DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.
I didn’t remember the owl until he brought me the book about owls that he’d never shown interest in before.
I remembered that we discovered him by ripping up the old wood. It was rotted, but then we went too far, we ripped up the good wood, too. I didn’t rip it up, but I did stand by, not preventing it, and I watched the impulsive and hasty thrashing. I realized the baby owl was living inside, “Wait! Stop!” I implored. Perhaps the ripping-up was part of his birth. He flailed around panicked at the new freedom and in his haste to escape the careless freneticism. He behaved as if just learning to use his wings. He’d been trapped and now needed to exercise his strength. Frightened, he flew to a nearby tree and looked back at those who ripped up his home, eyes wide. I was next to them, but not with them. I, too, stood apart and looked back at them, eyes wide with fear. The owl’s feathers were brown and white, almost stripes, a most beautiful and unusual configuration.
I was having dinner at a restaurant I used to frequent. I thought you never went there any more out of a distaste born of shame. You decided to hate the place instead of yourself. Truly you hated both now. I was surprised to see you there, eating with some friends. (Including some old friends of mine. I don’t speak to them anymore, although I continued speaking with them too long after I discovered they were feral.) You were wearing an old baggy sweater, navy blue with some holes in it, and baggy jeans. Perhaps a hat. All slightly too large and dirty, but intentional none-the-less. You left the table to smoke a cigarette, which surprised me because you were never really a smoker before and now you had a baby. I figured if you smoked, he probably hadn’t quit. I had no feelings upon seeing you beyond my surprise at your presence and at your smoking. Perhaps satisfaction that you’d returned to the kind of filth in which you indulged before you’d ever met me. I was relieved to see you return to something truer, albeit less flattering.
I went outside into the snow and behind me the restaurant was the old house where my dead husband’s parents live. My friends left without me so I used my cell phone to call my father for a ride home although it was late and I worried about his driving in the snow and also wondered if he’d perhaps had one more glass of wine than prudent for driving dark, snowy roads. As I talked with him I saw one of your friends sledding down a hill and she hit a fence and screamed with pain. I saw her crash but didn’t imagine it too be so bad. She continued to writhe and scream, seemingly unable to get up. I ran over to her body in the snow, dropping my telephone with my father on the line. Dropping my way of getting home. She lay face down, a wound swelling and bleeding on the back of her skull. Other injuries to her abdomen; she tried to get up but could not. I told her not to move and went for a phone to dial an ambulance. I worried that she lay in the cold snow, but worried more about moving her. I thought to bring a blanket. I found a cell phone in the snow to call for help, but it wasn’t mine and I couldn’t unlock it. I found my phone. I felt tired and interpreted it as my reluctance to help anymore. Her friends were nowhere in sight.
You were going to travel to Greece and I saw the large, ancient stone walls rise at the coast, a dam holding back the sea. I pointed to the dark and churning waters lapping the top of the wall, hundreds of feet tall, and told you that this was the highest the sea had ever risen in history. The sky darkened grey and navy blue and the stone wall was dark and brown. People still populated the beach, they were too close to the wall to understand or see the threat. You would travel to Meteora.
I lived in a house on the coast. I was there with two men who used to come into the restaurant, someone my friend used to affectionately call “the mayor” because of his gregarious nature and his relationships with so many townspeople. The other was a real estate agent. We all stood on the second floor of the house and looking out of the window I saw the sea rise darkly, pushing against the paneless window. There were traces of clear silicone caulk sealing this fixed panel of glass into the wall; it was never meant to open, perhaps in prescience, but the sea had never risen this high before. The storm had not even begun and the water was already threatening the integrity of the house, testing the caulk.
“You live on the coast, too, just further up. Is the water rising around your windows?” I asked the so-called mayor. “No,” he responded, seemingly unfazed.
“I’ve been having dreams about floods,” I told you. You were in Los Angeles and I was on the East Coast, with dogs recovering from surgery. Preparing for a fireworks display that would terrify the animals, send them running for cover that they would never adequately find, shaking and panting. Years ago the fireworks were viewed as a celebration, but now, there was significant dissent among the population, who, like the dogs, found the bombast terrifying and corrupt. “I don’t think these floods are about me,” I continued. “It is a warning. A message for everyone.”
We continued our conversation, but your manner changed. You were alerted and concerned because your dog was pacing. He needed something, although the answer to his interrogative was unclear, it was not quite his usual behavior. You decided to take him outside and returned my call after a few moments.
As we talked your room began to move. It continued. The floor shook, the clothes swayed in your closet. You needed to sit down.
These earthquakes continued for the next days, opening a massive fissure in the earth. The large crack extended from an area that apparently held water before. The erosion patterns on the desert sand indicate that some of that water was sucked out. The giant crack isn’t the only evidence that the region’s topography has permanently changed.
You tried to hang yourself again. He had to take the belts and scarves rigged around the apartment. You screamed violence at him and he left shaking. Everyone wanted to call an ambulance, but we prevented that from happening. I don’t know if your physical safety is of most importance, but I continue behaving as if it were. Once people came to get you, to look after you, you remained often angry and secretive. This happened before. Six months ago, but before that too, and it would happen again. It is your shame. You’ve decided to hate things and to hate yourself, repeating the story over and over in prayer. It pulls you into the fissure that’s opened in the earth. I wish you were guilty instead. Alchemizing the sickening yellow of loathing into a charcoal lump of regret. After all, charcoal is useful.
I spoke to you yesterday and you said the same things you’ve always said, writhing in the snow, head bleeding. All the while insisting you’re fine.
The dog pulled out his stitches. Again. Reopening the wound that never healed.