I know what happens when I lie down in my bed after coming home from work. I nap, and occasionally sleep the night. I don't mind to nap, since I prefer to keep late hours, but I arrive home knowing two things: it takes an hour and ten minutes to do my laundry, and I'd really like to lie down right now. I don't like to resist sleep; besides, I have an hour before it is 7:30, which is generally around the time when I absolutely must gather my laundry, roll a spliff, suit up, and quit the apartment with time enough to drop coins and dry clothes without making the laundromat close late. Closing time is 9:00. I know all the ladies who work the laundromat, and they know me, because I am the guy forever showing up with barely enough time to do my laundry. I wrote my senior thesis on procrastination, so I know what I'm doing.
I sleep a restful, unpleasant sleep. Unpleasant because of the dreams. Strange dreams. I don't commonly remember my dreams, and I don't often recall even having them. But today, in the space of an hour, I had and can recall three uneasy and eventful dreams, each related to the other, each separated from the other by the chirping of a set or re-set cell phone alarm.
1. I stroll through my neighborhood. It is my neighborhood in my dream, and somewhat similar to my neighborhood in waking life. An urban mix of two- and three-story brick dwellings, auto shops, storefronts, ironwork railings, cracked sidewalks, sycamores. I live on the strange borderlands between Brooklyn's Sunset Park and Borough Park neighborhoods, the former populated, at least proximate to me, with mainland Chinese immigrants, their restaurants (American Chinese, Chinese Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese - all owned and operated by mainlanders), pharmacies, "variety stores", doctor's offices, garages. Borough Park is by and large an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, mostly of the Haredi stripe, big furry hats and modest women, the color black particularly popular, kosher grocers, cobblers, tailors, CPAs, a kippah shop. Generally a safe neighborhood, though sometimes the Chinese kids brawl, and the Haredim always keep an eye on you. But here in my dream, there is no population, there are no signs I cannot read. Yet I am strangely alienated in this place, far moreso than I ever am (or feel) in my usual environment. Typical dream crap.
I enter a building. It is a large structure, open inside like a warehouse, with a large cement loftspace. There are trucks up on the loft, two of them. I don't feel like I am trespassing when I ascent the staircase to the loft, where promptly one of the trucks reverses backwards into a pit filled with water, the driver somehow falling out of the cab and into the pit. The driver of the other truck gets out of it, looks at me, and seems to say, go, go help him. The dry trucker himself walks hesitantly toward his trapped co-worker, but I rush to his aid. I sense something is wrong, something has been thought through. The trucker in the pit isn't panicking; I pull him out. He says nothing, but all of a sudden the foreman, or some authority in the truck building, approaches me and thanks me for my quick action. Would I please come with him? He smiles in an obsequious way that gives something up, and puts his hand on my arm. I indicate my intention to exit his realm, but he persists in holding onto my arm. I tell him that I really must be going, my people are waiting for me just outside, they are expecting me. He lets go. Of course, I have no people outside, whatever he took that to mean. I flee hurriedly. The street again.
2. I am in a different New York neighborhood, not sure where, but it feels like Manhattan. A mix between the West Village and Midtown, with a little bit of Grozny thrown in, some wreckage and crumbled stone against the facades. I've been walking a long time. I'm going to visit my mom, who has just moved into this neighborhood. In wakey-world, my mom lives in South Florida, but my aunt does live on the UES. Mom's dream street is somewhat similar to Aunt Barrie's, some highway or bridge outlets onto it halfway up the block. I go into her building which, again, is a large and oddly open space with high ceilings and wide hallways. The visit with mom is pleasant, though I make a fuss out of her living in a neighborhood of disintegrating buildings - hey, what are you gonna do? I exit her place for whatever reason, and then decide to re-enter, only now the lobby has grown much larger and harbors some kind of railway depot. Wait, no, those aren't trains, it's some kind of amusement park ride, or in any case, small trams crammed with screaming passengers are regularly sent down numerous parallel tracks into a darkened, plunging void. People line up for this.
After witnessing two people slapping each other in the lobby/hell-train terminal, I decide to investigate why this is no longer my mom's apartment building; maybe I just went through the wrong entrance? I exit again, re-enter, and it is a different interior. I am in a hallway, walls painted dark purple, dim sconces barely illuminating anything. A janitor, young, long-haired, looking kind of like Vincent Gallo, mops in front of a doorway. I ask him what is on the other side of that door, and he replies that the meeting has just started, I should go in. I do. It's a book club! I don't know any of these people, but they all seem enjoyable enough. It looks almost like a class at Bard! And what are they discussing today? Wonderful Wonderful Times, by Elfriede Jelinek. I just happen to be reading that book as well (IRL), imagine that. I am invited to join in - sorry, there are no more chairs, but please make yourself comfortable. I sit on the floor next to the sexy girl. There is only one in this class. A lot of frumpy, Seth Roganesque guys, some nerdy birds, the teacher (whom I don't recall but I want to say looked like Takeshi Kitano), and the sexy girl. She wears a white skirt, comfortable shoes, her hair is brown, shiny and soft, eyes brown too, she looks rather Israeli, and has a proper melanin spot on her cheek a little above her lips, which are appropriately dreamy. She is fiddling with my hair. I glance up to see that she is attempting to affix her jacket to my scalp with some kind of adhesive tape. I look her in the eye and sternly inform her that I am not a coatrack. She looks a little surprised at this, the smiles and respectfully ceases that action.
I don't think the book club discussed the book at all, which is a shame. I find it odd that I just happen to be reading the same novel as this mysterious book club, not a popular novel in the U.S. at all, grim and violent and Austrian. My sexy friend offers me some white gum, which I do accept. It is gum. I chew it. Kitano-sensei attempts to organize the gathering, but I am now more aware of the fact that the gum seems to be expanding as I chew it, and certainly is becoming more viscous and grainy. I spit it out into the wrapper, but the gooey bits stuck to my teeth begin to grow again, working into an unmanageable volume. I look to the girl who provided me this impossible substance, and she smiles queerly. I excuse myself, walk out the door, and find that the hallways is now white-walled, the floors linoleum, the janitor in the exact spot as before. I ask for the bathroom, to which he accompanies me. He sees me attempting to spit out all the gum, picking at my teeth, and laughs. We crack jokes. He doesn't seem all that dimwitted, though he is now attempting to wrestle with me, wheezing and guffawing. He is obnoxious. Get off of me, I tell him, though he is now definitely trying to put me on the floor. Now get the fuck off of me, now. He just keeps laughing, trying to trip me, which he does. I fall to the ground, and he continues to attempt to restrain me. Holy shit, is this guy trying to rape me or something? I am not having this. I get out of his grasp with a combination of my foot and my crazy snarling voice, and return to the classroom, but I hear him in the hallway, laughing and wheezing. The horrible gum is back in my mouth.
3. This dream is very brief. I awoke from the previous one with my jaw sore, surely from grinding my teeth, which I am purported to have done often in my sleep as a child. The time on the clock/cellphone is probably around 7:20 at this point, but, following the laws of motion and thermodynamics as I do, I remain at rest. I reset the alarm.
I am back in the classroom. Apparently I've been getting along splendidly with my bookclubbers/classmates, as I now have my very own chair, and they are all gathered about me in little groups, standing while I remain seated. There is much laughter and merriment. Sexy girl and one of the Seths come up with a plastic bag. Let's play a game! they say. Hm. Seth puts a bag over his head, and the Israeli-y lady explains: put the bag on your head, and see how long we can hold it here until you don't want it there anymore, and when you no longer do, look, you can just put your head right through the bag. Seth promptly pulls the bag down tight onto his skull; the bag tears, his head is free, he smiles and laughs, she smiles and laugh, everybody smiles and laughs. Ohp, gotta get a new bag. She reappears with a new plastic bag. Thick. Seems to be reinforced every couple millimeters with embedded blue nylon lines, has ridges along its surface, textured, almost corrugated. Heavy duty. I point out the difference. Oh, there is more laughter, and an awkward glance between the girl and guy. A worrisome glance. I get up to to leave, and I remember the janitor. Everyone is laughing.
So then I woke up, cursed the time, and rushed to do my laundry, replaying the details of the dreams through my head as I lugged the heavy bag of clothes on my shoulder down the block. I have some ideas about what's behind these dreams. The laying-on of the hands may have something to do with an experience yesterday in the subway, while I was transferring from the J to the N at Canal Street after having dinner with my friend Jean in her neck of the borough. Going down a flight of stairs as the N train pulled up below, guy behind me begins pushing into my right side, trying to wedge between myself and the wall of the stairwell so he could get to the train. Pushing me, basically, while I was going down the stairs. I gave him the old rib-elbow, but in retrospect I should have shoved him headlong down the steps, shattering his arm or face on the platform, that little shit. I got onto the train at my apparently insufficient pace, as I'm sure he did too, unless he was expecting a Q. The subways, the sidewalks, they frustrate me, they do get me angry - the people, I mean, the great plurality of corpulence, flesh missiles on uncertain courses, having to dodge them, having to slow down for them, occasionally having to collide with them, having to adjust my step, reacting, causing reactions, and all I want to do is just get somewhere.
For the violence and malice displayed by the characters in my dreams, I can probably thank Ms. Jelinek. The feeling of foreboding, the paranoia, is certainly my own. I don't feel especially vulnerable in this city - no one has every harassed me, punched me, or pulled a blade on me, as other friends and acquaintances have reported - but I do tend to remind myself constantly that people are dangerous, dangerous. People cut off other people's eyelids and punch strangers for kicks and formulate nerve gasses and assemble antipersonnel devices. Cinema and newsmedia have made their case for a deadly and volatile world, and you can't argue with the pictures. The slapping that occurs in the amusement-void place comes from the mamma I saw slapping her young daughter on the subway platform at the Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St. platform while heading home from work. I never come up with the right thing to say to asshole parents in time to prevent the corporal punishment of their children, though I compose the perfect screeds later on.
Visiting mom in Bizarro-Manhattan? Well, she did mention yesterday that she wants to come up and visit me. She was born and raised there.
The ever-changing interiors seem like typical dream fare, but their darkness and spaciousness cause me to think that they may have their origins in Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, an ergodic novel I read some months ago about a family who moves into a house that, they soon discover, is dimensionally larger on the inside than it is on the outside, and, oh, a bunch of other weird shit. I was thinking about it on the train ride home, wondering why no one ever saw the unusual formatting and typefacing and asked, whoa, what is that? during the month I read it, mostly on the train. That would be my ideal way to meet people. Ask me about my book.
The emotionally turbulent Vincent Gallo janitor came from my watching The Brown Bunny on Monday. I am glad his dick did not appear in my dream.
The bag on the head I have no clue about, but now I can have a new kind of death to fear!
The gum, the gum. The gum was very persistent. I think it has something to do with my recent feelings about dental care. I bought mouthwash yesterday. I noticed a buildup of plaque a few days back, which I removed with post-it notes, lacking a brush at the time. And I ground my teeth, which probably accounts for a lot.
And, of course, there were the alarms. Violating my sleep-space, periodically cutting off my dream cycle, assaulting me. My better intentions (clean clothes) battling my basic desires (remain in bed), pitting one half of the soul against the other, laughter with murder, suspicion and doubt with heroism and art. I don't often recall my dreams, but when I do, they generally creep me out for a while.