I’m racing up a steep hill on the tail of a pickup truck, stuck to their bumper without really meaning to be—having trouble locating the brakes, and then even once I do, still we seem to accelerate—we’re going faster and faster up the hill, flying over moguls in the road.
I’m climbing back up a hill I walked down earlier—crawling up the steep slope doggedly—and it’s really, really steep and, I realize in dismay, long, and I’m nowhere near the top—and I feel like I have no energy whatsoever and despair of making it—but I also know I can’t just stop and sit there, I need to get up and over and through it.
there’s a tidy little house, almost like a doll’s house, perched at the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere—a spiffy gay couple lives there, and I’m admiring the pianos, and the self-described missus asks me if I play, and I say, no, I used to try, and I loved to tinker around with it—and as I say it, I realize the truth of it.
I’m living—more like squatting—in a big old house with my stuff all piled around and old sawdust and debris all over the floor when a group of friends comes in—I try to keep them out, embarrassed by the state of things, but I can’t be outright rude—and bit by bit they start sorting things out for me—maybe it begins by my asking for their help in hanging a large framed picture—and then they all get into the project and set to work transforming my space. a couple of times I begin to disagree with their placement of things but then see their logic, which makes far more sense than I’d realized at first and surrender to the process. the very best, most delicious part is my tall friend from college who has returned from travels prepared to love me for real and heading up this transformation crew—he sets to work up on the bedroom, hanging vermilion and gold and vivid red tapestries around and over the bed until it resembles a jewel-toned cocoon in a bright room with large, wide-open windows, sunlight streaming in—and I discover another little room I didn’t know existed up some steps: a square, mission-style turret space with windows all around, glowing wood floors and window frames, and I think, here is my study, it’s perfect—it had been the daughter’s room, my sister’s friend’s, and some of her things are still there—the deal is that I’ll look after them until she can come pick them up—and I can easily work around the stuff for the great pleasure of using this space where I feel I belong.
I’m part of a group lesson in how to lower our shoulders—the charming woman at the front of the room says, ladies, you could even shimmy a little bit and, who knows, maybe you’ll get yourself a date, and smiles and demonstrates most delicately, and the group breaks into delighted laughter.
I’m driving with laura, and she starts to give me a hard time about how darn slow I am, how because I’ve taken a wrong turn I’ve basically wasted her valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere—and I start to stew and finally say to her, well, what’s the big hurry anyway? getting more and more steamed—but she won’t back down, she feels entirely justified in her position—and then suddenly we’re at a border crossing in Israel where the authorities are shutting down the road and telling the traffic from both directions to turn back—and a spoiled housewife in a camper is complaining loudly and asking just what she’s supposed to do now—and we all feel for the poor guys in uniforms who are dealing very patiently and professionally with a much bigger problem than this silly woman’s spoiled vacation plans.
I’m visiting a brother-sister pair of friends who are moving away and giving me their pair of pet rabbits—big fat bunnies—and I accidentally let one escape and am scared to catch it, afraid it will bite me, but the little girl just sighs and scoops it up and I realize they’re quite tame.
I go with friends to some kind of dinner event in a masons’ lodge or church, and when we arrive, there’s room at the table for all but me, and it’s assumed I’ll just sit at the next table over—but I thumb my teeth at them and keep on walking, go and search out a hiding place in the basement where I won’t be found or bothered until the whole thing’s over—it’s clear that I’m trying to punish them by removing myself but also effectively spiting myself. I go into a bathroom in the dark downstairs hoping for seclusion, but there are two old ladies in the stalls, chatting across to one another while they pee, so I have to be very quiet—I see an alcove of tiny chairs all stacked up and put away and go in there and sit down and lay my head down over them, but I’m not hidden enough—so I get up and crawl under a table with stacks of blankets piled up underneath and wriggle in toward the back, trying to tangle myself up and quiet my breathing—but the minister comes in and busies himself with paperwork right on top of my hiding place—I lie there wishing he would just go away and afraid he’ll find me—and then there’s a shift in the air, a hanging silence, and it seems like he may have seen some part of me sticking out—and I wake up.
I walk cross-country right into Exeter boarding school and, because it’s so big, nearly get away with passing myself off as a student. I drift around the place, sitting down in a large auditorium lecture class, more attentive to the students and the prevailing culture than any academics going on—affluent, smart, privileged kids—good-looking for the most part and deeply integrated into the institutional world. I go to the bookstore and am awestruck by how many fine and non-essential material wares they can sign away for. I walk down a sharply downward-angled hallway, a sort of staircase hybrid, architecturally distinct, and muddle my way through the maze of the place, trying not to let on what a trespasser I am. I cut across the beautiful autumn campus, sprawling dormitory buildings, wide hillsides, picturesque students walking to class—maybe this happens when I’m cutting out away cross-country once again at the end of the dream—but before that I get pulled into the dean’s office—maybe they’re getting suspicious, or maybe I’m just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I end up trying to pass myself off as a student, give them my name and stand there, heart pounding while they pull up a record for another sarah townsend who’s slated to teach composition—and it all seems too providential to pass up, so I say it’s me, lie about my social security number, and then stand there with a sinking heart just waiting for the truth to be revealed and my charade to blossom into flames around me.
there’s the boy who seems to maybe like me back—he calls me back to his room (we’re working in his house, and I’ve been vigilantly professional) and asks me if I find him attractive, and I begin to crumble and quake inside—the possibility, the terror—so much, I say, it’s killing me—and then I’m biting the clothesline that hangs before me. he says, I wondered if we might try something. he looks awkward and avoids meeting my eye. you can just say no if it seems weird or whatever to you. and I think, here it is—the moment of truth. and I say, okay, trying to keep my voice steady—it could really go either way—and then I wake up, and it’s lost, unreconciled. and I’ll never know what he was going to suggest.
I’m with thisbe, and she’s showing me something online which involves the guy she has a crush on—and then suddenly there he is, on the screen, seeing us back—and we’re both embarrassed and thrilled, giddy and suddenly regressing to adolescence—and I gesture that thisbe loves him—and she’s gesturing something equivalent about me, I notice, right after I question the kindness or wisdom of spilling these beans—and I’m overwhelmed by how childish we’re both being and fall away from the computer. nothing good or real seems bound to come from this.
I’m fighting with my sister—we’re staying in a hotel, and she’s scolding me, telling me to buck up, and I’m furious and indignant, clinging somehow to my right to feel bad—I stomp off and shut myself in my hotel room and adjust the lights to a more soothing setting, prepare to hunker down. later I’m back out in the world, and I walk to my car and glance away for a moment and it’s gone—only an empty space where it had been—and I’m sure one of my friends in the wedding party must have come to get it for me, mistakenly looking after me, and I’m frustrated and dismayed—I’d been intending to flee the state altogether, hit the road, and now there’s just an empty space where a moment before there’d been a vehicle—I stand there not knowing what to do, and thisbe walks up, furious and distressed and demands, where were you?, I’ve been worried sick—I feel bad but also like I don’t deserve her indignation—why do I need to answer to her? but bad for having upset her—and her strong reaction alone seems to determine that I’ve done something wrong. I’m trying to get free but I can’t shake the fact of being connected to and at least somewhat accountable to other people.
we’re skiing/skating down over an enormous globe structure excavated out of the ice and covered with densely compacted snow—we’re the field research team, and I’m assisting the scientists. as we go down over the slope of the globe, our speed picks up across the icy surface, and I grow anxious that Ill go spinning off into space—but we’re looking for the way in, some kind of latch or keypad entry, and just as I’m nearing the most dangerous slope, there it is, I skate right into it, activating it —and instantly all the snow melts right away and the whole gigantic contraption stands revealed: an ancient city-sized structure of immense complexity and grace and beauty— and alive, conscious, awakened somehow—like a god that’s been sleeping. and we’re relearning how to speak to it.