Two minutes later as people are gathering in the man’s lounge room, that from the perspective of my dream is also the Camberwell lounge room of my childhood, he is now in the centre of the room, loud and confident, however emotionally disabled.
I feel a shot of jealousy when the man hands back a woman’s manuscript full of praise for its content. I wish it were me.
We settle down to a reading during the course of which I notice that someone has not turned off the tap attached to a hose in the centre of the room. Water gushes down behind the couch and I want to interrupt to ask permission to turn it off but I dare not.
I mutter to the person beside me about what we should do and the teacher is furious at the interruption. Who is responsible for this noise? He decides it must be another man who sits in front of me and proceeds towards him.
‘Put out your hand,’ the teacher says as if he is about to cane a student.
‘If anyone’s responsible then it’s me,’ I say.
The teacher does not want to strap me, I can see, but he cannot back out of his threat to punish the person who made the noise, so he slaps me lightly on the upturned palm of my hand.
The class continues and I am now with a doctor about to operate on a fish that needs surgery. It is a primitive form of surgery without the aid of anaesthetic and involves cutting out a section below the fish’s gills. I wince as the knife cuts through the flesh and the fish falls unconscious.
Sometime later I open a case the doctor has sent to me, inside of which I find the fish now in two and still alive. In one corner of the case and nearby I see something squishy wrapped in glad wrap. I peel off the plastic and a frog leaps onto the flat of my hand. It is the ugliest frog I have ever seen, a murky grey colour with folds of slimy flesh that hang over its jowls. But it seems a happy frog and I realise the doctor has created this frog-like creature as an experiment: a new form of life however hideous.
In my dream my daughter’s boyfriend, a pilot, arranges to hire a plane to take us interstate so that we might attend a friend’s wedding.
It seems a good idea at first but as time passes and it becomes more difficult for the young man to arrange a plane I start to have misgivings. He is not an experienced pilot, as he flies only for pleasure. He has not clocked up the hours of a professional. I begin to imagine that we might crash. Is the anxiety worth it? I wonder.
I would be so anxious about the flight to and from our destination that I would almost prefer not to go at all.
Then I find myself in a restaurant with my youngest daughter. I am dressed in night clothes, pyjamas that are made of some strange thick Hessian or herringbone fabric, like that of a tweed jacket wrapped around my legs. We take a seat at a table and the restaurateur comes up to us and jokes about our clothes. My daughter is also dressed for bed.
We are killing time, I tell him, while waiting for the go ahead to fly.
Next I live in a tropical jungle. I notice a young woman on board an animal of some sort careering into the jungle. Ahead of her I can see that a dust storm has blown up. I know it will be dangerous for the woman to go further but she will not stop.
I send an envoy, a type of Tinkerbell fairy who lights up the dust particles in the air so that the woman can see where she is going. The woman ignores my fairy who pleads with her to return. The woman continues to ignore her until the fairy changes the colour of her clothes into a green shawl and the woman is so entranced by it that she snatches the shawl from the fairy’s shoulders and the fairy manages to turn the woman around and to bring her back to me.
‘Sleep here with us, ‘I say to the woman, until the storm dies down. I point her to the curved end of a long sickle shaped bed inside a white tent and zip up the entrance against the howling dust outside.
It is summertime and in my dream I am on holidays in Japan. We stay in the hotel Nova in downtown Osaka. I know it is Osaka although I have never been to Japan.
I have gone out this morning for a walk with my baby in my arms. My baby is a boy. He is dressed lightly in a blue jump suit and I carry him in my arms for convenience.
In this dream my baby drops in and out of my awareness, as he drops into and out of my arms. One minute I carry him, the next he is not there. At one point, when he is not there, I manage to take a tram into the centre of the town. While I am in town I stop at a street vendor’s stall. The vendor sells small Japanese sweet cakes covered in sesame seeds and nuts.
‘I’ll have a soy cake,’ I overhear one man say to the vendor in English. The vendor is American. I can tell by his accent. He comments on how people do not tip in Japan, whereas in his hometown they always do.
The vendor works with his friend, a photographer. He makes a joke to his customer about another customer and the photographer reacts by going back inside the small shop from where they produce their food. He then pulls on leavers and presses buttons such that the floor tilts onto an angle.
' I’ll show you how to subvert reality,’ he says.
My baby once more in my arms is asleep. His head lolls against my elbow. He wakes up and posits a little of his milk – thick, white curd around his lips. No sooner do I mop up the excess with a loose cloth nappy that hangs at my side, than more milk rises into and from my baby’s mouth.
Another man comments on the way the baby sleeps in my arms.
‘Does he ever get to sleep in a bed.
‘At night time,’ I say. ‘We are on holidays, on the move. We want to see the sights.’
I make plans to come back here to Osaka during the wintertime but I wonder whether I could ever bear the cold. I do not have the thick coat necessary for life in the snow.
And what about the baby?