I wonder if other people’s subconscious minds ever produce cryptic dreams like this. Probably. Probably most vanish soon as they open their eyes. As, I am relatively sure, thousands of mine vanish. But occasionally something in my psychic makeup sets a hook in one, and reels it up out of dark waters into the light of wakefulness. I try to record it exactly as remembered, even as it wisps toward nothingness. Here’s one from two years ago:
I was sleeping. A complicated dream kept trying to form and then wisp away. I was getting annoyed when I woke up, surprised I had gone to sleep so soon after getting home from work. I was thirsty. The big coffee cup I kept beside my recliner for iced tea was empty. Must have forgot to fill it before I went to sleep. I got up and went out into the dark apartment.
My brother was sleeping on the couch near the dark TV. My grandmother and mother still were not home. Only my car was in the driveway, which must be why my brother still was home and not out on a date. I bet he was really irritated, and wondered where they both were.
I remembered leaving the big gallon jugs of sun tea on the deck to cool after steeping all day, and took my cup to the front door. There was a Y-cut incision sawed in the wood, like the one a coroner makes in a corpse. I have no idea why I thought someone was setting up cross-ventilation to burn the place down. But that’s what I thought. Couldn’t think of any enemies that determined or clever, so it was probably the landlord working an insurance scam. I made a note to warn my grandmother, who took care of those kinds of things, and went out to get sun tea.
One of the two couples who lived next door were on their side of the deck, on a chaise lounge, snuggling and making out. For some reason I noticed the blonde was wearing green slinky gym shorts. I averted my eyes to avoid being rude.
The tea jugs were not on the railing. My brother must have moved them inside. In the backyard, several different songbirds were still building the large complicated birds nest they had begun on the remains of a tree stump. I saw a thrasher carefully weaving a long piece of straw into the pile. Others were hopping around and twittering; no singing. Then I saw the chocolate muffins that had been on the kitchen counter that morning, sitting by the birds nest. A couple of sparrows were pecking away.
Damn; my grandmother had complained they were stale and I guess she donated them to the birds. Now I was hungry as well as thirsty. I went back inside looking for the tea. An errant beam of late afternoon sunlight came through the curtains and hit right in my eyes. The brightness dazzled my vision momentarily. I blinked a couple times to adjust. Held my eyes closed for a minute. Out of habit I guess, I lifted my big cup, though I knew it was empty.
But it wasn’t. Cool ginseng-laced tea flowed into my dry mouth. Huh.
I took another drink, and shifted my head around to escape the sunbeam. When the sun was off my face I opened my eyes. I was in my recliner in the bedroom of my little Pacific Northwest house. The afternoon sunlight had found a crease in the west-facing window shades. My dog came padding in when she heard me stir to see if she could get me to let her out in the yard.
I was 75 years old. My brother wasn’t a hell of a lot younger, his dating years decades behind him. He lives on the other side of the country, still in Florida where we grew up, now patriarch of an extensive clan of kids and grand-kids. My grandmother and mother are long-dead, both buried last century in the Georgia family plot.
The last time the four of us shared an apartment, we were in St. Petersburg Florida. I was in the fifth grade. My brother was in the second grade, not yet interested in girls. Neither grownup had a car; we relied on city buses, or walked everywhere in the stultifying heat. We didn’t know about sun tea in St. Petersburg. I discovered sun tea on my own twenty years later, in Phoenix. Another stiflingly hot place. We never lived together in a place resembling my dream.