Dreaming, Crying, and “Shopping It Out”: Still Here

Dreams. I’ve always had lots of them, and I always pay more attention to them than I likely need to.. still; here are three recent dreams that are sticking out in my mind.

 

Dream #1: Sleeping and Weeping

I’m feeling inexplicably sad as I walk out of and away from a building located inside of a shopping plaza. As I place one heavy foot in front of the other, stepping over an endless sea of black asphalt that’s interrupted, at intervals, by stark white lines, I look up and notice twin-sized beds lining the entire parking lot. They’re arranged in perfect, neat rows, and I navigate, intuitively, to the one I know is ‘mine.’

I slow my pace while I’m passing the bed before mine; the first thing I notice about it is the bottom end of the comforter: fuchsia. It’s a bright, pinkish-purple color with glitter throw in (for good measure). Distinctly girly. Towards the middle of the comforter, the purple disappears into a blackish-blue galactic dream, and then this galaxy theme gives way to a land-before-time-esque dinosaur pattern. There are healthy, happy dinosaurs pictured in various poses, dinosaur bones littered about, and the word “RAWR” (drawn in a fun “kid” font with bold text) appears here and there, intermittently. A three-part comforter; how unique. I glance up at the little girl who is being tucked into bed by her mother; she looks maybe eight. I consider complimenting her on the cool bedspread, but I’m too sad to speak. Instead, I crawl into my own bed – oddly enough, I can’t recall any aesthetic details about it – and pull the cover over my head until I see nothing but blackness. I weep into the dark. I feel myself blink, and then I’m still crying, but now, I’m crying in the backseat of a sedan. There are two people in the front seat; a driver and a passenger. The driver, a man with the hint of a beard, glances back at me and then turns to look at the passenger, rolling his eyes as he does so. I understand, by this, that my crying is irritating the strangers in the front seat. I don’t even know where we’re going.

“I’m sick,” I offer quietly.

“No you’re not,” they argue.

“I JUST HAD DINNER with a man I was married to for five years, and he never speaks to me anymore.. yes, I AM sick, and both of you are emotionally vacant.” Oh; so that’s why I was leaving the shopping plaza, I realize. I must have just finished having dinner with Chris.

Right after I defended myself to the assholes in the car, the conversation – and that part of the dream – ended.

 

Dream #2: “You Never Know..”

I’m downtown, and I’ve just caught two fraudsters who were causing trouble on the streets. They’d tricked an old woman into swiping her card (using some kind of cell phone attachment) and then fraudulent charges began popping up on her account. As I begin walking away from this now resolved situation (behind me, the cops are handcuffing the perpetrators), these background sights and sounds become increasingly muffled and fuzzy, and all of my dream props change. Suddenly, I’m looking at a collection of nice, identical houses lining the smooth-concrete road of a suburban neighborhood, and I’m walking down its long street. I glance down and notice that I’m wearing a purple dress that’s way too long, so I grab a handful of it, hoist it up, and hold it at my side to prevent myself from tripping. I happen to glance to my left and, when I do, I’m surprised to see Christopher right there, walking along beside me. He puts his arm around me and starts dancing a little — looking happy, and being affectionate with me in a platonic but loving sort of way. I look up at him, surprised; I realize, in my dream, that he isn’t usually like this toward me.

“You never know when the camera’s watching,” he whispers in explanation, maintaining a dazzling smile as he does so and tossing his head behind him. I feel like collapsing in the street and dying, I’m so sad.

 

Dream #3: “We could do it again.”

I’m on a road trip with my dad. Road trips with Padre have always been disastrous; we laugh about it now, but the times we (aka he) side-swiped a 16-wheeler and spun out on black ice could have been show-stoppers. Both of them.

But in my dream, we’re back on the road again, and nothing crazy has happened yet. We’ve temporarily exited the vehicle so that we can walk through a neighborhood on foot. The neighborhood, I notice, is lovely; each lawn has been manicured in its own unique way. The houses and yards haven’t been made to look cookie-cutter, like the houses in my previous dream; each home just appears to be maintained and loved. There are flowers everywhere, the greens are so vivid, and all of the houses are set on hills. In-between the trees, I can see a community event going on; children are playing croquet and adults are golfing. I can catch bits and pieces of noise.. enough to know that the people sound happy. My dad and I cross the street, returning to the place where our car is parked, and I look down; a rose – dark brown, shining, almost coppery in color; incredibly old and obviously dead, but maintaining its shape – is rising from the ground. I know, in my dream, that I want to remember this place, this rose, and this moment; I can feel how crucially important it is that I remember all of these things, so I take a piece of clean, linen paper from my journal and use it to carefully cover the rose, pressing it down until it’s level with the wet ground. After applying a gentle amount of pressure, I lift the linen paper back off of the ground and turn it around to look at it. I gasp; there’s a startlingly beautiful image etched into the middle of the page now; the shadowy silhouettes of a girl and a boy holding hands. I show it to my dad. I can’t remember what he says.

We get in the car, I’m still holding the paper in my hand, and then we’re on the road yet again, driving. As we take a winding ramp onto the interstate, I’m gazing out the window and dad is commenting on something.. saying something about hurting people.

“We’ve destroyed people before,” I state calmly, “and we could do it again.”

I’m still trying to figure out if I was uttering a threat or a warning, and I can’t tell if it was to myself or to someone else.

 

 

***

I obviously woke up from each dream feeling sad and puzzled. I have unresolved grief/trauma related to Chris and I’s breakup — that’s clear enough to feel and see — but some of the dreams’ content I just don’t understand. What’s the meaning behind the rose? What does it, and the state it was in, symbolize? And why did I dream, three weeks ago, that at a fictional “goodbye party” at work, I had them write “Goodbye Rose” on the cake instead of “Goodbye Jace”? What about the image of the boy and girl magically appearing on new paper? Why wasn’t my comforter as cool, vivid and memorable as the little girl’s? Who have I destroyed? Or was I the destroyed one? Was I a victim, or was I just an idiot? Am I constantly putting myself into situations and getting myself into relationships that I can’t, or they can’t, sustain, and that can only end up devastating me and the other person? Or is that a chance that all reasonable, rational, hopeful, life-living-and-life-loving people take: loving someone.. and I mean really loving somebody? Are we the stupid ones, or are we the brave ones?

 

In real life..

I woke up feeling terribly depressed yesterday. I threw the stick for the dog and then entered back into the house. I washed my hands at the kitchen sick and dried them with a paper towel (the cloth towel was kicking around in the dryer). I opened the fridge, looked inside, closed the fridge. I sprayed the counter-tops with an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner and then dried them with a paper towel. I leafed through a stack of mail; tossing this, shredding that. I sat down onto the red stool by the Dr. Pepper Table. I got up, feeling anxious. I walked around idly, considered painting the living room and hallways gray; I could go get the supplies right now. I thought about texting Vernon, the home renovations guy — Vernon, yes; I want those concrete floors we talked about, and let’s go ahead and knock down this wall in the kitchen, too. I entertained the idea of going to the Summit to look for  a new pair of simple, gray Vans – my other pairs, rainbow- and flamingo-themed, are too busy and loud – but remembered that the Galleria hadn’t carried any of the cool guys’ styles in my size last week, so why bother looking elsewhere. I pulled up Craigslist and looked at pictures of German Shepherd puppies; doing so made me think of my rabbits and how much I miss them. I sat back down onto the red stool. I thought of Chris, on tour with his band right now; I remembered that four doors in the house need replacing; I cursed myself for weighing too much, and then I started crying.

And crying.

And crying.

And CRYING.

 

I don’t have time for therapy, I apologized to myself. I don’t even have time to go to the doctor and get this fucked up hand looked at, so we’re just going to have to figure this shit out on our own.

I held a conversation with myself, and I spoke to three invisible people in the room — Melissa, Bobby, and Chris.

To Melissa, I said: Fuck you. Until the end of TIME, fuck you, you heartless, godless coward.

To Bobby, I said: I wish you were here so much. More than any of the others. 

To Chris, I said: You just don’t care about me the way you used to.. and I have to get over that. This is taking too long. I know the problem lies with me; not you.

 

Having “said my peace,” I continued sobbing. I just want to check out, I cried out loud.. not so they could hear it, but so that I could. Out loud. Outside of my head. I felt desperate. Panicky. I want to leave; I want so badly to be done. I must be missing something, or someone, to feel this way.. but if it’s someone, too bad; I’m so done loving people. Look at where that’s gotten me. Insert insane laugh here, because what the hell else are you going to do when you realize that what brings you the most joy in life also hurts you the worst?

 

In my dream, the idea of destruction of people by people surfaces. People have destroyed me, yes; through direct effort and on accident, but I’m not a victim. I know I’ve destroyed more than I’ve had to rebuild.

 

So what’s the secret, then? How do you get to the point of being okay and just stay there? I’d rather live a neutral life than a wildly chaotic, volatile, decaying one. No; that’s a lie. I love the mystery, the surprises — the adrenaline and adventure of the ride. I must. Obviously, I love it, because I haven’t gotten off yet. 

 

So I decided, late yesterday morning, that I had to get out of the house.

I needed a reason to leave, though, because everything I do must, in some way or another, seem or feel productive. I stopped by Whole Foods for an avocado.

“You heading to Saturn?” Charlie asked as he handed a perfectly sliced, cellophane-wrapped avocado to me.

“No.. I’m going home.” Home sounded terrible, but I didn’t have the energy to go elsewhere.

Charlie looked concerned. “Do SOMETHING fun. Maybe you could drop into Talbots on your way home; they’re having a sale right now, and they sell lots of busy-looking business clothes.”

I smiled weakly, the idea didn’t sound that intriguing, but I agreed to stop by the place.

I ate my avocado in the Whole Foods parking lot and then drove to Talbots. I walked inside and took in the sight; there were bright, yellow, pink, and floral things everywhere, and there were about two dozen elderly women shuffling about the room, ooohing and ahhhing and raving over them all.

“Oh Martha.. just look at THIS color..”

“Ahhhhhh yes, I have that shirt in yellow! I really should get a pink one..”

“OOOOOOH, and these PANTS are so nice! What a STEAL! Did you see the price on this? Betty, look.. isn’t it outrageous?”

 

I squeezed my way over to a mostly unoccupied area in the room – the clearance rack on the back wall of the petites section – and traced my hand along the contents of the rack, separating this from that and looking for a color or pattern that seemed suitable. I found one: a blue and white, pin-striped, long-sleeved and collared button-up. This would go great with a tie, I thought to myself, AND it’ll cover all of my tattoos.

I took the shirt into the back with me, where I overheard old ladies chatting with each other from their respective dressing rooms, reporting on how disappointing and over-priced this was or how fabulous that looked. I discovered one dressing room that was seemingly available; the name “Patty” had been written across the door with a blue, dry-erase marker, and a smiley face followed the name, but it appeared that Patty wasn’t using the room anymore.

I looked to the left and right, saw no one meandering about, and then snuck into the room, closing and locking the door behind me. The shirt was a great fit; a little loose, but I like slack-fitting clothes.

 

As I began heading toward the checkout line, I heard an employee sing out “Vaaaaans!” from behind me.

I turned around as I continued walking, surprised. “Yes! These are Vans!”

She smiled knowingly. “Uh yeah, I know. I was the first girl in my school to wear Vans.”

I stopped walking completely and turned to face her. “Seriously?”

“Oh, honey.. YES,” she was beaming with pride now. “I wore them with my cool board shorts.. AND I was the first girl to wear a mini skirt.”

“Wow. Quite the trendsetter,” I smiled at her. “What color was your first pair of Vans — do you remember?”

“Black and white. DUH!”

She walked off and I just had to laugh to myself; this 60-something-year-old lady, in modest, soft denim jeans and a delicate and pink knitted top, had just blown my mind. How cool was she?! And the remarkable part is that she was still cool. She wore coolness as effortlessly as she’d worn those Vans. I shook my head.

 

Pleasantly amused, I walked the rest of the way to the checkout register and took my place in line. A single, old lady stood in front of me.

“How does that one feel?” the cashier (who was standing out in front of the register now, facing the customer) inquired sweetly, adjusting the collar on the jacket the frail old lady was trying on.

“Good!” she responded. She stuck her arms out to her sides and made a face. “Uh oh.. are my sleeves too.. big?”

The cashier pursed her lips, looking thoughtful. “Well, they’re a LITTLE long, but remember; a petite extra small will decrease the length on the entire shirt, not just the sleeves, and you want to be comfortable,” she reminded the old lady gently. “If it’s not comfortable, you aren’t going to wear it.”

“That is true..” the old woman nodded in agreement. But she looked confused and unconvinced. She began checking out and then raised a pair of soft, cotton pants high up into the air (they had some kind of jungle theme on them).

“DO THESE LOOK TOO SMALL?” she interrogated the room, sounding concerned. She held them out directly in front of her waist and then looked worriedly at the cashier.

The cashier took a deep breath. “How about I check this young lady out, since she has just one thing, and then we can take a look –”

 

“I just think they’re going to be TOO small,” the woman grumbled, holding them up to herself and giving them a stern, sizing stare.

 

I smiled and tried not to laugh. I could watch this old lady fret over her selections all day, I thought to myself.

 

The cashier motioned me forward. “How are you?” she asked nicely.

“I’m good, thank you,” I responded. “I just have to ask — is this button-up REALLY only $9.99?” The original price, shown on the tag, was $79.99.. way outside of my price range.

The cashier nodded, looking pleased. “It sure is. GREAT sale. Did you find anything else you wanted?”

“Not today, but thank you!”

 

As she checked me out, we made small talk, of course. Near the end of the transaction , she asked: “Are you a part of our club?”

Awwww.. an old ladies club. 

“Not yet,” I answered tentatively.

“Would you mind giving us your phone number?”

I usually say no to these kinds of things, but she was really sweet, and this seemed simple enough. “Sure; it’s..”

 

“And your name?”

 

I spelled it.

 

“Your home address?”

 

I gave it.

 

“Your email?”

 

Okay, this is taking a while..

“Here,” I gestured to my forearm, “this is my email — A-U-N-A-Q-U-I at Gmail.com.”

“Huh!” she murmured as she keyed it in. “Ahhnnnn.. Uhkee?”

“Yes! You got it right; aun aqui.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means ‘still here’ in Spanish. It’s my pen name.”

“Ahhh, Spanish! It’s been a while, but I took a Spanish class once!”

“Yeah?” I encouraged her to continue, but she didn’t. “I took a Spanish class in the 7th grade,” I offered, “and then continued teaching myself the language at home when my mom decided to home school me. This phrase – aun aqui – has been one of my favorites for.. over ten years now.”

She was quiet for a minute.

“Must have some special meaning, huh? Still here?”

I looked at the tattoo on my forearm. “Yes.. it does.”

 

“Would you mind disclosing your birthday?” she whispered, looking around to make sure no one was listening. Ah, yes; back to the never-ending questionnaire.

“Sure; September 15th, xxxx.”

 

She paused; then: “That’s THIS month! Hooray! I’m going to give you our birthday discount; 10% off your item.”

 

I thanked her.

 

“I hope you’ll come back and see us again soon,” the cashier concluded warmly.

“I will,” I assured her. “Thank you again!”

 

So I’ve had some strange dreams and sad mornings recently, but as much as people can devastate and destroy (by death or by choice; intentionally or innocently), they can also comfort, inspire, and uplift you like nothing else possibly could. Yes; I am talking about burritos. Today, I’d like to thank my friend, Charlie, for giving a damn, the Talbots cashier, name unknown, for helping me remember my own strength, and I’d like to thank myself for caring enough about myself and others to stick around. I had the phrase “still here” tattooed onto my left arm – my dominant arm – 7 years ago as a simple, constant reminder that I could make it on my own.. that I didn’t need someone else to complete me, believe in me, or love me. I complete me, I believe in myself, and I love myself. That is, I’ve concluded, the smartest and safest way to live; depending on yourself, finding and generating strength within yourself, enjoying time spent with just yourself, and not looking to anyone else to do any of these things for you. Now; loving myself doesn’t mean that I view myself as flawless (far from) or that I’m immune to recognizing my shortcomings; it means that I love and value myself enough to – rather than dip – work on my defects, strengthen my weaknesses, move past my complexes and insecurities and push through the greatest bane of my existence: my soft, sensitive soul and the relentless heartache that it feels.

 

Drum roll.. I am

still here
aun aqui

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