I’m the operator of a cable car that travels between six planets in the deeper realms of outer-space. Out the triangular windows are various celestial sights that would undoubtedly mesmerize my waking-self but don’t phase my dreaming-self in the least. It’s all routine to me.
Today we’re traveling at a ridiculously high speed — way faster than usual. Emily is sitting across from me. I can sense that she is nervous. I glance around the car and realize that everyone is overtaken with a silent fright — and they are all looking to me for some sort of guidance. The car is a bit rundown and could use a paint job — the green pleather seats are torn and a good few of the lights are dim or flickering. As I’m glancing around the car it dawns on me (in a rather causal way, might I add) that we will all die in this car and, in fact, be dead within the next few minutes. The cables have snapped, and we are plummeting through space at an incomprehensible speed — a speed, that alone, will destroy this steel car and our ripe bodies within it.
I knew something was different about today. What am I talking about?! I’ve been working this job too long. There is no “today”. I haven’t lived a solid “day” in years . . . or a night for that matter. Life, for me, exists in perpetual motion. I have no star to call “Sun”, and I’m not even oriented by the billions that surround me. This car is routed on cables. The steering wheel in my hands is just for show. My presence here is a joke.
I decided it’s better to keep a straight face. No one needs to know about our fate. They will only freak out and begin to scream. And Emily? …why worry her? …to what avail? No, I’ll keep quite. Smile around, and send her a wink. We will all be stardust soon enough….
Suddenly, my ears begin to tingle and then sting. And then a single, insistent, and ever-sharpening pain shoots through my skull. The sharpest I have ever felt. I look around . . . everyone is cupping their ears with their hands . . . mouths agape. My eyes widen, mouth drops open. Am I screaming? Are they screaming? We all seem to be screaming. It feels like I’m screaming. The pain between my ears is so acute that, even though it is deathly silent, it is the loudest, most terrible thing I have ever heard. My consciousness, and entire life, have been swallowed by the searing pain — and I vanish into the empty soundless space.
I awaken in my room, it’s 1am, and I have the worst earache I have ever had.
I’m standing on a rickety pier, surrounding me throbs and swells a black angry ocean. No land in sight. The sun beating on my neck, the still empty blue sky above. I’m fishing with only a hooked line and a short thick stick. No bait. Despite the pitiful tackle, I am able to throw the 3-pronged hook far off into the rough waters. I use the stick to help me reel it in by twisting the line around it. My bare hands covered in thin red lines.
On one throw the hook lands centered in a pod of playing dolphins. I love dolphins. I immediately start to reel in the line as quickly as I can — nervous because I don’t want to catch one on the hook. SHIT! . . . Got something! . . . please don’t be a dolphin . . . please don’t be a dolphin . . . please don’t be a dolphin . . . .
I’m frantically twisting the line around the stick — it’s dragging something, something big, something heavy. My arms, hands, and fingers strain and ache — my tension builds as the struggling creature is desperately tugged closer . . . please . . . I don’t want this to be true. Sharp pains running from my fingertips to the base of my neck. Closed eyes . . . please don’t be a dolphin .. . please . . . .
Then I see . . . it’s not a dolphin!
My dear friend, Katie! . . . the hook is through her nose!
I collapse to my knees and break out into uncontrollable tears. She reassures me that she is fine while yanking and twisting the gnarled hook from her nose and climbing from the cold black water. But it doesn’t matter. I’m devastated — reminded of every time I have unintentionally hurt someone that I love. A deep hopelessness swallows my mind as dark clouds close in and spiral violent above me. My sobs growing louder, the sky cracks open, and frigid raindrops pierce my heart. My breath becomes the turbulent surface of the untamed sea — and I vanish within everything surrounding me.
I wake gasping for air. And the lyrics of a song immediately possess my mind — they soothe and cradle my sadness as I try to fall back into sleep.
I have 4 different categories of dreams. Tonight I will talk about one of them. You all probably know about the Incubus; the demon that sits on your chest while you are asleep and suffocates you. I have a Nicotine Incubus. The only reason I say this is that I spend substantial amounts of my life not smoking and have come to make a distinction between dreaming with nicotine in my system and without. When I am smoking, here is one kind of recurring dream I have:
There is a transitional time between wake and sleep. This dream always happens just about 15 minutes after I have started drifting, and am in that in between period of sleep and wake.
I become dizzy. My head is spinning. It feels very, very heavy. I know it is happening and I try to wake myself. I usually can not. A loud noise, like guitar feedback, scraping nails, screaming, and some kind of engine, deep and full, all start spinning around in my head. I am being pulled deeper into my pillow. I really want to wake up but the intensity and heaviness increase- the noise gets louder and louder- so I become less and less able to wake myself. I am being pulled down.
I sometimes am able to realize I have a choice. If I am feeling strong, I make the right choice. I start to fall. I am in a standing position and begin to fall face down. I trust myself. I am able to fall in slow motion. Just before I hit the floor, I begin to hover. I hover well if I am feeling strong. It is like flying except I am only 3 or 4 feet from the ground. I search out things. Sometimes I can control it. Sometimes I find naked women. Sometimes I just go through earthen tunnels; underground worlds.
The dizziness comes back, the noise, screaming metal sounds. I realize I must awake because I am not able to breathe. I see myself on the bed. I have hovered to myself. On the count of three I will wake up. 1,2,3, Wake up! I think I am awake but the noise starts again. I tell myself I will throw myself on the floor, out of my bed, and do so. I think I am awake, but I am not. I am still being pulled down. I am gasping for breath. The gasping is what wakes me. I look around. I have been still. I haven’t tossed or turned. I am not on the floor. I stand up and am dizzy. I can’t see well. I have to stay out of bed because I know that if I lay back down I will immediately be pulled back in.
It was that some knew when they were asked and some knew not to say much. The difference between a possessed and someone looking for the dawn to come was in the amount of clever hesitation. Only the dawn peaked and never rose. Rounding the corner, the hyper strong possessed girl came toward me. Another stepped out and they seemed to distract each other. Around the corner, the light was a warm nebula over the field where the city ended, and in that moment a heat of questioning seemed to permeate everyone. We all wanted to know who remained pure. It must have been that some still thought they were but had been possessed. Their eyes were thick with questioning and leaned into your my space. I ran toward the sky but it only became a road down which streets with porches of tired beach weathering seemed to hold the very possessed who had bothered me at the dawn. In a home small wolves with red eyes and strange sac bodies of blood were strewn. The home seemed sick with vampiricism. Like the other women, I had an ornate shell anklet. One dark skinned girl was shaking shells in front of her chest and face and chanting. The elder talked of pairings. Mentioning me and someone named “Japan,” I turned and saw a strange white skinned boy with dark little nutty eyes. Said we were two individuals. Maybe we were all zombies. No one seemed gone into the light.
They planted explosives under the produce. The store is open. Now they are tracing spools of thick orange wire across the distant isles. This isn’t a covert operation, but people aren’t paying any attention. I see them however, and a deep sorrowful pain rises in my stomach — I know what they are going to do. And I know they are planning on doing it at a time that will yield the most damage. I pace the isles, keeping my eye on them. I don’t know what to do. I can’t talk. My anxiety has gotten the best of me. So I just watch in terror as they work methodically, without emotion. Why are my friends doing this? The fear rises from my stomach to my head, my eyes open. ♨
There was a hillside where we, the soldiers, hung out. It was joyful to feel myself in my legs walking down and then up a hill of earth. It was a tall mound of jagged dirt at the top. There was some talk and some camaraderie. Not long and I had fallen asleep inside a warm sac. There was a sexual bit. I remember a phallus. Then a mouth sort of yelling from the outside to wake up. The war had come.
I dreamt I was floating over people being marched as soldiers. We entered a compound and there was an amnesty zone where a sport was being held. I thought of the Celtics(a team I guess?) I was filming with an old victorian accordion camera and there were broadsides of poetry and art. Michel had a piece on the counter attached to Susurrus Din. SD’s work was not supposed to be there, but it was attached to Michel’s. Someone sort of shuffled them on the counter. My friend S.K. from Philly was there in profile. The war was still on outside. An urge to leave came and then I saw a man with an M16 and a white T-shirt come in. He was getting the jump on the other side. For all the war feelings and guns, I heard no shots. I had a bad feeling leaving the arena where the poetry broadsides/Celtics game had gone on. I didn’t have my gun. Where did we leave our guns? Where was my baby? I was think this as I was inside the arena too.
When I left the arena, I climbed up in the building to escape. I saw dark-latino or middle-eastern men. They didn’t seem associated with this “war.” I felt a slight tension but they just disappeared. I needed to get out. I had rope. I don’t remember tying the rope to anything, but still I rappelled down the side into a foyer and ran off. I remember thinking I was not sure what color my team was; blue or tan. It felt like a summer camp and not a war after all. I ran off alone and didn’t rejoin the soldiers but came upon an outdoor birthday party that I was not invited to despite the realization that my sister and brother were there. My brother gave me a plate of pomegranate seeds apologetically because there was no cake for me. I arrived just in time to see it placed before his good friend Gibran. They cut the cake and I slipped away. The women were dressy and one had a scarf around her neck. I had been wearing a full-length slip as I walked up alone. I looked in the refrigerator and saw some old cupcakes. I ate nothing, save the hint of pomegranate seeds. They tasted like cranberries.
I look to the right outside the passenger-side window into a blue crystalline cove of water with clay formations holding sparkling pools. I say nothing, but I too am amazed at what we found right near us. To the left is a huge tuft of brownish grasses and the air is vast in the landscape. I feel a palpable hope. We are cresting a hill in a car. We have escaped into a paradise. J is smiling. The sky is a vivid blue and everywhere I look is a sparkling water, or a formation of clay. We are walking now. There is a large conch-shell shaped formation that juts up on one side It has huge loopy openings. I hear a familiar photographer’s voice saying a technical term from photography. I float up to get a different angle. Looking down the long dusty road we came from in the distance, I think I make out a white bus coming. Then I see colors in the dust which are people everywhere, and up in the high clay cliffs, people running in Jalibiyas and turbans all coming for us. Some are carrying vendor boxes. We head back. We sort of run too…Its exciting. A short wet headed man looks up at us. He has skin the color of a muddy river, and he is wearing a nightdress or a Jalabiya.” Happy New Year!” J says. We are making a run for it. I don’t know why we are scared.
We push through double doors and are in a subway corridor. J slides in to sit at a bench near restaurants. Two large African American men in glossy eighties Baseball jackets are sitting in front of us but I don’t look at them. I am looking at the food. I noticed some enormous grilled scallops. You are upset about something irritating your mom did. I sort of tune you out and listen to the people around us.
Children are complaining about their orders. “Smaller shizzazz stew.” A boy said in a bored voice and sends his bowl of goulash back. A doe-eyed girl has a chunk of lard with black things in it on her right shoulder. As we talk J says he has to go set up for the hootu ritual. Says he will do just about anything for Lars. This doesn’t make much sense, being that my brother Lars doesn’t do rituals that I know of.
I recall that we were home, I wondered if I smelled like sex. I was dressed and ready for work and thinking I might not go. Still, I went to work at school on a Wednesday, even though I didn’t work on Wednesdays. I had gone into an office where my old principal was sitting in a roly-chair. I was stapling my credit card readout like one does in waiting tables at the end of the night. I asked her for the tape and began to put it back in the drawer until I realized it had been to the right of the computer keyboard before. I felt as though she was disappointed and shamed me. “Its wednesday, I didn’t have to come to work.” I said, in my defense. “I was surprised to see you.” she replied. Earlier I had sat in the back of a class, broken up a fight even. In the classroom, I had asked a question about having a cultural day. I was braiding a left chunk of my hair as I spoke, and forgot my question, so I asked about hair braiding. I wanted to know if we could all braid our hair like Dion. I could see the students in front of me. I could feel my blond hair in my fingers. It was an awkward question toward the end of class. I could tell the teacher did not appreciate the distracted opening into chaos. A few rows up, a girl I haven’t seen in more than fifteen years was saying she would like to have her hair braided too.
When I left the classroom, I entered a place of smooth dark glossy over-buffed floors and brick walls. I saw that under a ladder, a box of wine had broken. A few Latina women tittered about the spill. I smiled even though the specific funny word that raised her eyebrows meant nothing to me. There was a cleaning up and everything seemed cleared away and pushed back to reveal space. It all had to do with a man with a forgettable name.
I’m in a second story apartment with my friend Helen. She has a beautiful terrace that overlooks a lively and colorful street — the scene makes me think I’m in a city in South America. As we’re talking on the terrace I notice that the shop names below are changing. At first I am baffled, but then this tips me off to the fact that I may be dreaming. Immediately an excited fear pierces my mind. I start looking around in attempt to read the shifting signs above the storefronts. I can’t — they are moving and changing too fast, and the roman letters are taking on different shapes and colors. We move inside and I grab Helen by the waist and she whispers something into my ear and kisses my cheek. I ask her if we are dreaming. She nods with a grin. I’m overwhelmed with a intoxicating sense of freedom. I don’t know what to do: Should I rearrange the dream? Summon the ghosts of old friends? Take flight? Make love with an apparition? All the possibilities scramble my brain and render me powerless. I’m stuck — I know I’m dreaming, but I don’t know how to manage the experience — and now I’m unconvinced that the far off world my body is sleeping in holds any authenticity. I’m also frighted and a deep loneliness ruptures within my body . . . “It’s all only me.”
– – –
I’m driving north on Route 29, heading to 70 west, going to West Virginia. I’m on a motorbike, and I’m not paying attention to the road, occasionally falling into a trance. I snap to and realize that I fell asleep while driving and missed 70. “Where am I? These are hilly dirt roads. How did I get here? This isn’t 29. How did I manage this while sleeping?” I’m still drowsy, and I can barely keep my eyes open. And slowly I realize that every time sleep overtakes me, and my eyes close, they open somewhere else. I’m flopping between two distinct worlds; however the secondary one is very faint. I’m constantly jolting myself back to the one in which I’m driving the motorbike over the dirt roads — it seems more authentic to me, and the one in which it is more pressing that I find my way, the road seems treacherous. I manage to stay awake driving just enough to see that the road ends at the base of a hill at a watery pit. I come to a sliding stop on my bike just before the water’s edge. I see that the dirty shallow water is full of crocodiles. I start getting nervous, and turn the bike around to leave. The dirt on the ground is as fine as powder, and the struggle up the hill is slow and hard. As I’m leaving I see another beast: this one is bodiless and is only the head of a crocodile but its lidless eyes are catlike, huge, perfectly round, and emerald green. I have no idea how, but despite have no body, it is still capable of moving around terribly fast. It’s chomping its gapping jaw and staring at me, into me — and the layered sounds its jaw makes as it chomps are ghastly and loud. I manage to get on top of the hill, but sleep comes for me again. I’m driving — my eyes close and open . . . I am looking out into my room, lying on my bed . . . they close . . . I’m driving on the dirt road, I don’t know where I’m going . . . they open . . . I am lying on my bed. This happens a few more times and then this world, in which I am writing out this occurrence, holds me. And I am left wondering where I’m headed on that dirt road. ♨
It’s a red night, and the city’s narrow streets are full of a gritty blackish slush, 3 sloppy inches thick. My feet are getting wet and spirits low. I’m looking for someone — for my brother, Joseph. We were doing a photo shoot of a fucked up version of the “Alice in Wonderland” tea party. Everyone involved is getting anxious, and I am worried that they will turn violent soon. Their teeth have been removed for the shoot, and they look terrified and resentful. Where is my damn brother! If I don’t find him soon these toothless freaks will rip me apart with their wooden hands and black gums. ♨