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Dreamed 1994/11/11 by Chris Wayan

This tale has a happy ending, but you have to walk through hell to appreciate heaven. I did.

What triggered the dream? I read a story by Cordwainer Smith called "Angerhelm," a man who sends a message back from death... as a bitter joke. Its vision of the afterlife (and life) is quietly horrific. Here's some of Tice Angerhelm's message to his brother Nelson.

"I guess it takes a cheap meaningless man, a man who lived his life in spite of Hell and is now in that Hell. That's the kind of silly man it takes to remember the trick of talking. Like a trick with coins or a trick with cigarettes when nothing else matters.

"So I am talking to you, Nels. And Nels, I suppose you'll die the way I do. It doesn't matter, Nels. It's too late to change--that's all.

"Good-bye, Nels, you're in pretty good shape. You've lived your life. You've had the wind in your hair. You've seen the good sunlight and you haven't hated and feared and loved too much."

And his brother Nelson, who's "in pretty good shape"? He'd just summed up his life, for utter strangers, not giving a damn:
"My life hasn't been much of a life and I haven't liked it. And I hope nobody has to live a life like mine. I am a sick man. I'm not feeling good. I never have felt very good. My brother had the life. I didn't have the life. I never had much of a life and never did anything and never went anywhere. My brother had everything. My brother got the women, he got the girl--he got the only girl I ever wanted, and then he didn't marry her. He got the life and he went away and then he died. He played jokes and he never let anybody get ahead of him. And gentlemen, my brother's dead. Can you understand that? My brother's dead."
And as I look at my life, I'm filled with fear, for I see myself turning into Nelson Angerhelm. Don't move, don't speak, don't do, don't love, don't live. Just endure... until you're an old chicken farmer outside Minneapolis who wishes no one had to live his life because he never got to live.


I dream I'm in Mountain View, California, biking home. I think home's in nearby Palo Alto. At least I'm not mindlessly biking back to my parents' house, as I sometimes do. But I'm still delusional--I've forgotten I got out of Si Valley, made it to San Francisco.

I keep seeing Star Trek actors, in doorways, walking round corners. But I don't follow any of them to adventure. I'm tired and getting tireder. I just want to go home. The wrong home.

Part of it's that I'm towing a car behind me. Some load! A friend's in the car. Some friend! Reach a busy street with fast traffic. Gotta cross. I feel wary, wait for a long gap: I once got hit at this spot by a driver who wasn't looking. Wait, there's a quieter street I can take instead. But it's all rough, torn up to be repaved. My bike tires catch in the grooves. Tired and groggy, I nearly crash. I can't go much further.

Now my way is blocked by an office complex. I bike in, and through a staff-only door, through back rooms filled with file cabinets and old boxes. My intuition says there's a way out the back. True! A gate, ajar, leading into someone's back yard. Toys on the lawn. Bike around the house, but it's fenced all the way, no way out. No, there has to be. Go round again. This time spot a small gate. But it leads to other houses and yards, not to the street. Finally I come out--onto a dead-end street I don't know. Mansions with Greek columns, faux marble. So I bike through a palace! Come out the other side.

Next I'm biking through a huge department store, also with Greek columns. Upscale. Well, pretentious.

I don't have a shirt, and feel cold and exposed and ashamed of my thin starved body among these rich Standford shoppers, who all stare at me walking my bike thru the aisles. I'm too cowed to ride it here.

Old women glare at me. Two attractive girls eye me and whisper. I want to talk to them, but look down and walk on robotically. "Too tired" I tell myself--but inside, I mourn opportunity lost.

A door. Out at last! Dusk, now. Ride across a parking lot looking for a street sign. Where am I now? Terrible resistance--is this just fatigue, or is there sand or dirt on the pavement? Too dark to tell, but it's like biking through oatmeal. Takes forever to cross the lot, and now it's too dark to read the signs. Finally I spell them out.

And they're unfamiliar names, mean nothing to me. I feel so tired, so lost. Hopeless. I start crying, exhausted. Spent the last of my strength to reach this sign, and it's nothing.

Wake in the night, in a cold sweat.


I go back to sleep, and...


I dream I'm in Silicon Valley again. This time it's daytime, warmer, my mood is different. I welcome diversions and digressions. I came to visit my old friend Wally. But he's delayed somehow, so I leave his house and walk over to David's house and visit him. And when he gets a phone call, I get bored and walk out and stroll down to Roxana's house! She's suspicious of my motives for dropping by--I'm not clear why. But I can solve that--just leave! If the energy doesn't suit me or if I'm bored I have no loyalty, no obligation to stay. Drop in on David or Wally again, see if they're fully present yet. No. So, out the door again! Next I drop by Belle and Adolfo's apartment. Talk about buying a hippie van. All this socializing doesn't tire me out a bit, for I'm free of obligation; it makes all the difference.

Next I visit my grandparents, who are alive again. They look at a comic book I recently drew--not A SPHINX'S SKETCHBOOK, but a cheerful story about flirting on a beach. Generous use of black--makes bold lively patterns, unlike the cautious soft pencil lines of "Sphinx", which lacks large black areas. I'm nervous--sure my grandparents will disapprove.

They love it. Say "This works so much better than the color ones drawn on the computer!" Though I'm a little dismayed, I say "My next one will also be by hand, or if I use the computer, it'll be only to fill in and shade, not to draw." They say "good. Do more like this!" I'm so surprised. They pin up the original drawing boards on one wall.

The dream ends at Juanita Beach, in Seattle. It's just like the comic I just drew: sunny, cheerful, crowded, beautiful girls everywhere. I walk along.

Two women chant "One, two, three, GO!" and streak from their towels to the water, topless, shrieking in laughter.

Further down the beach, a dozen teenage girls are all sunning on towels, heads together. They aren't doing or anything unusual, their bodies aren't any different than others, yet they radiate sexiness. Their expressions, their auras! They've been talking about sex, and sexy thoughts MAKE you sexy.

My bell-jar, my portable hell, is gone. I wander happily, free to ASK TO ENTER any social situation, and equally free to LEAVE if I don't like it. I'm not towing anyone or anything, anymore.

And that's all it took to turn nightmare to holiday.

LISTS AND LINKS: Cordwainer Smith - nightmares - bikes - towing a worse burden: Invisible Sulky - manners and obligation - freedom and slavery - beach dreams - social swim - social advice

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