Last night I dreamed a dream.
But before someone should get their hopes up, let me assure you I will not now break out into song.
When I woke this night, it was in the wake of a troubling and strange dream. I tried to shake off its shroud, but even as I went through all the motions of night as is my routine, I found my thoughts returning to the fleeting images still imprinted in my memory, most save certain moments gradually turning to wisps of smoke that vanished without a trace. But there remains these nagging armaments, stirring more questions as the hours pass.
I know my dreams. They are strange and dark things, some hidden corner of my mind trying to tell me something. Like the ones where I find her, though I am blind, and kiss her like I’ve never kissed anyone in all my life. Or the ones where he is crying and I am lost. Or where I fall and fall and then I fly. Or when I must kill our children because she commands me to, and I love her so much.
Rarely ever do my bad memories manifest themselves in my dreams; even my subconscious knows better than that by now. Why would I want to remember sadness and pain beyond words, of monstrosity and loss? I’ve enough of these things in my waking hours, and sometimes it is only sleep that shields me from every present reminder of what true pain feels like.
This dream was not mine. I was a boy in colonial clothing. I was being led by an old man down a dirt path in between a field and a yard. We left out a back door. One of the first things I passed on my left was a slave, working with something made of wood and metal. And then when I looked around there were other slaves scattered about, none of them looking at me when I walked passed. The old man who had the tips of his fingers pressed to the back of my neck to guide me took me to a grave, and I recall the fierce wave of grief that went through me. The name to me is unfamiliar, to the boy in the dream it was the name of his father. And I knew this without knowing it.
These are not memories of mine. I was never a boy in colonial clothing. I never owned slaves such as the ones in my dream. And my father certainly did not die when I was a boy, but he died as a satisfied old man surrounded by his legacy of children and grandchildren.
It makes me wonder where this memories come from.
I can keep out the voices, the sounds, the clamour of the world. But there is a terrible vulnerability that comes with being asleep, and I think that sometimes my guard slips because I lack the ability to control my mind.
So I wonder: when I dream, does my mind reach out and latch on to the unsuspecting? Am I seeing what they see? Witnessing a day in their life? Dreams of sitting at a cafe, or smiling at a woman I do not know, that when I wake up perplex me because why should I dream something so pedestrian? Something so unlike my own experience or even my own possible range of experience?
When I dream, do I see their dreams? If the mind I latch on to is sleeping, just as I do, can I share in the vision that visits their slumbering mind? Surely when they wake they can make sense of their dream, whatever it means to their lives and relationships, but to me is merely and utterly confusing.
Are there memories I have shoved so far into the back of my mind that they only surface when I sleep? Did I meet some young man so, so very long ago and see his boyhood memory of his father’s death in his mind, and promptly filtered it into the “unnecessary” category of those things that are never really ever forgotten, not in my mind? And now, for some inexplicable reason, because the mind such a very curious thing, my mind chose that particular memory to give back to me.
In my dreams I have mourned people I’ve never known. I’ve made love to men and women I’ve never met. I’ve seen things in the light of day that I have no possible way of experiencing in my life. I’ve watched people die whom I do not know. I’ve died so many ways, for so many reasons, filled with such a range of emotion from rage to love. I’ve touched and tasted. Yet it leaves me unable to dissect or understand, and when I cannot enclose everything within a impenetrable barrier of understanding or justification, I cannot accept, and it plagues me like something is whispering nonstop into the back of my mind.