There was a war.

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 had some things to do before I could let it overcome me, stop me with its indifferent, tidal forces, rhythms of carnival activity, parades and acrobatics. I had so much to carry and I noticed others were in groups and sometimes had carts or sleds to help with their loads, but I struggled, making multiple trips, and also hiding. They would kill me, the war was advanced enough for that.

An older woman dressed in many layers, her lips bright red and eyes lined darkly, offered to paint my face, with “just the right highlight on the cheekbones”. This was her job and she was quite skilled, the best in fact. I thought it was about time to stop imagining that beauty might be different from craft, or to consider that honesty does not bear relation to fact or truth as we commonly suppose. The body has no natural state. The face has no natural state. And so I accepted her offer.

I found an old cart, I thought I might use this cart, like the others did, to escape the city more expeditiously. It was neglected, rusty, and one wheel looked askew. I had seen a woman using a sled, under her own power, and wanted this cart to be similar, but it was intended for oxen. I imagined that I could pull or push it just the same, even if it was not ideal. The large warehouse required some disguise if I were to enter. It was heavily attended by soldiers, a maze of rooms and floors, leaking. I abandoned that approach. I found a road out, out through a manicured lawn where people lounged as if collegiate. A woman I knew from years ago came smiling towards the lawn, her once-distinctively long hair, now short. She wore a colored leotard. She was an acrobat in the circus. This was a powerful position. Perhaps that’s why she headed in so freely. More people were coming in as I was leaving, so many people. A brigade of women holding signs, signs having to do with women – white with black hand-written letters. They were wearing orange leotards, orange hair, and with silver batons. They were in formation, quite choreographed. Leading the array were old acquaintances; they had maintained their friendships through these years, the same two that shared the ocean front condominium and swam in the rip tide, and now they were en pointe with colorful ribbons and high-kicks, moving quickly, smiling, towards war. I hurried past, disguised, recognizing old friends among the faces in the eager crowd.

I continued down the long dirt road. It was lined with grand marble government buildings each with tall columns and surrounded by green lawn. Gradually, this population of advancing people and the white buildings gave way to open fields and finally, to a still lake surrounded by trees. I began to feel relief. I saw the flocks of birds at the far end of the lake and they flew, in formation, in escalating manifestations. They began softly black, fluttering flocks in the distance, but then began to take on silvery and mechanized attributes, like sharply folded paper airplanes. Until they turned and with increasing aggression flew like arrows towards my place on the shore; I dropped to the ground and lay flat. I tried to run between the onslaughts, but that time shortened to nothing and I would have to crawl away.

He lived in the house my grandfather built.

When it was my grandmother’s house, I told him as we sat at the kitchen table in the half-lit morning, she used to keep blueberry muffins in the freezer. The refrigerator was black, she always liked to keep a black refrigerator and the freezer was at the bottom; the muffins tasted like cake. Now the refrigerator was also black but had the look of shiny and dark wooden planks. I doubt it is a coincidence that this good friend now lives in my grandmother’s house, but on the other hand, no one could have made it happen that way.

Perhaps because there were no muffins I decided to go to Wal Mart. There were people filling the parking lot under tents, as if there were a fair or festival of some sort. I realized that many were protesting and many were defending the store. I wondered how committed they were to defense; they were mostly the elderly and wearing red smocks over their elasticized jeans. They were angry at the thought that their jobs might be threatened by these protests, creating a barely suppressed violent tension. I considered the ease and pleasure even, of physically harming these defenders and simultaneously the rhetorical futility and political banality.

I found her in one tent; I realized it was the tent passing out the pamphlets, inciting revolution. One woman had long, grey-ish hair; she was smiling and calm. She seemed kind, her kindness bearing no direct relation to the moment, in the way of kindness.

Invisibility is a feature of the marginalized.

Visibility is marked by familiarity. We want to give up whatever attends the elusiveness of the unseen.

To draw out what is in common and to make concrete, a monument for those ways. To become visible.

The nature of background, in many cases, is to be invisible. It still must be apprehended, left to the mysterious and yet solved, as it were, by a more proper sense. A sense that once atrophied must be rehabilitated, cultivated, because it is not vision that finds the invisible.

When you sense what is invisible, or what is different than you sensed before, a different kind of substance, it may be considered an illness. Like deafness or blindness, a diminution of certain senses that allows others, now enhanced, to come to the forefront. This newly sensible is between the other stuff. Between the people and the words and the chairs.  It is what lets double dutch jumpers know the moment to jump into the swinging ropes, it is not only where the ropes are but where they aren’t and this is never static. So what is it they are waiting for? What are they accustoming themselves to as they rock back and forth judging the moment. Sensing the moment.

Falling in love. Sensing the movement of space and substance and accommodating oneself to that rhythm, first inside feeling that particular fullness and lacking that is that other person. It is a rhythm that you must match before you can jump in. It feels good to be home in that way, to find a movement that is yours, even if it looks different than you thought it might.

I started seeing things differently. Only the word seeing no longer seems like the correct word. I have heard people talk about the spaces in between things. The illusory spaces and the idea that even in what we think of as discrete bodies there is more space than substance. In this way people can imagine the physicality of interconnectedness, as well of course as disconnectedness. I’m afraid once I invoke the language of the space-in-between, it concedes too much to the concept that there is in-between, somehow as primary, or in-fact.

I watch the girls playing double dutch. Two swing the ropes, connected not through ropes but through rhythm. And the one girl readying to jump in. She rocks back and forth, one might say waiting for her moment. She is not waiting. She is preparing. She is becoming part of the rhythm, taking on some part of the motion and adding her own.

I see now the rhythms that are entered into. The ones that match our own, so we can most easily move with and through them. It is seeing what isn’t there. It is learning to see what is not visible, like background. Like female.

I don’t know how we made friends into enemies and I don’t know that we were a we.

We kept going to something like the same dinner party over and over again. I remembered getting to the hallway with the four black apartment doors, each with its own brass numbers. His was to the far left and hers was the third and each was similar inside, but different. His was much larger, but he didn’t know the square footage. It was open like a loft space with large industrial windows opening out onto an industrial part of the city. I was nervous being there every time, because every time was the same first time and I did not feel quite welcome and even if we were in his apartment there was the uneasiness about hers next door, or was it the reverse of that?

I carried my red jacket, the cream-colored striped lining was torn, but then there seemed to be two identical jackets and I wondered if I had stolen someone else’s from the dinner party, or if one had peeled into two, as if by replication. I looked more closely and one appeared to be slightly darker in color and after inspecting the labels I saw that one was marked with the size “s” for small and the other with “xm” for an extra-medium. I decided they were both mine and kept them, although I kept them folded together so no one would notice there were two.

Everytime we sat to eat we would discuss things, but over time we became more like enemies through this process. I excused myself from the table.