This archive is an attempt to write plainly and accurately about my dreams. I’m a vivid dreamer, and most of the time I have the same dream, about being in a low-flying airplane that cruises over these unfamiliar, sometimes amazing landscapes. I haven’t seen these places in real life.
One strange thing is that Amy Hempel has these dreams too. I read this in Reasons To Live:
I have this dream before a flight where we buckle in and the plane moves down the runway. It takes off at thirty-five miles an hour, and then we’re airborne, skimming the tree tops. Still, we arrive in New York on time.
It is so pleasant.
One night I flew to Moscow this way.
I was much less surprised by this than I should have been. Instead I just thought, hmm. Her too.
Anyway, on the occasions when I don’t have this one dream, I am trying to write what happens.
“Your dreams are so Kafkaesque,” John said. He doesn’t mean it as a compliment. He thinks I am flirting dangerously with absurdism, even on a subconscious level. I would like to say, I can’t help what I dream. But it’s probably not true.
A group of Chinese war veterans so damaged by chemical warfare they no longer appear human. They look like colourful blobs. Some are only a few centimeters. They are people, but I wonder in what capacity. A father and son (they are monkeys) entertain them. The son makes them laugh. After the performance the father shackles the son, including his tongue. He complies happily. He doesn’t know there is anything strange about his life.
The Moldovan embassy – a combination of colonial and Soviet architecture. A woman is walking in front of me in a wide well-appointed hallway. Her hair is in a ponytail, and under it I can see a mouth in the back of her head. It is smiling, with big white teeth and brown lips. I wonder why she doesn’t cover it with her hair. We are given fake passports to enter Berlin – they are huge, the size of a large sketchpad. I keep worrying I am forgetting something. Part of my bag is stolen, then returned.
You can trade a cat’s leg for passage into one of the high-density oil areas. But I don’t want to go there! I want to go somewhere warm, where I can survive.
I pick cabbages out of a bin during one of the shopping sprees. I break it open, and inside there’s a huge larva. Lately cabbages have been infested with winged demons.
I keep asking my mom: Is this it? Is it really the end? She doesn’t answer. She’s on the phone, or cooking something.
I go to look at my garden. I’ve given the christmas cactus too much fertilizer, and it’s bloated and full of white pus. Jen and I work for a long time, planting seeds and weeding. The garden looks beautiful. I feel sad that I won’t be around to see it for long.
I fill a white square plastic bucket with water and plant food. The plant food is a red liquid. When I pick it up, it sloshes all over the floor.
All my plants are too dry. When I water them, the water spills out of the pot. Nothing will soak in.
I keep thinking about sauerkraut, about how I can make enough for all of us to live on. But the garden is growing too slowly, and besides I don’t have a big enough container to put it in. I find huge mushrooms, and I don’t know if they’re edible or not. Something has been chewing on the lettuce; all that’s left are stumps. This could cost us everything.
Someone’s always on the phone.
Things I see during the day return to me at night. Often they are dark things, things hidden inside other things, symbolically id things. The mushrooms growing from the wooden planter, the armoured bugs in the garden’s crevasse. The strawberry I turned over to find that half of it has rotted away. Fecundity. There are red peppers growing in the hollow stump of a tree, but the walls of the stump are covered in bees. I’m afraid to reach in and get the peppers. I see that they’re rotten on one side anyway. Looking into the stump crawling with living things.
A Quebecois artist has created a site-specific art installation using road signs. There is a spiral jetty surrounding a circular greenhouse. The road signs read
ANCESTORS ANCESTORS ANCESTORS
I am deaf, and Heather is blind, so in order to communicate we have to use an interpreter.
I get off the train in a place I’ve never been, a small American town. It’s pouring rain. Inside an art gallery I buy a coffee and drink it sitting on a tall stool. The woman behind the counter asks me if I’m from Gaspesie, because of my accent. We talk about the beauty of the Quebec countryside, though I’ve never seen it. I want to ask her the name of the town I’m in, but I’m afraid she’ll judge me for it. Finally she tells me I’m in Little Crush, Newark. Later, walking down the street, I run into Emily and her mother. I ask them what they’re doing there, but I can’t remember what they say.
Something like porcupine quills or feather shafts growing out of my leg. They are painful and cause some anxiety. My mom pulls them out with pliers. I can’t watch her do this. I cry, with fear more than pain. “Look,” she says, showing me after, “They were cigarettes after all.”
My agent and I need to sign a contract. According to legal tradition, our signatures must appear on a doll. The doll is a Raggedy-Ann type thing, but without the hair, and smaller. Like a baby doll made of cloth. We get a cop to witness the signing. He says “Now you are merged as a molecule.” Then he lets us play with his radar gun for a while.
After many weeks at sea we have only a few bottles of cuacao left. Cuacao (not to be confused with curacao) is a white substance that can be used to replace coffee, orange juice, and other drinks. The bottle includes recipes for orange juice (orange juice and cuacao) and coffee (coffee and cuacao). We tell ourselves to make sure we pack better before our next overseas trip.
This country doesn’t do staircases very well. They’re incredibly steep, or slippery, or they lead to a solid wall at the top. One is covered in what seems like alphabet soup. They’ve let their staircases fall into disarray because mostly people ride “horses.” “Horses” are light plastic frames that hover because of propulsion – they are like floating bicycles with no wheels. Some locals let me borrow one, and I’m really good at it. Everyone is a little surprised, especially me.
The other major source of culture shock is that no one here is afraid of heights, or speed. Elevators are an intense experience.
Mary is an actress but in real life she’s dead, killed by a serial murderer called Le Moustache. All the reports on her death talk about how incredibly beautiful she was. I watch one of her old movies. It’s a horror flick where she plays the girlfriend of someone or other. Her hair is dyed black. Her three best friends die in a plane crash, and something or other is turning everything into water. I watch shot after shot of water rushing through the streets as cars and people dissolve. Poor Mary. I feel so bad about it.
I am a sound engineer at an all-Hasidic recording studio. A pair of musicians, brother and sister, come in to record their devotional pop songs. Both have half a mustache and beard, the other side shaven. The sister tells me she used to be very unhappy until she started speaking in a “Jackie Kennedy” accent and became Hasidic.
After finding a cassette tape of an all-lesbian sludge metal band, I decide that Iceland is the best place in the world.
I slip under the layer of frozen ice on top of a lake to find a suspended cube of warm water with fish still swimming it, black-and-white-striped fish and regular ones too. I can reach out and touch the vertical surface of the water, and fish come over to nibble my fingers. I take a lot of photos, thinking how good they’ll look on Instagram.
My mom and I are walking through the grounds of a university campus. We pass an orchestra and a choir performing in an outdoor amphitheatre. As we’re passing the conductor announces the next piece will be Dies Irae. My mom and I look at each other. OH NO. DIES IRAE. LET’S GET OUTTA HERE. But the harder we try to push through the crowd in the amphitheatre the more hemmed in we get. The orchestra and choir begin performing the O Fortuna part of Carmina Burana. A woman behind us begins to cry and tremble. The man next to me faints onto my shoulder. I instruct the crying woman to “do some math” to calm herself down. I start reciting the multiplication tables, beginning with six. But she can’t find her tablet, without which she can’t do math. Sometime later I update my facebook status: In case anyone’s wondering, Dies Irae is still very dangerous for public consumption.