Dreamed 1993/1/10 by Chris Wayan
My sister Miriel calls up. "I broke up with Gray. He sent me a letter. Either I'm paranoid or it's horrible, he hates me and wants me to go crazy. Can you come talk to me?" Groaning, I drive down the Peninsula from San Francisco.
"How are you?" She hugs me, clings to me a long time. I feel a familiar toxic thrill. Incestuous. "I'm glad you drove down here. I know you hate driving. Here, I've been studying more massage..." She starts kneading my shoulders--and I start needing her.
No surprise. She breaks up with him, so now she's seductive toward me again, after months of no interest. I'm her spare, the almost-lover she can always pull out of the closet when things get bad.
I've felt it on dark days, but she's always been able to soften me, make me feel it's my own paranoia. Not this time. She's teasing me. I enjoy those seductive fingers but I no longer trust her.
Wow! How cold! What would I be if I could sustain this? Coolly enjoying sex, self-possessed. No more worship, no more serving.
I leave at last, feeling rather ill, but better than the drained sickness I get when I give her my heart and get back...
Maybe this is the best I can manage. What do you do when you've been in love with your sister all your life and you just drift? Married to your sister. As her spare.
I've been unconsciously faithful to her all these years, as I watched her sleep with how many lovers? And then cry on my shoulder. While I can't go out and learn, can't experiment. Get sick if I do, such a sense of guilt. Tied to her and the only kind of sexual relationship I ever knew: a incestuous worship, obsession without reward.
I can give her up. I wouldn't play Miriel's old game today, and she was going full out. She's bright and beautiful, but there are other girls who are too, who have no incest taboo about sex with me. Divorce her. Find another pattern. But what's a reasonable medium between selfishness and what I do now? I don't want to flip into the reverse pole of my existing model. I'd be a monster. I'd be Madonna.
I'm giving both my friend Vera and a Circus Girl rides home from Land's End, the northwest corner of San Francisco. A long drive, for they live far apart: Vera out in the foggy Sunset and the Circus Girl in the busy scruffy Mission on the sunny east side. The Circus Girl is still wearing her costume, a spangled swimsuit with the teasing tassel fringe: a high-wire artist? Trapezist? Something that requires perfect balance. She has the balance of a cat. And the sensuality.
I don't think Vera likes her.
I drive half a mile up Geary, toward downtown, before realizing what I'm doing: I'm taking the Circus Girl home first, though it's much longer than dropping Vera off now. Because I'm so attracted to the Circus Girl, I assume she'd be uncomfortable alone half-naked with me. I'm practically drooling. So I'm keeping Vera to chaperone! This is so stupid. She's like Madonna, self-possessed, she takes for granted that she can have any man she wants. SHE'S not going to feel anxious.
The car radio plays an old song by the Incredible String Band:
"Circus Girl!Horny and bothered, I get out and walk for a bit and think. Neither of the two women drive, but they let the car drive itself for a few blocks ahead. It weaves drunkenly down the slow lane a ways, then pulls over. The door pops open and Vera comes walking back to meet me.
How could you love me?
You're so far above me!
You fly through the air,
You've got Princess hair--
I'm really impressed."
"Something bothering you?" I ask.
"Well... yeah." she says. "I wasn't comfortable in the car alone with her, either. I don't know why, but..." She gestures limply, confused. "She scares me. I think I'll take the Muni home."
So I end up alone with the Circus Girl.
We talk a little. She seems a little bored with that, but when I touch her, she leans into my hand like a cat. Pet her. Mmmm... sensual. I kiss her. Begin to think I'm a cat myself. Lick and fondle her, and she responds with pleasure, but no deep affection. Blasť. As if so many men come on to her that sex is for her a pleasure on tap, like hot water. A public utility.
Yet not manipulative; not putting me off or fishing for anything; honest and clear about her attitude. Fun. I'm a toy and she'll be my toy. Madonna all right.
At her trailer, she invites me in. She's interested in moving into a better space, a tent going vacant today. Asks me to carry one box. The other carnies snicker--"That box weighs a ton, she's usin' ya, kid." Possibly. Lift the box--and it's not so heavy.
Her own brother insists "You shouldn't get involved with her. You know nothing about circus life. And she's trouble." Her own brother. Only, from the moody way he talks, the covert jealousy, I know he's more. Her ex-lover. Takes one incest survivor to spot another. He's still obsessed with her. Just jealous.
If I sensed that he gave a damn about me, I'd listen more. But it's so obvious only carnies count, they're one big incestuous family. I'm just another mark she's using, and he wants me gone to spite her, not to protect me.
He tries to distract me with dirt about her, while I'm holding up that box, so my arms'll tire out and get sore, and I'll blame it on her, and give her up.
Sorry, guy. I won't. I'm not in love with his sister, but I won't be driven off from learning to balance sexual giving and taking. I think she can teach me, with her bluntness.
The new tent is down some steps and through a park. Overhear comments from other carnies... The new tent has vats in it, colors of liquid and light. A research lab for new magic tricks. I like it.
I put the box down on a bench, and look in. A curved and fluted conchy thing, a sculpture. A carnie walks in with a load. "Did she make this?" I ask. "Yeah..." Hers! She's an artist too, then. It's beautiful. "...but her brother colored it." Her ex-lover. It's painted pink and pastel blue. Not ugly, but I don't trust things tinted by his views... especially pink and blue! I can't let some jealous guy with unresolved incest feelings lecture me about gender!
I have a temporary room in the circus now. They're resigned to my staying a while. I've brought my synth and everything. I plan to try to adapt to circus life. I'm not an old professor like in "The Blue Angel". I think I can do it--learn balance, and walk the high wire. The door slams open. A line of dwarves enter my trailer. The oldest, in the lead, has a gun. All three of them are old men; they'd look sad and shrunken to me if they didn't have all that firepower. They just glare at me meaningfully, don't say a word. Not that they need to--her brother put them up to this. I feel more sad than scared. He just won't let me learn for myself.
I raise my hands and say "Okay. Take what you want. I don't want to get shot over this." And I mean it. If they have orders to eject me, I'll co-operate. Just not worth it. I'm not in love. I'm here to learn about sex without getting hurt. Tentatively, with someone who takes sex lightly, and isn't likely to be hurt herself. But this brother... The dwarves loot my trailer. Well, they grab a few token items to show you-know-who. Not even half-hearted robbers.
I stay frozen till they leave, and even after. Until I hear... laughing and singing outside my window! They're all snickering at my fear, how I stared. But not just the dwarves. Half the damn circus! Are they all in on it? Their laughter's so nasty. They really don't like outsiders. Do I want to join a group like this?
At last I go out and look for a cop. I find a young rookie and start to blurt "I was just robbed by--" by Three Dwarves, right! shouldn't it be Bears? "--by three VERY short guys."
"How short?" He already looks wary.
"All three of them were... under four feet tall."
"You sure you don't mean five feet?"
"I'm sure." Hell, some of them were under three feet.
Why do I get the impression that this conversation is going nowhere? Oh, he takes down a description of the dwarves, neither of us mentioning the circus, both of us knowing that inevitably they'll all have alibis from their friends...
Am I getting a dose of how circus people always feel? The uselessness of everyday authorities? It's another world, has its own rules.
I decide I'll have to go face the brother myself.
He's down by the sea. The waves are high, smacking the beach, like he'd like his sister to smack me and come back to him, come back... He's holding a wet suit, washing the sand out. Strangely, there's a purple and blue bathrobe by him too, on the damp sand. He glances up and says "To survive in the currents here, you have to be trained and have a suit. That's the Black Current out there, straight down from Alaska. The chill will creep up on you, snatch you and kill you. You won't even notice." He hates her that much? Or the circus? Or me.
"Then I'll wear a wet suit. I don't have a lot of experience, but I've had scuba training, and that's enough. You don't have to be an expert the first time."
"You." he says. "You're like this bathrobe! Dry insulation, a landlubber, useless in the sea--you just drag us down..." He tosses the bathrobe in the surf and the waves grab it and worry it like dogs. A convoluted purple-black mass, like a kelp, or a corpse. It starts to sink.
"You'll never get it now." he says matter-of-factly.
The challenge, clear at last between us!
Just before it goes under for good, in the one instant as the cold wave brings it within reach, I lean out and snatch at it. I snag the belt and carefully pull the bathrobe in.
He sneers. "See, you fumbled and nearly let the waves take it. One fumble with your Circus Girl, and you're lost. Our lives are based on skills honed to PERFECTION. This is the Big Top, not some classroom."
I'm angry now. "But I didn't fumble it, did I! I hesitated a second--out of fear of the water--but when I grabbed, I got it. I have excellent co-ordination. I have balance! I did what you said I can't."
"You hesitate. Face it. You're not one of us."
"Yeah. I hesitate. That moment lets me clear out my fear, inhabit all my body, and plan a clean motion. And then I move."
I dump the soggy bathrobe at his feet. Squelch. "And you--you never stop. You just move and move. You never clear out your fear or pain. Deal with your incest or don't, but quit interfering, you and your dwarves. You were wrong about me and what I can do. Here's your robe. Wear it. Or throw it out."
I turn and walk away from him. The rocks, the waves look beautiful now. Reminds me of something. Oh. Nobody would tell me the Circus Girl's name. Now, from the sea, I just know. Pearl. That irritating intrusion into your shell, your life, that becomes a treasure. The gleaming, slippery, selfish sweet clitoris in the clam. The warm life-gem of the chill sea. Pearl.
The next day Vera dropped by unexpectedly. She said "I've been having dreams that I'm a terrible codependent. I dreamed I was at my own farewell dinner. I was serving everyone else and left no food for myself!"
I had to laugh. This is what I use telepathic dreams for?
But what else?
So I told her my dream confirming her dream, and after she goes, I write it all down, amazed. Vera means codependence, huh? No wonder Madonna scared her! Pure selfishness.
Or does this Pearl inside me just look self-centered and amoral because I'm so damn servile? If I do get a wetsuit--start protecting myself--she might let her heart show. I know she has one; she let me carry it.
So now I know.
1: Divorce my sister! Loving her hopelessly has turned me bitter--dwarfed. And I think I'm a sucker and all women are like my sister.
2: Date others, and stay midway between sexual selfishness and servility. I can find that balance; I have the ability. If only I'll believe it enough to try seeming selfish. Like Pearl.
3: You can't bear anything too heavy. Find someone sensual, sexy, but self-possessed. Like Pearl.
4: I can trust my guide: psychic dreams like this. Tough, but ready to teach me. Like Pearl.
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