Saturday, April 9, 2011


Lately I have been trying to catalogue my dreams. In the Dewey Decimal System I have devised, there are only three main categories:

100. - 199.89: I have left my purse, containing wallet, out on a street somewhere and I must get back to it before it's taken, through labyrinthine obstacle courses over great distance accompanied by feelings of increasing panic and hopelessness.

200. - 298.738: I'm on a motorcycle, not mine, or mine strangely configured, with bars too long or too short or made of rubber, or else I am riding through landscapes bizarre and elongated and dark and I don't know if I can get home.

300. - 347.992: houses and more houses. They are either magically grand and out of the pages of Dwell, and they make me think suspicious thoughts like "Finally you have it [slyly spreading smile]. But do you
really have it [sinking knowledge it will disappear]?" Or they are like apartments I have in fact inhabited--dark, ugly, dirty, and minuscule--but now underneath or behind closet doors in which appear grand spaces containing swimming pools or velvet-curtained palatial dining rooms that I discover in wonder.

That's it. Three subjects--loss of valuables, loss of way, loss of hopes--but all distilled into one, anxiety.

No one has ever figured out what dreams are really for. What do they represent? Random electric impulses in the brain? A subliminal method of problem-solving? The lost key to the psyche? Hidden meaning, if only you can figure out what the hell they mean?

I recall, as a child, sometimes having dreams of such impossible tastiness, that when I woke I desired nothing but to go back there again. Sometimes I could will myself, in fact, to do so; I had the same dream again. I thought of them as movies I made for myself, that I could play again for myself at will. Then again, sometimes they were so terrifying--running from indistinct figures in the night, or armies of giant robots advancing down the street, never to be escaped--that I would end tied tightly by the bedclothes and sweaty at the foot of the bed, crying for my parents to come save me. They did.

Then, for a period of fifteen years, I had a savage recurrent dream: that someone I loved was going to betray me. I woke sobbing from these nightmares, to be consoled by the actual person who was in the dream. And one day, it happened. In every detail just as it had in the dream.

Was this foreordination? Did it happen because I dreamed it? Or did I dream it because it was bound to happen?

I do not know. I know only that now I have been freed, forever, from those particular dreams. I think, as time goes on, my dreams are in general less imperative; there seem to be fewer of them, anyway. Less vibrant. Perhaps dreams are the products of hormones after all.

But occasionally I still wake from one so strange, and so strangely real, that I write it down. Not for any reason particularly. But reading the account later, I can bring it up in my head again. So perhaps they persist. Perhaps they are all there, all the way back down the years. The dream of charm and ha
ppiness you had when you were six is still there. I can in fact remember some of those even though I did not write them down: the epic dreams, the few that were so deeply charged I can still remember: I woke up, in that bed, with that bedspread, with this feeling. Do you remember any of yours?

Dream, night of 12/2/10

I was riding some sort of red sportbike. In my tennis shoes, no jacket or gloves or helmet.

Nelly was with me.

The bike had a set of shelves attached, where a topcase would be.

I parked somewhere, got involved in something occult--I think the place was a train station--and then I heard my phone ringing, but I couldn't answer properly. It was Mark and I heard him saying, "Where are you? If I can't find you, I'm going to head back without you." When I tried to phone him back, I couldn't find the phone function--there were all sorts of other pictures, including Santa, when I opened the phone. No one could help me, so I couldn't reach him.

That's when I realized I would be riding back in the dark, Nelly following, and I felt certain she would be killed on the road at night. I said in bemusement, "This is the first time I've ridden without gear."

Then I was riding down County Route 2. I pulled in at Lynn's house. Dave had made their small fountain pond into a veritable tropical wonderland, and there were all sorts of fantastic creatures mating. [!] Busloads of people started arriving, to have their weddings there. Where'd they hear about it? "Chandra, I guess," said Lynn.

Dreams are the classic case of "I guess you had to be there." Dreams are impulses, emotions, "day residue" (lovely term), images. None cohere with reality, yet are more real than reality. You would have to know things: that Mark and I once got separated when riding in Massachusetts; we had traded bikes, and he had his phone as well as mine, which was in my tankbag, as was my wallet (thank goodness I always carry a credit card in my jacket pocket, because I had to gas up to get back to New York); that Lynn is one of my best friends, someone I think of as a haven, an
d that her husband Dave is a naturalist and a gardener who can make magic, though perhaps not quite to the extent that I saw in my dream; that buses pulling up to their farmhouse on County Route 2 is beyond strange, and why would I ever dream that; that Chandra is a beautiful friend who moved to Texas but who still exerts a pull on me, and always will; that Nelly is my anxiety as well as my love, and to think of her running down dark roads is the greatest fear of all.

You never know what is there, in the air about you while you sleep, or in the mind, which is always there but made strange in the night. Why. I wonder why.


Mark McGlone said...

Dreams are often fascinatingly weird. There was a girl who I knew and college and was infatuated with. I think I still am, though I haven't seen her in almost twenty years. I often dream about her. In the most recent dream in which she made an appearance, she was making out with a childhood friend of mine while I sat next to them on a couch in a strange house.

I also have what I call "movie dreams" in which I'm watching an old movie and sometimes I'm a character in the film. These are often quite pleasant.

And I frequently have dreams where I'm still in school and an important test is coming up for a class I never bothered attending. I understand those are quite common. Speaking of school dreams, I've also had dreams in which it's discovered that I missed a class in my childhood and have to go back and take it again, so I find myself as an adult sitting in a class with a bunch of seven year old children.

Unlike you, I never dream about motorcycles, which is odd now that I think of it, since they're a big part of my life these days.

Pedro Jon├ęs said...

The best part about dreams is remembering them, not just the following morning, but long afterwards. When we remember them days, weeks, years later, there is no difference between them and remembering moments from our wakened world. Dreamed it or lived it, the memories feel the same. Once a dream has moved into our memory, it is something we have actually lived.

When I was four-years old, I used to see God on Tuesdays, twice a month, when walking to the bus stop with my mother. He'd part the clouds and look down at me, asking how life was going. He was all pink like a rubber doll, including the wife-beater T-shirt he wore and sailor's cap. I remember it all as clearly, as tactilely, as riding in the family Ford wagon. It happened. Whether or not today I believe in God doesn't matter to this memory. As a child I saw him.

Thanks for reminding me, girl.

Charles said...

i can't remember my dreams, it's okay, they are not real anyhow. there is so much amazing stuff in the real world, I prefer to fill my life with that.

so I will insert relevant ee cummings poem here

mr youse needn't be so spry
concernin questions arty

each has his tastes but as for i
i likes a certain party

gimme the he-man's solid bliss
for youse ideas i'll match youse

a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Mark: The only type of anxiety dream I *don't* have is those school dreams--I guess because I must have slept through school. As for the rest of what you've written, it's clear you have a Magical Realist in hiding, arranging things for a literary reader. Not, I trust, a psychotherapist.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Pedro: Did you ever hear God saying anything about spinach?

Good point about the reality of dreams--they are as vaporous, once past, as anything else. And perhaps more true to the heart.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Charles: You're right. I completely left out the part about sex dreams. Those I wish were a little more real.