I’m cast in a play, but don’t know my lines for the second half of the script. It’s a community production and rather modest in set design and costuming. There isn’t a stage, and the performance shares the same floor with the audience, a simple curtain delineating the backstage.
It’s opening night, and the play has already begun. I’m meant to go on stage in a few scenes. I am trying to get a hold of the script so I can cram my lines for the second half. I know this is futile, but I persist. I rummage through my bags and ask my castmates to look at their copies. However, I don’t want to raise any alarms, so am doing my best to seem nonchalant. Inside, though, my heart is pounding. My mouth tastes like metal. I have to speak in a whisper so that I don’t interrupt the play.
When I do get a copy of the script, my fears grow exponentially. I’m cast in a sci-fi/horror piece, and my character undergoes some fantastical transformation in the second act. I become a transsexual were-beast with a new name. In fact, all the characters transform and take on new identities. From skimming, I have no way of telling which character I am portraying and which lines to learn. To make matters worse, there are cartoon panels throughout the script. I’m not sure how we are meant to portray these moments on stage. I don’t know what to do.
As I’m trying to cope with all of this, another castmate that is backtage keeps speaking in a loud voice, disrupting the play. I keep trying to get her to quiet down, but she’s oblivious. It’s almost time for my cue.
I have come for my usual session but it seems different somehow. My analyst is busy sorting through clothes and books and does not sit the whole time she talks to me, and she talks, talks and talks, more than I ever remember her talking.
She tells me a few ‘home truths’. She is brutally honest, she says. She needs to alert me to certain aspects of my personality, certain ways I behave that have to do with my tendency to present only half of the picture in my dealings with others.
I cover my face in my hands. I take in every word she says and feel deeply ashamed, more so because I am aware that two of my colleagues are nearby in an adjoining room. They can hear every word of our conversation through the open door. Both colleagues have names that begin with J. I shall call one J 'rage' and the other J 'prudishness'.
How can my analyst say these things to me within their earshot I wonder? I say nothing and she does not let up until it is time for me to leave.
I am outside again on the street but now I cannot find my husband’s car. I am convinced that I had parked it immediately across the road but it is nowhere to be seen. Other cars line the street but none of them is mine.
I talk to people who go back to their cars, one or two of whom I recognise as other colleagues. They do not know where the car has gone. Eventually and reluctantly I revisit my analyst to ask if I might use her phone to call the police and to report the car as missing. She lets me in although she is still busy sorting. Her husband is more sympathetic than my analyst when he overhears talk about my missing car.
Through the front windows of my analyst’s house I see my husband’s car driving down the road as if the driver is about to park. The back of the car is covered in scratches and is dinted on one side. I rush out onto the street thinking to at least get a look at the thief who has presumably taken out my husband’s car for a joy ride.
Another of my colleagues has also recognised the car and I can see her from the front steps of my analyst’s house as she tries to get the driver to stop. She hangs onto the side door handle as the driver swerves to get away. I wish she had not done this as I do not want the thief/thieves to know we have seen them.
In trying to escape from my colleague the car swerves, hits another parked car, goes into a spin and crashes. Through the force of the crash the entire roof peels off and the car comes to a stop, a pulverised piece of twisted metal, with its occupants still seated within the security of seat belts.
There is a group of five in the car and the driver is a young woman I do not recognise. An older man in the back seat snarls at me as I move in to remonstrate with them for stealing my husband’s car. They seem too dazed to make a run for it, and I wake up.
I am in an MFA program and this dream was taking place in an MFA program. The only difference was that this wasn't taking place in a writing program; it was taking place in a mixed martial arts program.
The classes did not involve any physical contact.
I remember thinking, "I am getting this MFA in the martial arts to go ontop of my other MFA, in writing, and help beef up my resume."
I do not remember the financial aspects of this mixed martial arts MFA program being considered by my dream-self. This is odd, because in real life I worry about personal economics constantly.
I remember discussing my reasons for entering the program. It had to do with the fact that it was very much a philosophy degree, but less rigorous possibly, and also a "cool thing to study." The problem of eurocentrism in mainstream American philosophy was discussed. Comparative philosophy seemed to be my main interest.
The classes did not involve physical contact.
I remember enjoying reading and learning about the different types of martial arts, and I remember thinking (rather, my dream-self thinking) that I was eventually going to have to take a course that met the "physical contact" requirment before I could graduate with my MFA in mixed martial arts. I remember my dream-self thinking that I would wait until the last semester.
When I awoke that morning from this dream I felt like shit in the most casual hilarious way.
The wattle trees in our garden are abundant. In my dream I decide to find secateurs to cut off a few branches to put in vases. I resist the impulse to borrow my daughter’s sewing scissors for fear of blunting them. When I come up close the flowers do not seem as abundant as I had first thought but still I manage to snap off a few twigs. The flowers drop off as the twigs fall and cover me in yellow pollen.
I go inside to find vases just as my husband arrives home. The wind builds up and we go out together to check the trees, which have now disappeared. At first I imagine the wind has toppled them but soon realise someone must have chopped them down. Their stunted trucks look tiny compared to how I had at first imagined them. I am relieved that my cuts did not cause them to disappear when the alarm wakes me up.
There were these ink-dark beings, sometimes resembling humans and sometimes resembling snakes, that seemed almost liquid, that we all had to protect ourselves from. They sought out human frailties and fed on them. Too much exposure would lead to a full-force attack, and would kill a person.
So what one had to do was keep all skin completely covered, so that any one of these beings (which resided in the rafters and on the ceilings of this world that seemed mostly to be a sort of large gym), could not see any human part, because that triggered a feeding frenzy.
What one did to survive was keep covered, all in black, with a series of hats, hoods, cloaks, and when an ink-dark being neared, one crouched down on the floor or ground and wrapped one’s coverings around one and played dead.
I had a soft spot on top of my head that was now bald due to an attack where I had not properly covered myself. I had to wear a black hat at all times, and be constantly vigilant, continually scanning the ceiling beams, nooks and crannies, to try to discern where one of these dark shape-shifters might be hiding. I had to keep my head bent down and my hands covered at all times, just to survive.
Chris, Gideon and I looked around a store to get items to help organize our house. It seems like a home store, but I bought a purse here recently. I spoke to the saleswoman. One of us commented about the Banana Republic was back in it's original spot in the mall. I had forgotten that it moved to the other (less used) end. I said that end of the mall felt like a totally different mall. The saleswoman agreed.
* * *
We moved out of our house mid-morning and into our new house. The old owners of our new house moved right next door. The man was older, shirtless with a big fat belly. I didn't like the former owners living so close to us. Our old home seemed to be nearby too. The new owners moved in. I wasn't sure for who, but for one (or more) of us these homes were a transitional space until we moved again.
* * *
I sat in a Poets and Busboys waiting for my former poetry teacher to arrive for a one-on-one meeting. I held the Poets and Busboys pencil that he gave me, still unsharpened. I remembered that he introduced me to this place before he had his falling out with it.
(Poet 1) and (Poet 2) joined me at my table. Maybe they were meeting with my former teacher too. The two poets talked about an amazing, brilliant woman who seemed to be able to do everything. She was a poet, the most alluring and sexy stripper who men relentlessly pursued, a Playboy model who drove men wild when they saw her nude photographs and now she was a conductor. She did everything except have children, which they said was because she was too smart for men. She was to be joining them soon.
Poet 1 and Poet 2 excused themselves from my table. I got sleepy and slumped over at the table as I waited for them to return. Poet 1 brought me a cup of coffee. I saw that she and Poet 2 joined this amazing woman at another table. This amazing woman had red hair, was middle aged and a little heavy. She didn't necessarily look the part, but I knew this was her. I felt left out that Poet 1 and Poet 2 left my table for her's.
The doorbell rings. ‘I’ll ignore that,’ I say to my supervisee. We are discussing her writing. The doorbell is a distraction but I imagine the person who has rung it will move on soon, but he rings again. I look out through the crack under the blind on the window and can see a tradesmen of sorts, in casual clothes. He talks on a telephone. His utility truck is in the driveway. I cannot hear what he is saying only the low drone of his voice which sounds agitated. I worry that he can see me and slide down onto the floor. My supervisee looks perplexed but given she happens to be a friend I think she will understand.
Eventually the man leaves. I watch him get into his car and his assistant, a woman, who appears seemingly from nowhere uses a special lift up tray to get into her seat on the passenger side.
Somehow I manage to finish the session at the end of which my supervisee asks me about my availability. She can only come on a Tuesday at 8.45 in the morning. Am I free then? I realise I am not. I share a writing group at this time. It seems to cement my supervisee’s decision to take up another proposition that has been put to her, namely to teach creative writing at the university.
I go out into the hallway and run into a man, another tradesmen, who seems to be working on the wires near the front.
‘What a you doing here? Who authorised this?’
I am furious and tell the man to get out. He is reluctant to move but I force him to pack up his bags and move out through the back door.
As I go into the kitchen in anticipation of him an elderly couple come through the sliding door. Each carries a heavy box loaded with household things.
‘Who are you?’ I ask, ‘and what are you doing here?’
The couple look perplexed, furtive. I tell them to leave as well, and begin to bolt the door so that no other intruders can get inside.
I am furious and troubled. I have been away from home and work for several days until now and I wonder whether something has gone on in my absence. Have some people tried to take over our house?
I try the telephone to ring my husband but can’t get through. I’m in a panic. They cannot simply take possession of someone else’s house. Or can they?
I took this task seriously but found myself slipping into the role of therapist. I could sense that my friend’s daughter, the bride, did not enjoy the questions I put to her, questions about what getting married meant to her. She wanted simply to have a good time at the wedding. She wanted only to party, none of this heavy serious stuff about meaning and commitment.
My friend’s mother came up to me. She took me aside and asked me to stop being so serious. It was clear she was angry with me.
Now I felt useless, as if I had failed in my task. I could no longer enjoy the wedding preparations. Somehow the wedding went on and I was not there.
Soon after we gathered for the wedding reception. No one came forward to take the role of MC and my husband moved to the microphone. I rushed up to him to warn him of what had happened to me.
‘They may not want you.’ And sure enough my friend came up to him and asked my husband to tone it down. He went off in a huff.
I had taken a drug, some variant of peyote, that maybe I'd gotten from a Brujo of sort. Instead of random hallucinations, I saw people's heads reconfigure to reflect their souls. I was in a hotel, and then in some transit center in a foreign city, very modern. Many people looked bland and passive, almost pulpy like certain breeds of dogs, but others -- way too many -- were quite obviously monsters. Some of the monsters were wandering about with children in tow -- all the kids looked beatific. I knew that terrible things were in store for them. Then at some point, I realized that the monsters could tell that I could read their souls and began to gather themselves about me. I looked for a way out and if I'd been on a high balcony or bridge I would have jumped to escape, but here on the ground floor of this transit center there was no way out, so I twisted & twisted until I woke up. I was afraid to look in the mirror.
I drive out into the desert with a couple guys from work. The venue is small, the seating haphazard- it might be The Switch, or the Alice Coltrane Memorial Coliseum. It starts to fill in. Pound is reading, I manage to secure a spot next to him on a couch, along with another friend. One of them has pulled out a "Golden Book" and Pound thinks it is incredible, that it must be beyond value. We discuss children's books, and I show him a book of psychedelic children's art from San Francisco, which he finds amusing, but dismisses. Pound is very kind. He recommends I read a book of essays on labor, which he describes quantitatively, praising the symmetry in the sizes of its sections.