Dreamed 1996/10/23 by Chris Wayan
I'm watching SURVIVING PICASSO, a film about his affair with painter Francoise Gilot. It's painful--old Pablo embodies all my fears about men. He's charming, smart, creative, even fun, but utterly selfish. A mean streak too--he likes to jerk around his friends and lovers, has to prove he's boss. And profoundly sexist--women are there to serve his genius, not paint themselves. Watching him act like a brilliant pig makes me worry that deep inside I'm a pig too--that ALL men are.
Although... unlike Picasso, my urge to control stops with defense. I want my world comfortable and safe, but I lack his aggressive need to throw his weight around even when things DO go his way. I'm more like Matisse, who the film portrays as also living in his own world, letting his wife become a handmaiden to his work... but still gentle and open. He really likes others, appreciates them.
I keep thinking "Picasso's friends and lovers would cope better if they'd just support each other. Pablo divides and conquers." Françoise befriends the other courtiers more than most, but even she really defies Picasso alone in the end. Not me! My first instinct is to organize allies to isolate and restrain an abuser, not defy him heroically.
On my way home from the movie, I walk through San Francisco's business district. Hordes of suited men. I watch a while. The suits talk only to each other, or to phones; they treat nonsuits as nearly invisible. Eerie, like two realities superimposed, like ghosts: my city of bikers and beggars and tourists and artists and shoppers and shitworkers, in shorts and miniskirts and sneakers, and a ghost city of soldiers walking through us, treating us as shadows. The unproductive.
Suddenly I see the suited horde as the army it is. We're as occupied as Paris was, when Françoise met Picasso! Creepier, because our Nazis don't even know--they'd deny they're an army with a code they impose and demand we all live up to... or they get to call us lazy and stupid and wrong. Even the Nazis recognized the existence of civilians! America won't let you opt out--"the business of America is business." Opt out, and you're a slacker, a welfare cheat...
Stop by my gym. It's crowded. A tall woman keeps grabbing the machines I want. Gorgeous, but she looks down her nose at me. Hmph! I avoid her. A tiny blonde with almond eyes is hogging the ab machine. At last I try. Hard! But it does the job: my stress from the film oozes slowly out. Wow--Pablo made me sick--literally! Patiently I unweave his web...
I'm in a yard enclosed by low sheds and fences, weathered and unpainted. Huge spiderwebs, thick as fishing nets, stretch twenty feet across the space. Creepy! I tear them loose and roll them up into bundles. Unlike ordinary webs, these are so heavy they form substantial bundles, giant spindles. What to do with them?
My neighbor peeks over the gate. She's a tall lanky blonde with a beautiful but strange face: strong cheekbones, wide-set sleepy, pouting lips, a low forehead. Give her bangs and she'd look like a Renoir painting. Cute, but... kind of dumb. Oh, what do I care! Her big beefy boyfriend's behind her anyway...
"Take 'em all, I have no use for 'em." Wait--am I letting old habits take over--getting a crush on an unavailable girl, giving her things? No, no, what do I want with webs?
On the gatepost, as I'm leaving, I pass a tiny cat, smaller than my hand, sealed in a crystal vial of water. It's like a paperweight with a snowstorm inside. Only the cat's alive! A magic watch-cat.
She's also a friend of mine. We can communicate telepathically. As our eyes meet, she tells me "Several other cats approach--" Her kin. "Oh, and your human neighbors are stirring. Including those females you watch but never talk to." Her thought's tinged with amusement. As her relatives arrive over the fence, the watch-cat slips impossibly through the glass and grows to her normal size--small for a cat, but not shockingly so. Her kin are similar--neat, dainty, almost foxish, and multicolored, from Siamese to tortoise-shell.
The neighbor-girls who the cat teased me about start wandering around their yard. It's 6 in the morning. The skinny girl with the glitter-pink eyelids is there, and the tall one with dark hair and lip rings. Their housemates come out too. Dull sleepy eyes--but then, they look that way ALL the time. One guy crawls around the yard like a dog. The others coax him to "Be a good dog and get in the car, now." Maybe they're drunk or stoned, instead of stupid? My friends don't drink or do drugs much, so I'm bad at recognizing altered states. No, wait, they're CONSISTENT idiots. Even stoners and crackheads come down now and then. No, what you see is what you get!
And just because she's the least depressing zombie on my block, I've considered asking Glitter Girl out! Why do I only consider neighbors, co-workers, relatives, friends of friends: women I know already from a nondating context? I don't even like these people! Why don't I go find someone with more neurons than fingers?
All day I ponder going out to singles bars... for the first time in my life. I'm very shy, but I'm firing up my courage...
A shy knock on my door. It's Brandy! Elfin, slender, hollow-eyed, with a smoky bad-girl aura. I had such a crush on her for two years in our dance classes together... But she thought Giselle and I were a couple, or a sure thing to become one (we never quite did; strong attraction, but real conflicts too), while Brandy went for hunky young airheads and said she found me "intimidating." I lost track of her after school...
Now here Brandy's at my door, asking for help. And my old longing for her floods back! I feel uneasy that I'm responding to who the world presents to me, not choosing for myself, again. But Brandy's just too hot to ignore. "Help you? How?"
"Tomorrow I have to deliver a school paper, and I'm sure it's all wrong. Not from lack of studying--I've been up all week. I think someone's cast an academic CURSE on me." I feel skeptical but Brandy puts her hand on my arm and my pulse shoots up.
She says "You're a shaman--this is a curse. Break it!"
"Well... I'll try. No guarantees it'll work, though."
She's not the first to knock on my door, lately. A lot of my women friends have been asking me for brutal truths: hard answers that could change their lives. In each case, the time and energy seem worth it--when I truly can affect the rest of their lives, what's a few hours of lost sleep? And it's good practice as a shaman. Builds my confidence.
Or does it? Collectively, there's a second lesson. They value my insights, but every one of them is sexually unavailable or uninterested. No one helps me with MY curse!
Still, I do it.
I set Brandy's term paper in a chair, and talk to it gently, steadily, hypnotically, until her paper slips into hypnotic trance. Now I can summon the tree-spirit in the pulp! Each papermill has a general company style of spirits, from the mix of tree-species they use. I talk to the spirit a while; it seems within the normal range. I prepare to turn it over to Brandy for questioning. Set up a trigger phrase: "Antwerp, Antwerp, Antwerp." Commands following this phrase will become part of her ongoing unconscious rules. Not just the paper's--Brandy's! Their spirits are linked like mother and child, after all. I warn Brandy "Be cautious--we're swimming in deep water here. You could wreck your whole "I'm cute, help me" mask!"
Omigawd, did I really just say that? Ohhh, yeah. Smooth, kid, smooth.
But when I turn the spirits' attention to Brandy, she gets flustered and loses her nerve. She paces up and down clutching the paper, telling me "I just don't know, am I making this curse up? Maybe I'm just stupid or lazy... No, wait, I really studied!"
At last she's ready to risk it. She looks down at the paper... to find it's NOT IN HER HANDS. She set it down somewhere. "I remember a blue book, that's all. It has to be here..." This isn't safe! That powerful paper-spirit's floating around in trance, ready to accept reprogramming, waiting for the trigger word... like a live bomb ticking.
And as we search the room, her mother shows up! I let Brandy distract her while I keep hunting. They sit and catch up a bit...
Suddenly I realize it's been a good two years since I saw Brandy; she may not even HAVE a boyfriend now! I just assumed she's still not interested in me. Why? Well, any girl I like can't be available! That's a well-known law of physics.
There's more than one spirit in this room who needs reprogramming.
"I'm in a trance too! Wake up! Wake up!" I think. And I do. But, unfortunately, just out of the dream. Not the bullshit.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
Still, one point is clear: Picasso was a jerk, but he knew what he wanted. That much selfishness is ugly, but you have to have SOME! And the dream warns I don't reach for what I want even when it comes knocking on my door.
And I'm not alone in that.
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