Last night I had one of my most epically strange dreams ever, I think, which for me is saying something. In this dream, my best friends Laura and Phil and I decided to get an apartment together in Cincinnati. (It bears mentioning that we just stopped living together in real life about a week ago.) The dream was happening on or around moving day. The apartment was similar in structure and layout to an apartment the three of us once shared in Chicago. (What can I say, we’ve lived together a bit.) Anyway, that means there was a long narrow kitchen attached to a more bulbous protrusion of a living room, only in this case, there was a small hallway down which were two bedrooms and the bathroom. In this hallway, for some reason, was also a kitchen table, in the doorway of one of the bedrooms.
I came into the home and this table was covered with balloons and gifts which had come for me in the mail. Two of these gifts were small delicately-wrapped sandwiches in boxes which my father sent. Handwriting I recognized as hers covered the outsides of the boxes. I remember a note on the edge of the lid: “Check and see if the rye bread has molded.” It had not molded, but I didn’t eat the sandwiches. One was intended for my boyfriend anyway, and he was nowhere to be seen. Another of the gifts was a bouquet of heavily iced cinnamon rolls which we learned upon further examination was actually for my friends’ dog, Grendel. He ate those.
I went over to the sink and saw it was full of very clear water and contained about four fish, one red Betta and a few smaller fish.
“Oh,” I said. “Are these the fish that were in my fish bowl?
“Yes,” said Laura. “I found them in the basement. I think that’s a good place to keep them, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them and I was getting worried.”
“I’ll take care of it,” I said. I picked up the fish bowl, which was identical to the one I had in college when I kept a Betta. I needed to wash it out, and the only way to do so (of course) was in the sink where the fish were. I looked into the water and saw a tiny blue-shelled turtle, a small cricket-like shrimp, and some other fish, both larger and smaller than the originals, had appeared. I turned on the water and started to wash the bowl. I drained the sink almost completely and refilled it several times. When I refilled it the last time, two of the larger fish had grown to fill almost ⅓ of the sink on their own. One was a blue fish with spines on it and a puckery, awkward face. The other one was a muscled barracuda-like fish, a mean murky green. The green fish started rearing up out of the water and attacking the blue fish. I smacked the green fish hard on the tail as punishment. The fish turned and looked at me measuringly, then went back to its attack on the sink, now lunging at random fish under the surface of the water, which had become soapy. I smacked it a few more times but it wouldn't stop. Finally I said “Cut it out or I’ll get rid of you.” The fish did not believe me. Next time it reared up out of the water to attack, I grabbed it by the throat. I carried it to the back door and threw it outside onto the Monon trail. (Yes--we are still supposed to be in Cincinnati, but the Monon is in Indianapolis. Dreams, amirite?)
With that settled, I returned to the sink to find the water was clear, but now full of both objects and fish, though less fish. A lot of the stuff seemed to be like those tiny plastic dishes and utensils that come from a kitchen set. I dug through them to find my turtle and a few fish and put them inside the bowl. (Don’t ask me how that turtle could survive in a fish bowl, I don’t know.)
But all of a sudden, I was looking at a massive aquarium with people in it. PEOPLE. One was a boy I recognized from a dream EARLIER last night. I don’t know this boy, but in the other dream his name was Cooper and we made friends because he wanted to be a writer. Now, he was in this aquarium. There were a few other people in there too.
“What do you think it looks like out here to them?” I asked my friend Kylie, who had appeared next to me. Inside the aquarium the people were staring out at us dazedly, their faces bisected by the different angled panels of thick glass that made up the tank.
“I can’t imagine,” she said. “But this is boring. Let’s find something else to do.”
I pulled out my phone and looked up events in the city. Turns out, there was a costume party somewhere for free. We all put on costumes (roaring 20’s) and piled into a car. I was directing, but when we got to the location, it was definitely not a party. I had brought us to the wrong place, some kind of big office tower out of the 80s. We went in anyway just to be sure. The interiors were magnificent, built out into smaller spaces with bright accent walls everywhere--lime green, cool summer-sky blue, a poppy pink. Some of the light fixtures were moving, like a chandelier on a string rising up and down and the paper folds it was made of blossoming and contracting with the movement. The furnishings were plastic but molded to have lots of details, curving legs, textures and ridges and swooping backs. Some furniture was black and some was white. The rugs were deep piles of fur. A staircase cut through it all like something out of Escher: the walls were also built to intrude, not fall back. I might draw some of it later and put pictures on here, because this isn't really doing it justice.
All my friends dispersed into the space. I approached a man who clearly worked there and asked about the party. “No, the show’s been cancelled,” he said. “But there are supposed to be some people dressing up like dolphins soon.” (Seriously. He said this.)
I wandered away to find my friends and came across Kylie and Laura in a room with a high ceiling and very little light. What light there was, was focused around a replica of an Old West saloon that had been constructed in the room, like a set for a movie. The two were digging through a pile of skins that was folded across a hitching post.
“Hey Amber,” Kylie said. “I just thought of something to write down.” She then told me something to write down, and I wrote it down, but I can’t remember now what it was. It was an insight, I remember at least that, and a good one to boot. (Goddamn.) I wrote it down in a notebook which my old roommate and friend Kelly actually gave me, one which contains blank pages and pages from other books. My idea when she gave it to me was to fill the blank pages with a narrative which would connect the stories from the disparate books and make you able to read it cover to cover, something I haven't done yet. I told Kylie this in the dream. "Won't writing in there now ruin the project?" she asked. I said no.
I went downstairs and found Natalie and Justin, two friends from Chicago who are moving to Indy soon. “I think I took us to the wrong place,” I said.
“Well, let’s figure out what went wrong,” Justin said. I pulled out my phone again and looked online. There were pictures from the party posted online, and in them, myself and Laura were standing with a stranger dressed like a convicted flapper.
“Look,” I said to Laura. “They’re pictures of us from the future.”
“Yeah,” she said. “I like our costumes.”
I put in the address of the party on my GPS and went outside. Even though we all drove together, and I was the one with the GPS, now, we were in separate cars and I had to follow by myself in my Beetle. I immediately lost track of the group and just drove, hoping to come across someone else’s car that I recognized. I followed a silver car for a while. As I drove, the roads kept getting steeper and steeper, until finally, I was literally driving straight upwards. I was terrified and only going ten or fifteen miles an hour. All the cars behind me were honking. This can’t go on much longer, I thought as I approached what seemed like an impossible plane of verticality. Indeed, I rounded a corner onto a flat hilltop, but it was short lived. I kept climbing uphill in the car, white-knuckling the wheel, until I came to another vertical road made of cobblestones. I made it part of the way up before stopping, my foot hard on the brake to hold myself in place. Ahead of me, the road appeared to make a Mobius spiral, turning over itself and then disappearing, or perhaps heading downward. As scary as the climb had been, I knew the descent would be even worse, but what goes up must come down. Behind me, all these cars were still laying on the horns. Just do it, I told myself. It’ll be over soon enough. So, I pressed the gas and proceeded. The rocks of the road twisted beneath me. My car lost contact with the ground. I felt deep fear, but also a numb acceptance that this was my reality and I had to live with it.
Then, I woke up. SIKE, my brain chortled. That wasn’t reality at all. Reality was (and remains to now) Friday morning (oh joy!) and my darling Larry fresh from the shower (he's gone now.)
I could have a field day analyzing this right now--my anxieties about writing, about anger, what elements come from real life and why. I could, but I won't, not here anyway.
Suffice to say: I love my friends-- they enlighten me, support me, and give me a place to call home. The halls of my imagination stun me with their beauty. Aggression can be conquered with a firm hand, but you have to be willing to throw what’s causing it out the back door. Write down your insights when they come, or you’ll forget them. Hit the gas even when you’re afraid to.
And share your cinnamon rolls with the dog.