I am notorious for having excellent dream recall and having dreams worth recalling (which is always the trick, isn’t it?).
I won’t bore you with a brief retelling of previous dreams, though some of them are crackups in and of themselves. I write this because of one particular dream I had recently which stunned me in its lucidity and punchline.
Sometimes these kinds of dreams do actually make their way into stories, and this one has the potential to. But I’m so swamped with other writing projects at the moment that I just know the only way this will see the light of day is if I retell it here. And I would hate a perfectly good dream to go to waste!
The dream started with me wandering through an incredibly large indoor shopping mall, the kind which also has quirky shops around its outside. I had a vague idea that my purpose in being there was to meet someone and yet when I finally did bump into the person in question I had never met him before.
I was standing in a surprisingly quiet food court, surrounded by odorless meal vendors with tastefully colorful counter displays, when he approached.
He was a handsome man, with a laid-back disposition, an easy smile, and a slightly nervous habit of moving his weight from one foot to the other as he spoke. We fell easily into conversation and it was obvious from the get-go that there was an attraction between us.
In fact, the conversation was going so well that I found myself suddenly feeling very uneasy. I wanted to keep talking but I realized that too much talking when first meeting someone could lead to their sudden need to be anywhere but here with the understanding that they will likely never talk to me or acknowledge me in a crowded room again (I can be an epic conversationalist in real life, and in dreamland everything is intensified and my dream self seemed to see the inevitable problem on the horizon). I wanted the friendship to continue and I figured–in my sudden insecurity–that the best way for that to happen was for me to end the current conversation as soon as possible.
In my panic, I blurted out, “I really must go now and check on my dog.”
Which seemed, on the surface, a logical segue into a natural conversational conclusion.
Only, I had no dog. None.
Obviously, when awake, I would never have descended into such a dishonest ruse, but to my dream self it seemed like the best way to end the conversation, since it would appear that circumstances beyond my control were tearing us apart, rather than my sudden panic wanting me to be anywhere but here.
And so I barreled on with my deception, inserting gusto and detail with every sentence.
“He’s waiting outside,” I said, pointing to a nearby exit. “Tied up to a pole. I have to go check he’s okay.”
The man’s eyes widened with surprise. “You have a dog?” he cried in excitement. “That’s incredible!”
I laughed, in an attempt at nonchalance. “Really?”
“Yeah,” he said. “What kind of a dog?”
And as he said this I realized the utter idiocy of my mistake.
This was a person I wished to get to know better. Over an extended period of time, all going to plan. And I had just inserted a pet who did not actually exist into my life.
“Oh, you know,” I waffled. “A smallish kind of big dog.”
“Amazing,” he said, shaking his head. “I’d love to meet him.”
Here I swallowed, my dreamy mind frantically trying to figure out how I was going to make such a thing happen.
Now you would think it would be the easiest thing to suddenly alter reality (dream reality that is) to insert a canine companion at this point and backdate its insertion so that it existed long before this conversation ever took place, but it seemed in this case that was not an option. Instead I suddenly remembered a friend of mine who ran one of the little shops on the outside of the mall. He had a dog. I was sure of it. All I had to do was find the dog in question and enlist its help for a bit.
“I tell you what,” I said, the mental gears churning, “how about we meet up in half an hour?”
“Okay,” he said, not at all suspicious of why it would take me half an hour to locate a dog I supposedly had tied up just beyond the nearest exit. (Don’t ya love it when dreams cooperate? I doesn’t happen often, but when it does…you start to wonder what your dream has around the corner.)
With a hurried goodbye and a promise of meeting him in half an hour, I rushed out the exit into the intensity of sunlight bouncing off the mottled grey pavement and bounded along the row of shops facing the outside until I came upon the shop in question. It was a leather store, it’s bright yellow walls displaying bags and shoes and jackets and other leather-related what-nots. I dodged a few display tables laden with wallets and purses and then found myself breathless at the long, curved pay counter.
Where, it so happens, Jack Nicholson was standing.
Now while I do occasionally have cameo appearances from celebrities in my dreams, this was the first time Jack Nicholson had ever appeared. He was playing a wrinkled curmudgeon, yanked out of retirement to pay off a gambling debt, and who had long since lost interest in life. His character showed no hint of mental instability or sudden murderous intent so I counted myself fortunate and rushed headlong into the purpose of my visit.
“Say, Jack,” I began. “Could I borrow that dog of yours?”
The pooch in question suddenly appeared from behind the counter, a stocky, black Staffordshire Bull Terrier with a beautiful face, as far as Bull Terriers go.
Nicholson raised an eyebrow like he was about to ask a question, but then remembered his complete lack of interest in life. And so he filled in an invoice paper for a hundred dollars and pushed it across the counter to me.
“You’re selling me your dog?” I asked, simply for clarification.
“A hundred dollars. Want the dog or not?” was all he croaked.
I glanced down at the dog, seeing possibilities stretching out before me. After all, if I were to manage an ongoing relationship with the guy I’d just met (whose name had apparently never crossed my radar, something I would have to clear up pretty quick smart on further acquaintance) I would need the ongoing use of the dog. I wasn’t particularly au fait with the going rate for a canine, especially one who had already outgrown its puppy-ness (which I would have thought was worth half the price of purchase for most dog transactions) but one hundred dollars for the chance of getting to know dream-guy better was certainly hard cash I was willing to part with.
I signed the deal and promised the dough, since I didn’t have it on me at the time.
He nodded and said, “Just have her back by dinner.”
I blinked at him. “A hundred dollars for half a day?” I spluttered.
He nodded. “You signed it.”
My mind boggled for a moment at how I could have been stupid enough to not have asked for further details before committing myself to a transaction. But still, a hundred dollars to produce a dog before my future boyfriend in half an hour (or much, much less than half an hour now) was still worth doing and so I said, “No problem. I’ll kill her off before the day is out.” A spot of grief could certainly cement a relationship, I figured. And the guy might buy me a puppy to make up for it and I’d be on the winning side of everything.
“Kill her off?” said Nicholson, showing an interest in life for the first time in fifty years.
“Metaphorically speaking,” I added hastily. “This dog I’ll return in one piece before dinner. Promise.”
And with that I grabbed the lead of the dog in question (a lead which had just conveniently appeared, as leads often do in dreams) and we set off out of the shop.
As we meandered our way along the gray pavement which skirted a one way street, it quickly became apparent that the dog was not in any way trained. She yanked me from pillar to post and once or twice straight out into oncoming traffic. I quickly returned to the shop and asked Jack, “Is this thing house trained?”
He grunted. “Why would I have put that much effort in?”
“Right,” I said, remembering his complete disinterest in life. “Great. Home by dinner it is.”
And so we meandered in a zigzag pattern once again along the pavement, dodging the occasional car as I made a mental note of how easy it was going to be to create a plausible story of the doggie’s demise.
At one point the terrier got her paw somehow caught in her collar. I bent down to remove the limb from its constraint and when I straightened up again I found myself almost face to face with my future beau, he appearing just as handsome and easy-going as I remembered.
“Hi,” I said with a flustered grin.
“Hi,” he said, staring down at the dog.
The dog looked up at him with a fascination of her own.
“This is fantastic,” he said, his gaze locked with hers.
“She is great, isn’t she?” I said, feeling that a plug for the pet was definitely an appropriate thing to say at this point.
“I can’t believe you’ve got a dog,” he continued.
“Like dogs, do you?” I said. I was getting that warm glow you get when everything seems to be completely settling into place and you know you’re absolutely meant to be with this person.
“Not in the slightest,” he said, still staring at her. “I’m usually extremely allergic. But then I was talking to you for all that time and nothing happened and you suddenly told me you had a dog and I thought, ‘goodness, that’s a dog I absolutely have to meet!'”
I stared at him, my jaw having dropped. “You’re allergic to dogs?”
“Usually,” he said, finally glancing up at me. “Highly allergic.”
I looked at the dog.
Then I looked at him.
Then I looked back at the dog and wondered if I let her lead go right now whether she would meander in front of some oncoming truck.
And then I was rocked by an almighty sneeze emanating from my future beloved.
And when I looked back at him his eyes had swelled completely shut.
“Ah,” I said.
And at that moment my alarm went off and I woke up with a terrible feeling of disappointment which stuck with me until breakfast.