Dreams don’t work unless you do.
If the world were not there
no hand pushing back
If the world let you grow
unfettered and free
Reaching, spreading, stretching
Just the bend and twist
of your mind
lift of your feet
buoyancy of your dreams
Tendrils of beanstalk proportions
If the world let go…
In answer to Frank Prem‘s magnificent poem, which way.
I wake after little sleep. Only hours ago, I walked the lonely aisles populated by night dwellers. “You look how I feel,” the cashier had said, voicing my thoughts before I’d worked out how to speak.
Today’s my child’s birthday. Mentally, I list what needs completion: cleaning, baking, decorating, dinner, church, children.
Husband stretches and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve got to go,” he coos. “Choir rehearsal this morning.” Surprised, I check my calendar.
Someone has posted a quote about making life what you will. Follow your dreams.
I rise groggily from the bed. A busy day awaits.
I used to be able to fly. I would run fast; faster -scissoring my legs and gaining altitude till I could coast in the wind.
My airstrip was the front lawn of my childhood home, the one with the steep hill. Or, it was the field with trees by my junior high school so I could fly into them and hide from my pursuers. Once, I was over a desert landscape and flew out of my kidnappers’ helicopter, landing amidst skittering sands.
Yes, usually my dreams involved exciting adrenaline escapes from hopeless prisons. I was contained for how special I was with all my powers. Sometimes I knew I must get out or my parents and siblings would get hurt as threats to me.
I passed a few years dreaming in solitude, but problems began to creep in. One time, I had to escape and ensure I also freed my helpless child. In a later dream, I tried to run but was literally dragged down by three dependents. I searched around in panic, mentally calculating the odds and knowing that it was impossible with so many.
Now, I rarely sleep well enough for my mind’s movie projector to work. When I am treated to an exclusive showing, the picture is blurry or I can’t save the world because the chores weren’t done.
Even my imagination has become hampered by the sludge of the everyday.
Buoyed by mystery, Wil passed a happy time in the remainder of math class and all of English. Her mind ran scores of pleasant ideas round and round as she stared, unseeing, at her teachers or seatwork.
This secret message would lead her to a secret meeting of spies, determined to overthrow an evil dictator’s evil plans to destroy all happiness. No -she was needed as a key member of a team of talented and smart teenagers, the true advisers to world leaders. Better yet, Wil would discover she was the long-lost daughter of the King of Fairies and would have her powers and prestige returned to her.
The bell for third period played its low dong, and she headed eagerly to art class. Unlike most of Wil’s teachers, her art teacher cared about her pupils and her subject. Mrs. Ting also taught French, and liked to slip in French phrases and expressive gestures while lecturing.
“Today, we will continue to work on perspective,” Mrs. T. began, pointing her right hand toward some unknown horizon line and looking distantly at her imaginary point. “You all remember the first steps, bien sûr. Now I want you to draw your horizon, your lines of perspective, and then you,” here she paused to point and look instead at the class in general, “pick what to draw.”
She swished in her open art smock over to the supply cupboard. “Castles, a sports car,” Mrs. T. nodded at a few boys sitting near the back together, “Your dream house, your own house.” She began handing out large sheets of parchment. “This school,” she added, and received a few snickers in response.
“Whatever you imagine,” Mrs. T. concluded, placing the last sheet in front of Wil and looking right at her with a smile. Wil was no great artist, and she knew it. Mrs. T. liked Wil, however, and always told her that she loved her art. “So much creativity, Wil!” She would enthuse. “I wish I could see the world the way you do!”
Wil pulled a ruler from the bin in the table’s middle and traced her starting lines. What did she want to draw? She thought idly about the note, her family, and her life as she finished the necessary steps.
Almost of their own accord, Wil’s hands began sketching in trees. They began as dark sentries at the front, then marched along her line of perspective all the way to the horizon. She pulled her errant lock of hair from behind her ear again and toyed with it while adding light swirls of fog and a wan moon in the sky.
Wil was terrible at drawing people, though she wanted terribly to capture the lone dark figure from her dreams traveling through these misty woods. Instead, she roughly outlined a dingy square building near the horizon. For kicks, she penciled in a broken neon sign that read RESTAURANT.
At this point, Wil thought of two things: One, she’d never asked her father what time of year he’d met Cynthia. Maybe it had been snowing. Two, what red table would she need to go to at noon, and who or what would really be there?
Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.
As usual, Wil dreamed that night. She usually had vivid, exciting dreams of superhuman abilities and daring escapes. Lately, though, she’d had recurring visions of walking through a dark place trying to find something she desperately wanted.
This night, Wil had on a romantically glorious, long, dark cloak with a hood. She could see herself and see from herself, peering through a dark and misty fog twisting between trees in a fantastical woodland. Her elegant, pale hands drifted from the cloak to part branches and leaves as she wandered.
As her mind drifted closer to wakefulness, she strove one last time to see whatever tantalizing object it was that was her goal.
Instead, she was jolted to consciousness by the abrupt aural slap of her morning alarm. Quickly, Wil turned it off and sat up. She stretched, then searched around for her favorite clothes to get dressed: dark jeans, dark purple hooded shirt, black scarf, long black coat. She pulled on her favorite striped socks, and then the boots with a faulty sole. Last, she pulled her dark hair back from her face in a messy ponytail.
Tiptoeing and sometimes squeaking down the hallway to her parent’s room, she saw through his open door that Jakob had fallen asleep in his clothes -again, with his homework as bedcovers -again. He was snoring slightly.
Wil gently pushed her way into her parents’ room and knelt by the bed to awaken her mother. Quietly, without bothering her father, she nudged Cynthia’s shoulder.
“Mom, it’s time for our walk,” She whispered near Cynthia’s ear. Her soft breath slightly disturbed her mother’s fine hair. Wil saw it glint faintly in the ambient light of the parking lot through the nearby window blinds.
Cynthia stretched slightly and opened her eyes a small slit. She stretched more, then curled into a protective ball as she was struck by a coughing fit. To her side, Rob rolled over in his sleep to lay a protective arm around her body.
The fit subsided, and Wil’s mother carefully set Rob’s arm aside and sat up. She smiled a pleasant smile. She allowed Wil to help her into her boots and stood up to don her coat. They left the bedroom to the soft “Eee” of Wil’s left shoe, and walked down the hall and out the apartment door in similar fashion.
Outside, a light fog muted the world. Their footfalls were dull and echoes came back hushed. Wil intentionally breathed into the mist and was happy at the white cloud she made.
“How beautiful,” Cynthia whispered, then hunched over to cough again.
After she recovered, they started on their morning walk around the complex. The familiar, dull blocks were relieved somewhat in features by eerie fog.
Wil referred to it as a promenade; her mother as a walkabout. When she had first been recommended to exercise daily, Cynthia encouraged Wil’s input to make the routine less monotonous. Wil found no delight in pretending herself elsewhere whenever she had time with her mother, however. She felt an increasing need to savor every real moment with her mother they had.
Sometime during the second circuit, as she ducked under a naked tree branch, Wil was struck with the realization that this exercise mirrored her dream of the night. Mentally awakened by this thought, she looked around to see if there was some clue or object of interest to help answer the lingering, questioning feelings she’d had.
Her only reward was the usual tall, dull blocks of buildings, the gray sidewalk twisting between them, the dark and ugly trees, and the dirty parking lots. Wil felt frustrated. Patience was low on her list of character traits.
Wil and her mother completed a third cycle and returned to the apartment. They went inside, and over to the couch. Wil helped her mother off with her boots, then covered her legs with Cynthia’s favorite soft blanket.
Before letting Wil go back to her room to get ready for school, Cynthia held her arm and said, “Tell me where you go when you get back tonight.” She smiled with genuine love, and Wil returned it with her own.
This morning, I dreamed of returning to my grandmother’s house.
I walked through the door in wonder, and my feet slowly echoed a dark tread through memories. Everything was browns and shadows. The walls and floors were like stage walls -façades of what her house really had been.
I sought her lookout living room. This had been hers: from the praying Harvesters guarding either side of her music cabinet to Where’s Waldo? books hidden near the wall by the glass doors leading onto her narrow, darkwood deck. We always felt like kings overseeing her vast backyard, since her rambler-castle opened up to two floors in the back.
Now this room was as empty and nondescript as an uninhabited paper shack. There were no signs of any decorations, and only my imagination furnished it.
Eagerly, I turned to the stairs that steeply dropped from one side of the living room. I had always loved these narrow, turning steps into the dark, unfinished lower level. Down there had been a cement floor carpeted with fraying rugs; an old, metal wood-burning stove she might light; paintings of Victorian figures looking disapproving at us from shadows; antique toys to play with; a huge stuffed couch; a bar we played pretend at; and the hallway to her food storage, computer, bedroom, and art studio.
Even in life the basement was a dim, dusty, disused area. Now, not even the stairs were there. I looked over the empty gap and saw an incomplete staircase of books. How would I get down and salvage what I could?
The floor gave way beneath me, in an impossible tilt of the entire slab, and I traveled to the lower level on a falling teeter-totter of living room.
I walked around this angled now-ceiling to look around. My mind told me I was downstairs, but it was one, closed-off room. There were secrets stored behind a wall, as all basements appear in my dreams; but, there also was an enormous, dirty cardboard box with a torn-open top to examine. The book staircase was a stage prop of shiny-bound classics purchased only for looks that would never be read.
Inside the box, though, I found mounds of literature that were her. Antique Dick and Jane and dusty A Child’s Garden of Verses sat piled on Old Hat, New Hat and hundreds of unnamed children’s classics, properly faded and aged and loved. Scattered atop this scattered library was a large collection of pages, like a broken-binding calendar or matte-sheet magazine, covered in her writing and illustrations. She had been an artist.
I was in a state of near-waking, and told myself to get these things out, somehow, and get them to my mother. My mother coveted her mother’s things, especially after the house, furniture, and artwork had never resurfaced since her death.
This was a physical impossibility, however; as I saw the enormity of the cardboard box, tested the weight of the books, and wondered at the boxed-in state of the basement itself. The dream slipped away, leaving only memory dust and frustration.
I awoke determined to somehow get my grandmother’s belongings from some hidden location I must have been inspired to seek. Only, it really is all gone. The house has been sold. And even the living model of my imagination has turned to facsimile.