Have you ever wondered what dreams are actually made of? Other than the stuff? Does anyone really know? Lots of intelligent people profess to understand the meaning of dreams. Countless books have been written on the subject, usually with moons or clouds on the cover, often by Americans, who have copyrighted the dream, and all with plausibly literal translations. For instance being chased usually means you are running from the truth whilst feeling heavy means you are burdened with worry or regret and flying means a suppressed desire for freedom from responsibility. But what about the more idiosyncratic dreams? The ones where you open your eyes and go, what the fuck? I am a participant in two very different types of dream, those that are open to lazy interpretation and those which are not. The latter can be very perplexing and as they tend to happen just before I wake I am often able to remember them through their telling.
For example this morning I was travelling in a horizontal lift across the face of a mountain before rising through a desert floor to be left in the open near a blue door in a chalk cliff. I knew not to turn left and that the piano I was carrying in my rucksack wouldn’t go through the archway so I went through it anyway, along a corridor swept with sand and into a modern beautiful house that I owned but was not allowed to live in. As I passed through the large French window I entered the airing cupboard amidst the scent of dry towels and descended some worn stone stairs whilst being reminded that the piano was called Lucy and needed tuning. Stepping into the awaiting wasp shaped gondola I floated along a canal of barber’s shops each with a turning barber’s pole, each unravelling bloody bandages into the water which was now solid mud. I climbed out of the sunken rotten rowboat and walked in bare feet which seemed oddly small, red mud between my toes, whilst synchronised cuckoos appeared from every window and I knew I was late for the blind man.
Any ideas? Anybody? This is pretty normal for me, how about the one where I was leading a hundred foot high elephant made of coal along a dark and foggy street, on its back a choir of filthy miners singing on tiered pews, the beams from their helmet lamps lazily criss crossing? And then there was the time when I was a ravenous albino chocoholic trapped in Lewes town centre which had been perfectly recreated in white chocolate and bleached bone and I was unable to tell which was which and let’s not forget having to pick all the greenfly from the petals of paper roses in a huge greenhouse which was also a plummeting glass zeppelin, an unknown continent looming below through torn cloud. Not that I mind any of this, odd as these mental confections may sound they are actually quite pleasant, especially when compared to my most common type of dream, my bane, the Sad Bastard.
I am no master of the universe, I won’t be remembered as a colossus of business or as an inevitable philanthropist but I have done okay in a world I have no influence over and yet in the one place I should most certainly be a God, inside my own sleeping head, I am, more often than not, an utter failure. When my dreams are not totally inexplicable they are alas totally explicable, the stock in trade of the dream unweavers. As a kid I was tall, skinny and cripplingly shy, I was the one who was picked on by the stout bully, the one who would stammer when spoken to, the one who would always walk behind or in the gutter. My father noticed and when I was thirteen, in order to bolster my confidence, got me a part time job in a gym and with encouragement from the kindly owner I set about building a fortified body to better protect and project myself. Unfortunately the facade I created worked a little too well, so effective was it at keeping the clamour at bay that the insecure boy inside never saw any reason to leave.
In Sad Bastard dreams I am always found wanting, fearful and slightly unpopular. If I am a surgeon a nurse takes over, if I am an actor I forget my lines on opening night, if I am wooing my wife she leaves with someone else, someone I vaguely know, as Sad Bastard dreams are always populated by people I faintly recognise. I crashed an oil tanker, was left to die in the vacuum of space, failed to save my mother from a bear, was a real life Action Man but with boobs and sexual harassment. I worked in a small factory that made beautiful watches and only seemed to employ parents from my kid’s school. I wandered around intimidated by their skills and scowls, secretly terrified that I didn’t even know how to tell the time. If I travel by taxi it won’t move, by bus I will be running after it, by train I will be standing, pressed against a door that threatens to open. I once returned to the shop to find my staff had organised a surprise party, the surprise being it was not for me but for a guy I once worked with in a call centre. I will be laughed at, ignored by the hero, the kid left over. I am always bald, balding or have comedy hair. I am the cushion for the king, the envelope for the love letter, the matchstick not the flame.
I have always accepted that this is just how it is, this is the land of nod after all, it’s fickle, but recently I began to suspect that there might be a reason for it, that it was deeper than a book with moons and clouds, that perhaps the Sad Bastard was how I saw myself through the eyes of others. So after years of this pitiful nonsense I have finally decided to do something about it and have fashioned a plan, a much simpler plan than I ever thought possible. I have concluded that it is alright to let the outside in, to take down some of my careworn defences. At last I understand that reticence is nothing to be ashamed of, that I am more than the muscular indifference I present and that if I can be nicer to people in the real world then perhaps they will be nicer to me in my dreams.
Update: They weren’t.