I was only slightly asleep.
I was with a friend of mine. I stood on a crowded subway platform in a dimly lit station. There were countless unidentifiable faces around me. Imaginary people, with no origin, or future connected to my own.
I recall discussing with my friend the way writers will open a story with one focus, switch to another, and either return to the first or sometimes employ a third. And the trick was to connect everything much more than smoothly, but hopefully hypnotically. Because the truth is people want artists to give them something fantastically engaging. And safer than drugs and promiscuous sex.
Here I was thinking of and referring to my most recent work. How I will open the story with Erica and her drama, meander into Tommy, tap on Taylor, delve into Shaniah, Freddy, and Derek, and then return to Erica and Tommy, and round out with the bond between Erica and Shaniah. I thought of how my work is essentially cut out for me, but that didn’t mean I had the skill to execute it, or that the themes I wanted to dissect would necessarily make themselves visible and apparent to the reader.
But that’s the struggle I try to overcome early in the process: accepting that I will hate the work, the work will take on it’s own life, determine itself, and wont exist to satisfy me.
In the middle tracks, where an express train would run, a stood a row of West Indian black men. It was understood they were working, but they seemed only to be mulling about. Just the way MTA workers stand and walk around the tracks, except much much slower. They didn’t wear reflective gear or hard hats.
One in particular stood out because he was wearing a red long sleeve, had a medium grey beard, and long grey dreds piled high on his head and wrapped in grey cotton. He had the regal, wise, and unaffected authority of an older black man who had survived past middle age and didn’t give a fuck for any of your foolishness or racism. He was here. Still standing. He had the lean and swag of a Rastafari.
The platform became so crowded that now my friend was in the first track, where the local train would arrive. She lingered for a while and we spoke about nothing, until it annoyed me that she was being reckless this way, and I ordered her to get back up on the platform. I gave her a hand, and shortly after we could see golden light rounding the brown corner of the tunnel.
But it wasn’t a train approaching us at ferocious speed. It was a giant wolf; his coat a mix of gold, white, and brown. Light glowed from its eyes, his teeth shown with determination as he sprinted toward the station. People screamed and scurried, but there was nowhere to go.
I pulled my friend into me. The men on the express track did nothing.
With a gymnastic flip the wolf hurled its body directly toward my friend and I, and this was the only thing I could predict in the dream. I knew it was coming for us.
My friend cried out in terror.
I held onto her as I pulled our bodies back, away from the wolf. But there was nowhere to go, and even though my instinct was to reach forward and guard more of her body I didn’t.
Part of me wanted to use her body to push the wolf away, but I knew that was dangerous and wouldn’t work.
I didn’t know what to do but I wanted to be able to do more, but I also didn’t want to do anything that would remove the barrier her body made between me and the wolf.
I stirred awake easily, with out gasping or anything. I hadn’t had to fight out of a deep sleep and I didn’t feel like I’d just had a nightmare. I just woke up and sat up and drank some water. I could still remember the initial horror at seeing the wolf at the turn in the tunnel. And I felt some type of guilt at the sound of my friend’s screaming. Almost immediately I thought of Aleppo. Of knowing that people were in imminent danger and losing their lives and how no one was doing anything, and how helpless non-governmental, non-powerful citizens feel everyday. Because what can we do?
I fell back to sleep all right and dreamt some more that I can’t remember.* And I woke up and dressed and thought about how scared I’ve always felt, about my internal memories, and what terrifies me, the way it manifests, and how I let it control my life, and that I needed to stop.
*Update: Dec. 15, 2016 – I remember now. I dreamt about BOYS! That the two guys I’m most obsessed with were both obsessed with me and jealous of one another… As if.