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.