Overall, I find my dreams to be good, and satisfying. Or at the very least, interesting, like a fresh green iridescent bug that lands on your shoulder in the first days of June and stays there just long enough to soak up the heat of the morning sun, and then raises its wings and whirrs away into the summer.
But no matter how many times I say that there is no hard and fast method for interpreting dreams, that's always the question. "Sully, last night I dreamt I was trying to find a restroom and kept finding rooms that weren't and I felt like I really had to pee and I was so frantic! What does it MEAN?"
"Did you wake up and find that you really had to go to the bathroom, like, ba-a-a-ad?"
"Yeah, how did you know?"
"Because a dream of having to go to the bathroom really bad almost always means you needed to get up and go to the bathroom."
Most of the time, by that point, I can see the light of the conversationalist's eyes turn inward a bit in thought. He or she ruminates for a few seconds, and the brow furrows. "Well, then what would have happened if I found the bathroom in my dream?"
"Yeah. Would that be good?"
"I don't know. There´s a chance that you would have gone peedles in your bed."
"Eww, that's gross. Somebody must know what it means. I think I'll go to the library and get one of those dream dictionaries. Then we can figure it out."
Sigh. I roll my eyes Heavenward for strength.
I should just lie and tell them that bathroom dreams mean they should buy a strawberry blonde some nice gold earrings. At least that would be some compensation for having to listen to someone else's potty dreams.
Owen, Michel, and Kelsa were the only three of Jesse's kids who ever were really interested in dreaming, though they all participated to some extent. Remembering how terrifying bed times had been for me, I started telling the children my 'story-dreams' before they were even talking well. I tried to stop in and visit them once a week at least, and Charles never seemed to mind his babies' doting, infatuated Auntie. Holding the smallest of them in my arms, I'd sit on the couch with them after their breakfast, telling them where I'd gone the night before, and where else I had gone in my dreams since the last time I saw them. One or two a day, no more than that. I remember the wide dark eyes of Oesha, quietly drinking it all in, while Owen was curled in my arms, watching my mouth move, sucking his thumb, Marca leaning on my legs, bashing toys.
Time passes and now it's tiny, year-old Kelsa in my arms, sound asleep, while the nanny holds her twin Michel. Owen leans against me, playing with Kelsa's fingers, Oesha has the spot on the floor against my legs, and Marca has moved farther away, graduated to scribbling works of art with crayons while she thumps her toes on the floor. In that year, one blustery November morning, after I had finished my tale of seeing an angel standing in a golden door, Owen burst out with exuberance, "Now it's my turn!" And he launched into a rambling dream of his stuffed lion, Bing, and a big red truck and the candles from church. Most significantly, in his dream, he had warned Bing away from the flames. "An' I TOLD him, candles are for praying (he pronounced it "praing"), not for touching, an' he listened to me!" My heart swelled in an surge of pride and wonder. He was already taking a kind of control in his dreams. At least one childhood fear might be allayed.
What if you fall in your dreams? I always wake up scared when I feel myself start to fall.
Oh, if you hit the ground, then you die.
I can't even remember how old I was the first time I heard that. I heard it from kids, not adults, and I heard it what seems like long before I learned how to control or enjoy my dreams. Trying to call up a memory of the conversation, I get a flash of skinny arms wrapped around bony knees, so most likely there was a neighborhood gathering of kids in somebody's garage, perhaps during a summer thunderstorm, with the older kids trying to impress or scare the littler ones. Kind of a psychological equivalent of "Babies are born out of the mother's bellybutton," the idea of dying because you fell and hit has probably ruined the sleep of people throughout their lives by making an unpleasant sensation into a terrifying one. Tsk. People get over the 'bellybutton' story by the time they actually have a sibling born or find a book or get their parents to explain, that is, if they're lucky, or luckier still, get to see puppies or calves being born. But I have heard adults in the lunch room at work actually say "If you hit the ground in a dream, you'll die" and seen them nod sagely to one another. Even if someone in the room pipes up and says,"That's bullshit. I fell and hit the ground in a dream, and I didn't die!" The others always turn away, look knowingly at each other, and continue with their conversation as though the evidence produced by the defensive dreamer has been disallowed by the judge.
Oh, I get it. Dead people can't give testimony.
The first time I ever fell and hit was during one of my recurring 'crumbling bridge' dreams. I'd attempted to step across a long empty spot where the planks were missing, and since the bridge had narrowed to only about a foot wide, and the rails were suddenly gone, I lost my balance and fell, arms flailing, down and down, the boulder-strewn river rushing up at me. I hit the water, ka-vush! It hurt a little, but then the water was slushing past me in a white froth from my impact, and it was cold, but not too cold, and I was just standing there in the water beside the rocks, looking at the wide green river downstream, with white riffles in the rapids, an island in the river off in the distance, and the green forest mountains stepping down to the banks. "That wasn't too bad," I thought. And awoke. Sitting up in the dark (Mom had, as usual, sneaked in and turned off my light), I pondered the watery ending of my bridge dream, reliving the sensations of the water and the relief. As I put my head back down on my pillow, I thought, "In fact, that was kinda fun..."
Now where the sensations of falling come from while we're sleeping, I don't know. Especially during those times when you wake up and feel like, at that instant, wham! you've been dropped on the bed. I assume that the impact on the bed is just the razor edge of the end of a dream state merging with a particularly profound twitch. This is my assumption, though I've never watched anyone while they were sleeping and having a dream like that. I would say this is an assumption of convenience and of fervent hope: I really don't want to think that people are levitating when they sleep, not you, not me, no, I don't even want to go there and open up that door!
One time I was climbing around on a roof in a dream; not odd at all since we neighborhood kids would often climb onto chicken-coop roofs and shed roofs and garage roofs if the adults weren't around and we could get any kind of foothold in a nearby tree. I was hooching around the edge of the roof, and was losing my grip. The grip was lost, and I rolled off the edge of the eaves onto the cement driveway below. I hit on my right side, and IT HURT LIKE DAMN! I was rolling myself over and getting up from the concrete when I awoke with the same motion in my bed. IT STILL HURT! OWWW! I rubbed my shoulder, frowning, and more than a little annoyed. I turned my bedside lamp on, the same hero lamp for me as a teen as it had been for me as a little kid. I looked at my arm to make sure I hadn't injured myself somehow earlier that day in gym class, and just now felt the pain. Arm okay. Pulled back the covers and had a hard look at the mattress. Nothing. All right then, Miss Straight A's, figure this one out. But I couldn't, and just planned that the next time, I would make a mattress or a trampoline appear under my fall, and leaving my light on, rolled onto my left side and grumpily went back to sleep.
I didn't die that time, either.
Now, falling in real life, that's different. You can die from a fall in real life, and for me, falling for Adam was kind of like a death. I was so stupidly immersed in love with him that I could hardly function as a human being.
The first couple times he drove up from San Diego to visit me, I kept telling myself that Adam could not possibly be serious about me, and I hardly knew him, and as I knew that there are always men out there ready to take advantage of young women, there were not going to be any sexual habits started with this intriguing stranger. So I told him that up front during the phone conversation in which he first suggested that he drive up to Modesto to see what it was like. I was so dizzy with hope that he would come to see me that I sounded to myself like a croaking, panicky nitwit, a treefrog reading an alligator his rights. He just chuckled a little, not sarcastically at all, and said, "That's fine with me. Do I need to call for a reservation somewhere or can I just get a room in a motel when I get there?"
My head felt like it was swelling, and my palms were suddenly sweaty, and my heart was hammering. This is nuts, what is wrong with me? "Wh-when?" Next thing you know, my voice is going to crack!
"How about next month, around the thirteenth?"
"Yes, that would be great!" How could it be better? Lots of glittering Christmas decorations everywhere, the romantic holiday season...
"I'll take off work Friday the twelfth, drive up, we can have dinner, and then you can show me all the sights on Saturday. I can drive back Sunday." God, he sounded like he was really excited about this, in spite of the No Sex sign. "Make me some Christmas cookies?"
"Of course," I laughed, the elation of making something just for him flooding my brain. "What kind do you like?"
"I like the kind that are kind of white and crumbly, with lots of little icing decorations on them. You know, they come in star shapes and little Santa Clauses and reindeer and Christmas trees, what kind are those?"
"Sugar cookies, maybe?" And off we went, chattering about cookies and then Christmas dinners of the past, and what we were going to get our mothers for gifts this year, no more than idle, silly chatting that I just ate right up. We called each other a couple times a month since the first time he called me after I'd met him in San Diego. I loved his deep, gentle, rich voice, and how he sounded so innocent sometimes, as though he was getting a second chance to be a little boy, unharried by work and bills. Nothing in the calls was heavy on the philosophy or murky with personal agendas. Well, at least you couldn't have told it from the content. I just loved chatting with him. I could hardly remember what we'd said after we'd hang up. I just dove in and wallowed in the sound of his voice and let everthing else go.
When he'd kissed me good-bye that first night in San Diego that spring, I'd been surprised. I'd expected him to suddenly turn into an animal the way some guys do, going from Mr. Polite Gentleman to Gorgo the Face-Sucker in one bone-crushing clinch. A couple loser dates with men like that makes you start carrying some of those foil-wrapped towelettes and a cotton hankie just to mop up afterwards. Why would Adam be any different? There had to be some reason a man that incredibly handsome wasn't snatched up already.
The first evening of our acquaintance, we'd taken our beers outside and walked up the street away from the bar. We found a wall low enough to lean/sit on, and we talked. And talked. What brings you to San Diego? Just for fun, because it's so beautiful (You're so beautiful, Adam). Do you like to ride Western and go to rodeos? No, it's just for show, just for fun. I'm afraid of horses. But I got your attention, didn't I? What kind of a last name is Ambris? Lost in the antiquity of Europe, we don't even know. How about Berman? My mom says it's a Swedish name that got changed. Are we playing Twenty Questions? Laughter.
He took the cowboy hat off and put it on the wall. Oh, glory! Not only nice tidy ears, but wonderful hair, too! Short, combed back, looked blonde in the streetlights. He was stunning. I think my jaw dropped and swung. Any second now, he's going to turn into a pig, I thought, and was abruptly scared. I swear I started to tremble, and I couldn't keep my eyes from looking at the zipper of his jacket where it opened to show his bare chest.
Damn it, thank Heaven, damn it again, it's almost midnight. "I have to go, my friends and I agreed to meet at midnight. I don't want the posse to come looking for the man in the white cowboy hat."
He sighed rather theatrically, clapped his hands on his thighs, and said, "Well, that's that. You've been the best thing that's happened to me in years, and now I'll never see you again. What kind of justice is that?"
"What about tomorrow?" I felt like a kid trying to set up a board game hoping not to be told that the friend had to go out of town to visit relatives.
"My brother and sister-in-law and all their kids, and my mom and step-dad, and me, we're all supposed to go visit my grandmother in Barstow this weekend, 'cause it's a holiday weekend, everybody has off..." He made his voice sound like a child's recitation, singsong, and looked up at the sky while he said it, batting his eyes and tilting his head from side to side. "It's her birthday, and I can't get out of it or they'll all be in my shit for the rest of my life. Grammy's really old, you know how you can't pass up one last chance...in case..."
"Oh, I understand. It's too bad, I was hoping to see more of you." Whoops, bad Freudian slip. "I came down here to party, but I've had more fun talking to you than..."
He straightened up, a true-blue boyscout pose. "What about lunch tomorrow? I could drive up there and catch up with the family later tomorrow."
Ears ringing. Eyesight blurring. "Great, yes! Where? When?"
"There's a nice little place not too far from here. Called Sancho's. They serve the best Mexican food I've ever had. What time can I pick you up?"
"Tell you what, I'll meet you there about eleven thirty, how's that?" Maybe he was the handsomest man I would ever see in my life, but he was still a stranger, and I was not willing to let him know where I slept. "What street is it on?"
"Okay, I'll be there."
"Can I at least get a phone number so that if there's an emergency and I can't be there until eleven forty-five, you won't leave right away and call me all kinds of names and hate me forever?"
Laughing a bit dizzily, I said, "Yeah, I can get you that. Let me find a pen!"
"I'll give you my number, too, just in case. But please don't just call to tell me to get lost. Give me a chance in the light of day."
In the broad light of day maybe he would seem less alluring, less terrifyingly attractive. Maybe at high noon he would turn out to be a total loser. What if he just looks all the more handsome? Nah, couldn't happen.
We exchanged phone numbers and walked back towards the lot where I could see Dogboy with two women, one under each draped arm. I could see Joan's feet sticking out the window of the car. Great. He's drunk, she's stoned, and we're probably going to have to give the bimbos a ride home tomorrow. Suddenly I didn't want to share the sight of Adam with any bimbos. I stopped. "Let's just say goodnight here. Do you mind? It's just that, well, uuhh..." I swallowed, not knowing how to finish without insulting him or slamming my friends. I spread my arms wide. "Hug?"
He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a manly squeeze. Then he leaned away from me and lowered his eyebrows at me warningly. "Don't lose that phone number!" I shook my head, grinning. And then he bent down and kissed me gently and slowly on the lips.
I stepped back, and in a daze, walked back to the car. "I'll drive," I said to Dogboy, holding out my hand for his keys. I opened the car door, then looked back to where I'd left Adam. He was still standing there, hat in his hands, watching me, and his eyes were the desolate darkness of a orphan begging not to be abandoned.
When I think of the misery I went through with his incessant interest in other women, the shame of pretending I didn't know or care about his affairs on the road, my disappointment in his unrelenting expectation that everything had to go his way or be done his way or happen when he wanted it to, I can't imagine that the man had a sound emotion anywhere to be found in his heart. But then I remember that look, uncalculating and vulnerable, and I'm again sure that he really did love me, at least for a time, at least in whatever capacity for love he had.