Monday, May 29, 2017

Dreaming a stranger's house

I used to have a recurring dream where I'd be walking down a city or suburban street after dark, minding my own, when I'd make a small move to the left or right and suddenly be inside a stranger's home. It's 2 am, and I'm standing in a quiet living room or rec room, in the dark, frozen, afraid to move lest I reveal myself. The smells of strange home, the odd arrangement of unknown furniture and wall hangings slowly materializing in the dark, a clock ticking. I don't know what to do. I've breached, I've trespassed without trying, or even wanting, to, sealed in to a fate I didn't want. How'd I get in here? How do I leave? I might get arrested, I might startle someone. 

The dream would usually end, or, as dreams do, narratively morph into something else entirely, or I'd wake up before I'm discovered by the home owners. I had this dream for years. I haven't in a long time. Now that it's absent, I wonder about it. Does it originate in my autobiographical impulse? The curiosity to essay my own life and past leading me to wonder, on the protected dreamscape level, about others' lives behind closed doors? Maybe, and more accurately, it comes from my writing about others, the desire to get into someone's home and learn what goes on there as, at the same time, I'm deeply wary of that impulse: temperamentally, I shade toward introversion. (I still hate interviewing people.) Maybe as a quasi-introvert, I experience my greatest social discomforts when I dream. Maybe I fear that I'm a fraud, or am morally dubious, on the occasions I write about others, making of their private lives a public subject matter. The dream is scary, unpleasant.

When I was a kid I imagined a machine—with gauges, blinking lights, electrodes, and the rest—that would record my dreams onto film; the next morning, I could watch them. I both craved and feared this. Sure, I wouldn't mind getting comfy and playing (and re-playing) that dream featuring Tina P. or Susan J.—but what about the embarrassing, shameful, awful stuff, the stuff in dreams (nightmares) that we blessedly forget or, if we're burdened with remembering, try and shake as the day progresses. I hoped that video would never surface. Anyway, I'm skeptical of dream interpretations, so I'll stop here. Maybe writing this will spur the stranger's-house dream to make an encore. Maybe I'll figure it out.

 Top photo via Senior Art Studio; bottom photo via Raygun Brown

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