"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What Do Dreams Mean? The Answer Is Obvious

Harvey Klinger had a dream about Africa – savannas, a Mauritanian desert seashore, a threat of violence, and Melissa, an American woman who had never been to Africa with whom (in his dream) he had slept and who asked him why they had driven along the coast without stopping to move to the back seat of the Land Rover or to a native hut, or onto the black sand beach.  It would have taken hours for the gypsy caravan in which he was travelling to make it down from the high precipice to the tidal reaches of the sea and the blue waters extending far past the horizon into outer space where he and Melissa were headed or could go if it weren’t for the tourists and the demonstrators and the cattle. 

Image result for images mauritanian sea coast

It was a beautiful dream, a composite of his Africa – intimidating, satisfying unsuspectingly beautiful, a hodge-podge of sexual adventure, crime, elegant women, food, and a liberation from wife, children, and family; a pause from responsibility, duty, expected rectitude and purposefulness.  The dream had its usual add-ons – there were no gypsy caravans in Africa, no falaises, and no places which looked like Turkish towns. overcrowded with summer tourists looking to walk the route of St. Paul or visit the Roman ruins along the Black Sea; but there they were in Harvey’s dream, busy, bustling, beachy and out of place in the deep piney forests of Georgia around them, slowing his caravan on its passage to the sea.

Image result for images gypsy caravans

There is nothing more boring than other people’s dreams, and I mention this one not for its own sake but to bring up the obvious nature of dreams.

Harvey Klinger had long wanted to sleep with Melissa Vaughan, but never had the temerity to even approach her.  After all she was half his age, a family friend, dangerously psychotic; but still, all in all, one of the most attractive women he had ever met.  There were pros and cons – a love affair vs an inextricable entanglement, doomed from the start if for no other reason than if the relationship were ever to become known, two families would be scandalized, not just one.  Not only was there his age (what on earth was Uncle Harvey thinking?); and hers (hadn’t Daddy been enough?) , but the outrageous sexual villainy of it all.  December-May relationships happened all the time, but between a Washington lawyer and a part French Bourbon New Orleans artiste on the verge of insanity?

But there she was in his dream, on the passenger side of the Land Rover or on the back hard wooden benches of the caravan, under the canvas and with the sheep, either one was too distant and unfriendly for Harvey’s purposes; but her inaccessibility – the gearshift, the animals, the rocking of the caravan as it made its way down to the sea – made a point.  In real life she was not to be, not for him, and even though he may have consciously considered putting his arm around her, the dream told him no, never, or even ever again.

Why she turned up beside him in some composite African country in a gypsy caravan going through Turkish tourist towns on the way down to the Mauritanian coast was an unanswerable question – not even worthy of being asked given the obviousness or irrelevance of dreams.  The dream mechanism in the hippocampus could either be sensible – helping the likes of Harvey Klinger to face facts and deal with his dilemma – or totally random.  Why in another dream, would Harvey be arranging flowers around the casket of a Circassian officer? or eating udder and clams in Passaic, New Jersey?

Image result for images turkish tourist towns

No one has yet deciphered the nature and role of dreams.  Emptying the hard drive? Drawing down on emotional inventory? Sorting out id-ego-superego conflicts? Or simply recreating in kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic form, the events of the previous day? Any or all of these explanations have salience.

And what of purposeful dreaming? The ability that some are said to have to engineer a dream, wish it into being, take it out of the realm of conjecture and randomness, and make it a product of consciousness?  If this were possible, then dreaming might be simply an extension of reality. 

But what about Melissa then?  As much as Harvey tried, holding on to dream fragments of Melissa as he woke up, hoping to quilt them together with more sensuous live memories of her, he had no luck.  As he drifted back to sleep he found himself either n Belgrade cooking tripe, with his father playing wiffle ball, or walking naked through Times Square.  Was the dream of Melissa and he together in the Land Rover/gypsy caravan so far-fetched or so remote in his dream-life that it was gone for good?  Would he have to wait for his subconscious to bring her up and out again without his doing or his will?

So he had to be content with looking at his family album – he and Melissa as college friends, at family reunions, on the shared boat on Long Island Sound; she in summer stock, they on Martha’s Vineyard – or social media far less satisfactory, too nonchalant, and indifferent to matter; but there she was with her long blonde hair; tall, inviting, lithe, and irresistible.  It was never enough, but except for his dreams Harvey was unable to tell Melissa how much he wanted her; and the dreams were never repeated, not even fragmented cameo appearances.  For all intents and purposes she was gone – whatever mechanisms were at work in his cerebral cortex; whatever splicing, combining, random or purposeful firing of synapses enabled dreams of Melissa, he had no control over them. 

Image result for images martha's vineyard

The next time he dreamt of Melissa, he was in a nondescript location – vaguely African because of the light and sounds of the street, but it could have been anywhere.  The vividness of the gypsy caravan, the colors of the flood plain and the ocean, and the sensuousness of the precipitous ride off the falaise down to the sea were all gone.  She was as real as she was in the previous dream but just as inaccessible.  Worse, she wanted him, and wondered why he was so concerned with the lock, the refrigerator, and the balance sheet of the day.  He was disoriented – as sexually aroused as he had ever been but distracted; and when they finally began to make love it was as though she were wearing a chastity belt, a clumsy wooden thing with no give, no slide, and no entry.

Any fool could have told him what was what and what the dreams were telling him.  Either get off the fence and tell Melissa your intentions; or make up your mind that she isn’t for you and as hard as it may be, forget about her. Or address her as an old man’s fantasy – an ironic Platonic sexual shadow, always there on the walls of the Oberoi hotel room, never more than a fantasy and an ideal, a reminder of life’s short span and limited possibilities but surprisingly real nonetheless.

He did none of the above, and periodically dreamt of Melissa in strange guises and on weird, unexplained foreign stages.  This would have been all well and good, an emotional consignment to be inventoried with all the rest, if it hadn’t been for the increasingly wonderful compositions she took on.  It was as though bits of every woman he looked at on K Street, every movie actress he watched on Netflix, every attractive Legal Associate with whom he worked at his downtown law offices, were pieced together around, in, and between Melissa.  She was even more irresistible than ever for she became every woman Harvey had ever wanted not just simple unique Melissa.

The good news was that Harvey’s obsession with Melissa waned as confounded and confused as it became with all the other women in his life, real, imagined, or glanced.  The bad news was that his sexual desire – and frustration – increased each time he had one of these composite dreams.  It was all women he wanted.  It was woman he wanted, undifferentiated, uncharacteristic, but decidedly female.

Oy, vey”, was all a friend said over coffee when Harvey told him of his confused, frustrating, and irritating fantasies  No help at all, no parsing of inter-cognitive twists and turns, no sympathy for his old man’s lust, the worst kind. 

No big deal. The stuff of every man’s regrets.  Go to sleep, forget about it, and see what you remember in the morning, is the best advice one can give.

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