To Sleep Perchance To Dream
In the dream, I had just moved into a very small apartment in a seedy old building in a faraway town. It was only a single room with an ancient Murphy bed and a funky little kitchenette in one corner. But somehow there were dozens of closets and cupboards, oddly sized and shaped, many hidden behind cleverly disguised trap doors.
As I wandered around the small room I kept discovering new nooks and crannies and holes in the walls. And when I opened the strange little doors, I saw that the spaces inside were all packed full of brightly colored circus costumes.
The former tenants of the apartment had been a couple who were circus performers, and they'd left in a hurry, leaving all their colorful outfits and props behind. The other thing they'd left behind was their small daughter, who was dressed in a pink tutu and sobbing.
The landlord told me the couple had fled the country and were never coming back, so I could keep their stuff, or I could toss it. He told me they had taken their son with them but they didn't want the little girl any more. I asked him what was to become of her. He shrugged and said I could either keep her or turn her over to the authorities. Several of the closets were filled with tiny tutus: the little girl had been trained as a circus acrobat, even though she was only two and still in diapers. I decided to keep her and spent most of the dream carrying her around on my hip, stroking her hair so she wouldn't cry.
There wasn't much of a coherent plot, at least not that I can recall. Mostly just a lot of aimless milling around. The apartment was built around a courtyard, and the other tenants, who all seemed very exotic and creative, wandered in and out of my room, their long brilliantly colored scarves flapping in the wind. Some of them gave me advice about caring for the child since they had known her parents. But they were mostly vague, ephemeral and mysterious, in the way of dreams.
I do remember that I befriended a woman who was a Shakespearean actor who had recently been cast as Hamlet in some big famous production. My dogs were in the dream too, and they followed us around without leashes as we visited the neighborhood shops and cafes. Everyone in town was dressed in circus costumes, like the escaped lunatics in The King of Hearts, but it didn't seem strange at all. I walked down the street wearing a juggler's outfit, with the little acrobat perched on my hip, and I was happy.
I think I can say, unequivocally, that the saddest thing that has happened to me so far in 2007 is that I woke up from this magnificent dream.
I've read that the ancient Greeks built special dream temples which were considered hospitals of sorts, called asclepieions after the Greek god of medicine. Sick and injured pilgrims flocked to these dream temples where it was believed they would be cured by dreams sent to them by Asclepios. They would sleep in the temple overnight and the next morning report their dreams to a priest or oracle who would interpret the dream and prescribe a cure, often some kind of creepy healing ritual involving snakes. (Snakes! With any luck, I wouldn't have had health insurance back then either and would have been spared.)
I've never been a big fan of dream analysis myself, perhaps because my own dreams are usually so entirely forgettable. But this was one of those dreams that has followed me around all day, lingering in my peripheral memory, haunting my waking thoughts, demanding to be addressed.
I suppose if I had to go with any one school of dream analysis, I would lean towards the one that says everything in the dream is really my self. The dreamer is me, but so is the sobbing child who I am not turning over to the authorities. I am also the fugitive circus performers who abandoned their own daughter. I'm the woman cast as Hamlet, always debating whether to live or die. The seedy old apartment full of secret compartments storing abandoned costumes is me. I'm one of the escaped lunatics, oblivious to the Great War waging outside the walls. I might even be the dogs who no longer need leashes. Me, me, it's all about meeee!!
And yet I still have no idea what the hell it all means. Maybe it was just the Ambien, or the Phenergan, or the Lortab. Or all three. Lord knows I'm taking enough drugs that mess with my brain. But whatever it meant it was a lovely dream, and I didn't want it to ever end. I hope it's a good omen, perhaps a pre-Freudian gift from Asclepios, a message that the year ahead will be filled with wonder. May 2007 be a dreamy and colorful year for us all.