Ten Years Ago, Part 1 of 4
Early 1996 in my apartment when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mary's on the left; I'm on the right. This is the photo I carry around in my wallet.
On Christmas Day 1995, after visiting my friend Helen in the hospital, Mary and I had shared an hours-long walk in calf-deep snow by the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We celebrate December 25 as our anniversary -- our tenth this year -- but much had happened to prepare me for the journey....
Journal excerpts: December 1995
12/20/95 9am. A night of constant snow and constant dreams.
First, I dreamt I was twiddling a radio dial: in the dark, with eyes closed, almost no difference between the dream experience and my actual one of lying in bed in the middle of the night. I heard Simon & Garfunkel’s song "Cecelia". I twiddled the dial further -- and heard "Cecelia", but this time being done by the Jackson Five (which did not do the song in waking life). Twiddled more -- and heard a muzak rendition of "Cecilia". And awoke...
... and was hit with the image of a scary-face mask I'd been terrified of as a kid. I had an initial startle reaction; then, as I forced my mind’s eye to observe the face, it broke out into a silly smile and I felt more at ease. It had turned from a scary image into a comical one. It switched a couple of times before I fell back asleep.
In a short scene, I was sitting in a car that Mary W. was driving [this is not the Mary who is my partner, but a former next-door neighbor]. I was neither in the back nor the front seat but between the two, and sitting behind her. The road was dusky gray, and folks in the back seat -- perhaps her children as the adults they are now -- were saying, “Be careful. Watch out ....” Mary drove confidently and was very much aware of her surroundings.
We may or may not have entered a tunnel before the scene changed. A very, very long white tunnel down which I floated, alone. Not a bright white but a soft white, almost off-white. Very smooth walls, though not completely without shadows. The few shadows visible were light gradations off the whiteness. The tunnel was roomy but not overly so. I was not walking, and there was no vehicle; I did not feel myself move but I was moving.
The tunnel was not circular but arched and with a flat bottom, like a traffic tunnel. It seemed interminable, a bit monotonous, and I compared it to trips through the Lincoln Tunnel in New York, which also was long and monotonous, and where I'd eagerly awaited the shifts of light that meant the opening was up ahead.
In the dream-tunnel I began a running commentary, speaking aloud, of what I was seeing and what was happening around me. I began speaking when the tunnel became just a little bit lighter -- and although it was never curved it did have a slight bend (to the left, I think; maybe bends in both directions) that placed the opening out of eyesight.
I knew, as I was speaking, that I was speaking to retain my memory of the experience. I was not yet having a lucid dream but I was very close, and felt the self-verbalization was important.
The tunnel opening was at first a slit, through which I could see a sliver of robin’s egg blue sky and a bright white cumulus cloud. As I got closer the slit became wider, and I could see that the sky was filled with those clouds -- very airy and light. The partially closed, slitted opening was the first barrier for me to pass through. There was also a second barrier, transparent and diaphanous, almost nonexistent, but definitely there.
The opening admitted only my head, but I knew that I would not have to struggle or even to use my hands to leave the tunnel. I would exit into the sky, far above the ground, and descend.
I saw only the sky -- I did not look down -- and the dream segued directly from my position in the tunnel (and the knowledge of what would happen next) to my being suddenly in a very bright and colorful resort hotel lobby.
The lobby was filled with plastic and primary colors, and thoroughly saturated colors: red, blue, yellow, green, orange -- and filled with milling crowds. The room was not square -- it was more like a pyramid with a round base -- like a cone. The skin of the cone was all plate-glass window, and the outside could have been colorful, tropical palm trees or ski-resort snow, probably both. It was a happy, festive place.
I wandered across the room, to a spot almost opposite the one where I'd appeared (or where the scene had appeared around me). I saw dark, wood-paneled doors -- the only detraction from the bright colors. I knew -- I was still verbalizing to myself -- that this was an elevator, and I told myself that I’ve always liked elevators in dreams, so I would enter this one and see where it took me. At that point, my dream became a lucid one.
Here, too, I had two barriers to pass. I had to open the brown doors, which were accordioned like closet doors. There were round knobs on them, but I couldn’t pull the knobs (I didn’t try) -- instead I hooked my fingers around the top and pulled that section toward me, to make the door fold in on itself. The second barrier resembled black scrim, and was opened in the same way.
When I entered the elevator, a woman was ahead and to my left, her back toward me. She had frizzed black hair and wore a severe navy blue blazer and skirt. She looked matronly, a bit dowdy. For a moment I remembered the lucid dreams I'd had as an adolescent, in which I told people they were part of my imagination. But I would not do that here.
Instead, acting on impulse, I strode to her, took her by the shoulders, and turned her around. She resisted this, and I was not forceful but firm as I turned her to face me. She was startled and frightened at first, but that reaction quickly turned to resignation. In a tired voice she said, “No. No.”
And I, filled with joy and eroticism, said gently and almost slyly, “Yes. Yes.”
She asked, “Why?”
I said, “To know that I can.”
At that point, she changed. She was 50ish. The crow’s feet and small lines in her face remained, but she smiled and became radiant. Her eyes were a startlingly deep blue, a saturated blue. Her frizzed hair, still frizzed, fanned luxuriantly out from her face.
We kissed. I took her tongue in my mouth -- a very moist and fleshy tongue, with tiny nubs I could feel with my own. I savored it. I was completely aroused, at which point the dream faded out. I felt it recede from me as I rose to consciousness, still very much aroused and thinking, “Oh, rats.”
I lay awake for awhile, feeling wistful and frustrated at my pleasure being interrupted, but still savoring the memory of that erotic tongue and the transformed woman. Comparing the sky birth tunnel to a repeating dream I'd had as a toddler, in which I was in heaven and traversing a long hallway.
M and I had dinner at Grendel’s and our second talk out on their terrace, which has become a kind of tradition now. He’d biked in and would bike back in the first flakes of the blizzard. When I saw his helmet I said I’m glad he wears one, adding that he’s brave to be cycling in this weather (and with road tires, too). He enjoys the crisp air, the breeze.
He was taking notes as we spoke because he was looking for the unifying theme of the book these tapes are creating. He has discovered that his forays through the story of Abraham bring him to a self-acceptance and a self-love; when he said that, I said that’s the theme. In interpreting the stories, I said, we are each using them as a kind of projective test -- we each become the characters, re-create the stories for ourselves. He wrote that down, too.
At one point I asked him, “What do you do for fun?”
He gave the answer I expected to hear: reading, swimming, walking, teaching -- “everything” is in some way fun. Nowhere was there an activity that seemed to me to create a purely childlike fun, a play of non-intellectual, non-deliberate action.
At one point he asked me -- I forget the exact words -- how I defined, or understood, the meaning of what I call the Divine -- whereupon I shrugged and said, "How the hell do I know?" and he burst out laughing.
He's been trying to understand the difference between the voice that tells him to "speak or die," and the one that tells him he is free to express himself. The pressure, the force (I said) versus the lack of force and, instead, permissiveness. I compared it to five years ago, when I saw him flaying himself to get to the emotions, versus now when he's opened up a channel in himself to let them simply flow through. I'd preceded my statement with the disclaimer that this had been my impression and that his might be different. He was concerned that the "flaying" had been done in front of his students, and I reiterated that this had been my perception of him, not necessarily the perception of others.
He was surprised -- and delighted -- that I laugh along with him and A as I transcribe.
Our next meeting -- Thursday the 28th, earlier if he's available earlier -- will be a discussion on abuse. Part of our talk last night had to do with goodness, love, life force, and its relation to death, destructiveness, "evil." Justice versus morality (which I perceive as different, and explained to M how. To me, justice is reactive, while morality involves more of a sentient construct of values. Justice can be more primal). I view both polarities as coexisting, not necessarily exclusive of or opposed to each other but operating in tandem. He is still dealing with the dichotomy as a dichotomy.