EIGHT TO A HORN
Dreamed 1986/4/25 by Chris Wayan
Therapy with Don. I go blank. I know why: I don't fully trust him. Want to tell him the dream I had this week: "Half Shaman, Half Statesman," but I think he'll see it as criticizing him and his worldview. Of course he's a psychologist, and it's an anti-psychological dream--nothing personal, just a shamanic warning that Western psychology doesn't deal well with people like me. But I don't feel OK about saying so...
Later, at home, the Chronicle tells me I'm a wallflower. "The average American adult has had eight sexual partners." I know it's sociostatistical crap (last year they said two, or was it six?) but it still gets me. I feel sad and jealous. Nobody wants me. Skinny and sickly.
But behind that, a vainer complaint: "So I may have to endure up to EIGHT plain old Horse rides (and falls!) just to get used to dating and sex and living together, so I'll be practiced enough to be able to chase a Unicorn if and when one ever comes running by. Eight mismatched, practice lovers? I'll never survive it!" Like it's a sentence to serve! I know it's silly but this ridiculous gloomy thought clings to my soul, like cat shit on my shoe.
Off to work at the library! But even the books scent my shitty mood, and swarm at me like flies. First comes an Australian collection of interviews, "Being a Prostitute." The clients depress me--as one woman points out, most johns are middle-aged men who want to feel special, loved, desirable, "and they're not. They have nothing going for them." The culture makes mens' bodies ugly, worthless... consumes them, like land and air and animals and women's brains and other made-invisible things. Worse than having your brain made invisible: feeling stupid and worthless, you can survive. But men... men just die.
"The Forbidden Apple": an exposé on high school teachers who have sex with students. I'm ashamed that some of their examples turn me on... untiI I catch on. Under the scandalized righteousnsss of the introduction, it's meant to titillate, right down to the Freudian cover: two teen girls in shorty-shorts straddle a phallic treelimb, holding Eve-apples for their leering teacher in his classic perv coat. Turns out there's a whole series of 'issue' books by this rightwing publisher--vicarious sex, drugs, rock and roll, whatever you want to drool over while you condemn... and all respectably fundamentalist!
Next, a biography of the sculptor Jenny Read. I react instantly to her face. She's a unicorn! Ethereal, beautiful, yes, but now I know that's not enough to make me react. Visionary! Living simply in her SF studio, carving her visions, an oasis in a factory slum, trusting her poverty and goodwill to shield her from the scorching bitterness on the streets. Until one night, someone dropped in and murdered her. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Hunt of the Unicorn. You know, the myth is wrong: we're not elusive, not shy. Not at first. We have to learn that you want to kill us all.
In the evening, I wrestle with the structure of my long dream-tale, The Valley Near Hope. It's such a grafted thing--like a fruit tree, one dream for the root and trunk, another for the fruit. I feel like pulling off the final part, the goggle-barfing scenes with my true love. Maybe that should stand alone. Or... maybe it's just a scene I have trouble accepting right now, but they crept together for a reason. I decide to wait.
A yucca-studded canyon between the feet of a jagged range. Here, slow springs well up, enough for one lone hacienda: Luzilencio. The House of Silent Light.
I walk the bare rooms and come upon a precious herb growing in a Mexican earthen pot. I know it's my story. I must transplant part of it. The branches are too crowded... or so my friends have told me. I see it... yet I don't do it.
I decide to leave the desert and the silence. I want more than one green thing, precious though it may be. Drive north, in my old red van, across the great Nowhere Desert. Black asphalt thread on an infinite disc of flat sand. For hours, nothing but the vast impassible crags of the Luzilencios shrinking purple behind me.
Ahead, slowly, a single ridge of stone rises from the sand without talus or slope, keel-sheer. To the right it dives under the sand in a clean swoop. The road bends round that end. Beyond, on the sky's hem, I see the mountains where life begins again, still far to the north. They wring just enough rain for dark pines on their heads. Desert's end. I am halfway across. The ridge has a name: the Middle of Nowhere.
Chunk! My car breaks down. I coast to a stop right at Ridge Bend. I push it out of the way so cars coming round the corner won't slam blindly into it. The heat is paralyzing. I fear the government men will find me out here with no witnesses, and I climb out of the car, up the ridge edge into hiding. Steep, but sound stone. Swiftly higher. Strangely, I'm not dizzy, despite the drop. Just a bit winded. I drape myself atop the hundred-meter wall like a tired cheetah drooping in a tree. Left arm and leg dangle on one side, right on the other. Cooler up here; the ridge hooks a breeze from the deeps of the sky-ocean. It's a good point to watch the Road unnoticed. There was nowhere else to hide but a maze of stone pillars round the base, like the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. Nothing beside remains; round the decay of this colossal reef, only level sands stretch far away. Here comes a sports car.
Will it stop?
Yes! Cheer up. A lone man gets out. I inhale to shout Hello. He circles my car like it's a rhino that might charge him. Creeps in... opens the engine flap! Rummaging for the longest time... Is he trying to fix it? He picks my locks, goes through the seats next--minutely. An agent! My fears were right. He leaves the car and runs around the maze of crags. Now he hunts round the north side, into the shade and out of view behind a bulge. I stand up and hurry down the sinuous path. Trapped on a razor's edge! Scared to go fast and miss a step on this crumbly foot-wide line between death and death. And scared to go slow. Gotta get off this shooting gallery before he reappears! I'll try to hotwire his car. My only chance to make it alive out of the middle of Nowhere.
I freeze! Another man--on the south side! Tiny flicker--gone as I turn--but I stare till it moves again. No, it's not him. A fourlegged speck, deer I think, or wild burro or mustang. In this dry-bone reef! I can't believe anything would choose to live here. How can it live here? And then a starlike glint off its head makes me forget about agents and cars and I run down the ridge and south into the city of sculpted stone, seeking the unicorn who lives in the middle of Nowhere.
There are figures hidden deep in the obelisks. I scurry nervously under the ambiguous faces of giants. Never clear, but always there. A narrows like a gate... to a clearing where the sun yells down yellow. As I burst through the doorway the unicorn starts and leaps into shadow. But one eye cast back seems to hold not fear but appraisal. Behind a sagging Titan I hear the hooves stop. The unicorn peeks out. The horn shines silver in the blue shade. Nearer.... now that it sees who I am, it's not shy at all. Can it distinguish among men, then? One up on me; I don't even know if I'm meeting a who or a what.
I speak to soothe it. "Are you scared of the soldiers too?" Liar. It's calm; I speak to soothe myself. I'm terrified to meet this... being at last.
It shakes its head. Understands me!
"What are you doing out here in the middle of Nowhere?"
The answer wells up, with no clear source, and slow, like water seeping from a cliff foot.
"But... you're vegetarian. Hunting what?"
I get a blurred preposterous image of children and adults riding the unicorn, not just on its back, but its forehead, hanging onto the magical horn like the post on a merry-go-round, legs dangling like a walrus moustache. It looks preposterous, and a real pain in the neck. All that weight!
"That's silly!" I blurt.
--Sex looks silly too, but who cares?-- (The ghostly riders multiply. Several, sitting on the unicorn's face!)
--Touching my horn heals you mortals; but do you ever think what it does for me?--
I gape. No. Not once did I ever wonder how granting mortals' wishes might feel... fun? As they use you for their ephemeral ends?
--Each touch adds your earth-strength to my light. It feels... WONDERFUL. My blood goes deeper... lightning... singing! Sex is your only analogous joy. Unicorns have two.--
"They look so heavy way up there... how can you hold them up?"
--Every rider strengthens me, enough to bear still more!--
I see a tag on a string around the unicorn's neck. I reach for it.
The unicorn rears and shrieks in rage, stabbing my eardrums. But even the pain can't drown the seeping image--DONT BELIEVE THAT! IT LIES!--
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... I believe you!"
The unicorn stamps the iron dry dust. Puffs of bloody cloud slip out in the sun. Wide white eye rims still. Rage-spooked.
"What... what is it? Why do you wear it?"
The unicorn leans slowly toward me, presenting the tag. The palomino neck shivers with anger. My fingers brush the lemon waterfall of mane and I start at the thrill. The unicorn exhales, a soft dark growl. Anger? I tilt the tag to my eyes warily as if it might be radioactive.
--The government lies!-- thinks the unicorn. --They won't believe that each rider strengthens me! I have NO limit--
Anger? Or longing?
I breathe deep, and say, "I believe you."
And tear off the tag.
Did I ride? Did I heal? I can't remember beyond that crucial moment. Perhaps I'm not ready to ride. Or perhaps I did ride, but I mustn't be sure on this side, or I'd get prematurely smug. I suspect that meeting the unicorn at last was allowed because it warned (of the lie), and promised (of the ride to come). But only promised. We can't be true dreamriders, however much we both may want it, till I've torn off the Safety Tag on this side too, the tag saying
When I rip the tags and trust my mount, I'll be ready to go on... borne by the best friend a dreamer could have.
As I'm writing the dream, Linden knocks on my door. She drove down from the City with a fat manuscript. We end up lounging in the hot sun on a bench by a blue tile fountain, in the patio of the pseudo-Mediterranean mall of icecreameries and cafés that's mushroomed up next to Graffiti Grotto on California Ave, where, in another life, the Shamanetics office was, is, will be...
I tell the unicorn dream, how sex and spirituality and shyness all tangle together, but it's hard. Or is it Linden? She's annoyed I waste my writing talent on dreams. The little streams radiating from the fountain's core, like blue veins, are cool. I droop my hand in to keep from overheating. Linden likes to be cool too. Unicorns are not cool. Unicorns are decals on the back windows of suburban station wagons.
Now if I were a real American writer I'd have used a car-model in that last sentence that characterizes people who put up unicorn stickers, and make my point wittily and concisely, but of course to me and most other unicorn types, cars are all just wheeled boxes that roar and fart smoke. Oh well in fifty years the revealing brand name would be meaningless again, and I'm gambling that my dreams (and yours) are more enduring than that. If I must put in culture-bound references, I'll just write: Impractical unassertive pubescent girls, and certain fading single mothers still quixotically waiting for Mr. Right--in short, dedicated unrealists--paste up unicorns in America now. Unicorns, symbols of possibility in the sixties, are now as passé as... oh, idealism.
Meanwhile, back at the mall... Hi, body.
My hand drinks in the cold and I refreshen. Linden's bored with my unicorn. Or is it my sexual naiveté that tires her? Maybe I'm whiny. So I shut up about my dreams, and listen to Linden's realities--her new job, the play she's writing (a realist work, of course). The sun glows down on the little mall-garden like a golden frisbee.
Two of our friends recommended a film called "Desert Hearts", playing right up the block at the Fine Arts. Talk it over in the sun, and decide to go. Cool cave of a theater. The walls have Deco polynesians. Solar-heated, the two of us radiate like the moon at night. Sit back half in trance.
In the middle of the Fifties cultural desert, Vivian, a timid professor, comes to Nevada to live for six weeks to get a divorce. Crosses the desert plain in an old car, to the lone hacienda at the mountain's foot. Along the way she meets a wild woman, Kay, driving backwards. At the ranch a snoopy beehive blonde warns Vivian about Kay. "She's trouble, she's crazy, she's queer!" The warning tag...
But Vivian drives out by the lake with this crazy woman--and gets kissed. Horrors! She can't do this! She locks Kay out of the car. Kay peers in like a wild animal in a jungle park. Sudden thunder, a fierce desert rain. Kay stands, hair in a snaky wet mane, otherworldly in her silver cowgirl jumpsuit, shining exactly like a unicorn in the middle of nowhere. And she won't leave! Won't accept a "no" she knows is trained. Until Vivian rolls down the window, unlocks her door, has to, at last; and finds she can love--beyond her panic. When someone horny enough overrides your safety tag...
The love scenes are intense. I'm so turned on my cock and pulse are throbbing, and I blush. They tangle in such longing, fear, secrecy, defiance. All my feelings... Old misery bubbles up: I'm male, one of those crude people neither of them wants. And anger, not so old: the film shows men who come on to Kay, hoping to tear off that "no" tag, too--but the script treats THEM as sleazy. For having the exact same feelings as Kay! Sexist, but hey, they're just men.
I start to feel sick. One of my mysterious abdominal attacks. The lesbian feminist in my head attacks my balls, that is. Ow ow ow. Yeah, real mysterious.
"Well," says Linden, "it was interesting, but the love scenes disappointed me. Luna said it turned her on, but I wasn't convinced. Movie sex noises! And strange editing: every shot ended just hanging. No sense of timing."
"I was convinced." I say dourly. I feel too down to say the film's sexism literally sickened me.
I revert to a safer topic. Time in the film did hop and hang. "You're right about that stutter in the pacing, but, well..." I heft the film and the dream foreseeing it last night, balancing them in my mental hands, "when it comes to time, I'm pretty backwards myself."
UNICORN TAG is a set of dreams of hoofed animal teachers who dragged me (kicking and screaming!) past simple dreamwork into shamanism. 1: The Deer Party 2: Ariane's Honeymoon 3: Everest Marathon 4: Who'll Be My Love? 5: Dreamrider 6: Half Shaman, Half Statesman 7: 8 To A Horn 8: Black Magic 9: Misfits On Mars
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