in these dreams, i am always conscious of the passage of time - that somehow, we are not supposed to be interacting in the present, but in the past, where we really belong.
i am driving down 395 south, away from virginia and into the district. it is dusk. the sun is sinking to the west, the sunset beyond the sprawling angles of the pentagon a dull, diffuse rose - the east is all deep gray and the winking lights of the pentagon city office buildings and hotels.
there is thick traffic. not quite enough to impede me - just enough to surround me on all sides. i move continuously into the stream of red tail lights ahead of me. the negative image, blurred and blurring headlights, wheel past on my left, moving, slowing, moving again. everywhere there are these small bits of light, traveling in concert without any need of one another - i notice it, how we move like this - being funneled, funneling ourselves.
a plane approaches national airport, sideways across my view, descending into the darkness that keeps feeling its way along the potomac. the whole city, spread out in front of me from this vantage point, is sanguine. low-slung. waiting, and unperturbed.
usually, i don't remember my dreams. my subconscious, like my conscious, is not very clear with itself. my dreams are often at best half-remembered things - a sense of what the dream was like, but not what it was. details elude me. meaning escapes me. i am usually only left, at best, with feelings - unreliable things that they are.
i am struck, in my little oasis of a car, with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. i don't grip the wheel any harder, i don't veer out of my lane - i am simply struck. i am afraid that there is nothing to me.
i am afraid that, deep down, i am not good person or a bad person or an enviable person or a pitiable person. i am afraid that there is no essential truth about myself, no center that will right me if i could just learn to balance on it. maybe - maybe there is nothing there.
maybe i am like a baseball, and if you managed to hit me hard enough to knock the covering off, i would simply unravel.
last year, i had one of those dreams where you dream that you've woken up, but you really haven't. i'm dreaming that i'm in our bedroom, awake, but that something is not right. i lay still. after a few moments, i realize that i hear sounds from the bathroom. i lift myself up on one elbow and peer through the darkness towards the bathroom door. it is a stark black space, surrounded cleanly on all four sides by the light streaming out from behind it.
someone is in there.
i creep around the bed and towards the door, adrenaline starting to seep into my chest. i am afraid only in that dream-like way - not acutely, as in the face of danger, but absolutely, as in the face of the unknown. i push open the door, and the light tumbles forward, half-blinding me.
the man inside, who had been looking in the mirror, turns to look at me. he smiles. "oh," he says, "it's me. don't be afraid - it's just me."
it is my uncle, my father's brother. he has been dead for twelve years. i try desperately to focus. i realize, as i tip backwards inside myself while standing perfectly still, that i am dreaming.
don't be afraid - it's just me.
i wake up in an instant, and i am really awake. but the darkness - that all seems the same.