In my sleep I have a sword and a shield, otherwise I am the same person wearing flannel shirts, thick glasses, and bracelets from five different festivals. The people I meet in my dreams all seem relieved to see that I am carrying all that steel, they put their hands on my shoulders and they thank me. I never think to ask them what for. My dreams are about social happenings, polite dinners, running into old friends. I am always moving toward the setting sun, the direction of my childhood. I wonder what will happen when I reach the ocean.
Apparently technology works differently in dreams. There’s something unintuitive about the way a cell phone buzzing near your groin indicating that someone far away is talking to you, or wanting to talk to you; this is learnt behaviour and dreams work deeper than that. In my dreams, anything electrical works the opposite way I expect it to: traffic lights are too bright to look at, I cannot get a clear reading from my wristwatch, and if I pick up a phone – a red rotary phone – and dial your number, you actually pick up. You’re still debonair; we talk for hours.
Sometimes I see him in my dreams. I wake up and I know he was there, before the details of the dream sluices through the gaps between my fingers. In the dreams he hides in plain sight, that is how it works within a dream: inconspicuously. He smiles unmenacingly, even though I know he only has menacing smiles left. My dreams are prosaic dreams, about social rituals that make no sense, and how to adhere to them. He brews tea, he serves biscuits. He should not be there. He knows a way into my skull. Please. Get rid of him.
My dream journal is nine years old now. Each night, after my warm glass of milk and before I take off my glasses, I write down the dream I am going to have. My pen strokes are soft and feathery like my sleep. In the morning, my journal is empty and I have only the vaguest of recollections. But I have come to know a recurring dream, one where I write too hard on the page of my book and the words are not entirely erased, and dream seeps into my reality with that skippish jerkiness with which dreams move.
I had a dream that you kept telling me you were just a dream. You explained it would be a crapshoot whether I would even remember it in the morning, and while you talked you stroked my hair back behind my ear the way you do. You kissed my forehead and kept your mouth there so I could feel your smile. You turned my head and you whispered, “This is not important. This is nothing but impressions gathered during the day, arranged in sequence by your subconscious. This is weakness entering your body. Just enjoy it. Don’t think too much.”