May 21st, 2006
Everybody’s dreams are fascinating. To themselves. It’s rare I hear one any more prophetic, splendorous, beatific, or horrific than anyone else’s. Still, I want to tell you one of mine. I’ll keep it short.
The setting is San Francisco, but flat, hot, and noisy, like New York. I have an armload of library books, which I’m on my way to return. I stop at Peets Coffee. Then I browse Goodwill for some shirts. Next, I’m in the hallway at my son’s high school. Each stop is a procrastination. I have to get to the library. My books are due. But they’ve disappeared. I retrace my steps. I ask principal Olken to keep an eye out for them. I harrass the Goodwill clerk. I check under all the tables at Peets. I panic. I step out onto Market and am almost run over by a streetcar. But it’s a bookmobile on tracks. It stops. The operator in her nasty green dress runs my fast pass through a slot. Overdue books. I’m not allowed to board.
Overdue books. This is the nightmare of a six year-old!
I believe dreams are the mind’s brainsurfing. But maybe they have some meaning. So I replay a recent library visit. I’m at the Sacramento street branch, at a big table under the nose of a female librarian. I’m reading Herodotus, as I always felt I should. I manage ten pages. A mildly interesting story about King Candalous urging another man to watch his Queen undress. I’m not about to read 800 pages of this kind of thing. I close the book, but can’t bring myself to place it back on the shelf because the librarian is laying this benevolent gaze on me. She obviously approves of my reading habits and I can’t disappoint her. After a few long minutes she leaves her desk and I take the opportunity to slip out the front door.
Then I understand. The books in my dream were big and heavy. Thucydides, Herodotus. Greek history. It was like being hit in the head with a Doric column. I couldn’t take the books back because I hadn’t read them. I would have been found out. Better to lose them. Let the authorities think I’d stolen them because the wisdom of the ages meant so much to me. There’s virtue in that.
If people do not understand their dreams, they are doomed to repeat them.