a young man with pink spiked hair greeted me. He wore a long, olive-drab military coat with cryptic patches and black leather punk boots. He looked like a young Gary Oldman. At first he feigned ignorance of my guitar and invited me to search the truck, but when I persisted he led me to a corner of the garage and showed me my guitar. It was badly damaged. The young man admitted that he had played it and "pushed it to the limit." To quell my rage he swore up and down that he would repair it. I said I'd come back later, but I knew that my guitar was permanently ruined.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Then I realize that if our houseguests find me out there, I'd have a hard time explaining it, so I go back inside.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
My dream comes back to me. I was at a conference, or maybe it was more like a holiday at a camping ground, where people were staying in small huts or in tents attached to their cars.
It was morning and there were people everywhere. It was difficult to find a free toilet or bathroom and I noticed that the system of each waiting in turn to occupy a bathroom one after the other seemed hopeless. People were skipping the queue, which was not visible, so I took it upon myself to organise the use of showers.
Whenever someone new arrived on the scene I told them where they stood in the invisible queue. ‘You’re sixth in line,’ I said to two men who had come upon two vacant cubicles and were about to go in. There are others ahead of you. They resented it, I could see, and one woman who was about to take her turn stood back and let one of the men jump the queue because she could not bear his anger. I wondered at my presumptuousness, that I should orchestrate this affair. But no one complained, at least not openly.
I stood looking at a billboard on wheels, advertising events. There was a photo on one side of last year’s conference and as I looked I saw that it came alive. The photo turned into a video. It was a re-run of last year’s conference, which I had for some reason enjoyed so much more than this one. Then some of the characters from the video, some of the women from last year’s conference, materialised into people at this year’s conference. They came to say hello. They were pleased to see me.
Another woman came over and complained because she had heard through the grapevine that I had described her as lonely.
‘I am not lonely,’ she said. I felt defensive. I could not remember saying this about her and even if I had, what did it matter. And what about the things she and others had said about me? That I was … And then I told her of my decision to withdraw from the life of the organization that had so haunted me over these last several months.
We stood outside in the morning sunlight in a wide grassy field. I could smell freshly mown hay. I had entered a different world from the one I usually occupied and I could never go back, except perhaps in my memory. All this I considered as I stood talking to this woman from the past, and who could not understand where and why I had gone.
In my dream this morning I was back at my old school Vaucluse convent about to sit my final year English exam. In some ways I felt prepared. I had studied hard but for some reason it also felt like I was ill prepared as though the exam date had snuck up on me. I had earlier been shopping for clothes. I chose to visit Gidget in my search for a new jumper. I wanted something hip and colourful, something in an unusual style, something that might stand out from the conventional jumpers we wore every day. The shop was crowded and rather than queue for the dressing rooms I took a couple of jumpers I had already selected outside to my car and tried them on out there in the street. This did not seem such a remarkable thing to do until I considered the fact that it could look like shoplifting. How had I managed to walk so blithely out of the shop with two security-coded jumpers under my arm and not so much as one person batted an eyelid.
‘I need to get my jumper’ I said to Sister Marie as I ran back to the class room.
Now it was time to go for the exam. The entire year twelve class was lined up at the door ready to walk through the school gardens and into the assembly hall where we would sit our exam. Once Sister Marie, our English teacher had issued the order, we moved out carelessly in raggle-taggle groups of threes and fours all talking noisily. She did not object. It was fine for us to wander at our leisure to the tense destination that awaited us or so I thought. I was conscious of feeling that I would have liked more focus. Then I realised I had forgotten a cardigan or jumper. I would need one during the exam. It could get very cold in the assembly hall especially having to sit for hours.
‘Don’t bother,’ she said. But I had already gone and was back at the classroom, which was now sealed off at the downstairs entry way and I had to find some other means of getting to my school bag. I did eventually somehow in that magical way you do in dreams when doors disappear and flights of stairs can be mounted in a breath. I found one of the new jumpers, which I had eventually decided to buy and rushed back to the exam.
Reading time was already over and I looked at the questions. The exam paper was full of illustrations that seemed to come alive and to speak to me in much the way paintings come to life in the Harry Potter films. In the first question we needed to fill in the missing word, ‘mellow rhymes with…?’ I knew the answer as ‘yellow’ and was furious when I over heard one girl sitting nearby whispering the answer to another.
'They’re cheating,’ I wanted to call out. In my dream I am now ashamed to say, I dobbed, but Sister Marie did not seem to care. She was not nearly so fussed about the conduct of my fellow exam participants as I.
On one side I noticed a young woman sitting for the exam with her baby in tow. That will make things difficult I thought but the bab at that stage seemed contented and I thought to myself depending how well I go in finishing this exam, I’ll offer to help out with the baby to give the other woman a chance to finish her paper. On the other side of me my youngest daughter was picking through the paper. It was hard for her. She was only of primary school age, about six or seven.
There was a commotion outside in the quadrangle and the two cheaters got up and went outside to look. ‘More fools they,’ I thought, but then my youngest daughter wanted to join them. I tried to stop here.
‘Let her be, ‘ Sister Marie said. ‘It’s only a trial run for her.’
I knew my need to have things in order as I wanted them was over the top and tried to get back into the exam. The questions fascinated me. They seemed to be relaying a narrative in their own right. The story of someone who had lost her baby. Something akin to the details that exist in Helen Garner’s book, The First Stone – a complex plot I needed to untangle and analyse. The woman who had lost her baby refused to speak up about it and everyone else remained silent.
Friday, December 11, 2009
I was dead. And here in my dream I was driving my own hearse. Somehow I was to leave by the route I had driven there and I had to return something to some point off of La Brea down an alley. Under my breath i was singing repeatedly with a certain triumph how few get to drive their own hearse. I could begin to smell my own body but it was not a bad smell yet, being fresh. This somehow pleased me for the moment. From my pockets I removed a giant ring of too many keys. Here was a burden I still carried. I was awoken to a quick rasp on my screen door. No one was there.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I am on a high rock face leaning against the wall. Unseen passer-bys comment how what a good monument to Christ this could be made into and they place all types of “stations" around me. I agree to stand there and remain with my arms outstretched from time to time. It is decided though that this center figure who is no longer myself should be painted to remain the central focus of the monument. All around is painted one of the most beautiful Burnt Sienna I have ever seen. His body is painted this color too and his cloth a muted red that is quite harmonious to the background color. Voice says here is the painted Christ. The paint though is poisonous as it would be for this person and he becomes sick and is taken down ill before he dies.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I remember a nightmare I had when I was 14, shortly after my sojourn at a church camp. I dreamed that I was sitting in the back seat of a car parked in front of the camp's general store. The engine began to skreek and skritter like the cassette-player I used at the time. Suddenly a gargantuan panther burst out from under the hood--rather like the baby monster c-sectioning himself in Alien. His murderous eyes flashed; his muscles rippled horrifyingly under his sleek black fur. He galloped toward the car, leapt, and rammed the windshield with his head. The resultant crack-web seemed to enmesh me as the slightly dazed panther trotted away from the car, preparing to hurl himself at the windshield again... I awoke with a start.