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Engine Genius

Dreamed 2005/2/4 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

A fellow dreamworker calls me--my friend Mark. Sex has reared its lovely head. "Suddenly, opportunities for flirting are everywhere. It's like a lucid dream. Only... it's fun in the moment, but afterward, I always feel this incredible fatigue. You've talked about feeling that, but this was the first time I'd really noticed it. Why is it so stressful for both of us?"

"Well... we both seem to be avoiding worldly ties. Money, consumer goods, sex... Maybe dreamwork requires some detachment. Or... do you distort yourself when you flirt?"

Mark says "Yeah, I do feel like the real me slips away. I could be taller, I could be..."

His call makes me wonder. I THINK I'm less prone to self-contortion now... but can I really date again without turning into a stranger? Or exhausting myself trying.

Never mind! Today I gotta go shopping. Tired of fixing my old keyboard with the sticky E above C. So I drive over to Guitar Center and test two dozen keyboards. Most are too costly, and emphasize canned rhythms and songs, designed strictly for dance mixes. I do find a Casio that'll work. But I don't buy--I felt weird in the store, and wanted to get outside. Not claustrophobia--I'm in physical pain when I leave.

I felt like this in their old store, too. Called it anxiety, then--but now I suspect the air in there. They leave every instrument on, so customers will try them. A thousand hot circuit boards and no ventilation! I don't recover all evening. Tired, spacy. I'm sure now: that wasn't emotional stress, but mild poisoning!

A shame. There was a very cute musician with an aura of intelligence, talking with a cashier. I wanted to talk to her, or try to... before I nearly fainted.And I wonder why I'm single! Never mind the emotional issues. You can't date while being gassed by America.

THAT NIGHT

My car's brakes seem a bit weak and squeaky, so I take it in to the mechanic. His crew does good work, but every time I go, there's been a near-accident of some kind. I always feel spacy there, hit the wrong pedals, turn the wheel the wrong way. So I'm nervous and watch myself carefully.

Until I get distracted by a crowd of kids. Well, a few adults. They're all gawking at a 6-year-old girl who's putting an engine back together! She's a child prodigy--a Mozart with a wrench. Precocious physically, not just mentally and mechanically--she's tall, slender, in a growth spurt already, with long legs and small breasts--looks like a 12-year-old in miniature. Either that or all the petroleum products in here have made her a mutant. Science News has been warning about the hormonal effects of plastics... I only know she's 6 because they keep saying so, and her face still has a touch of that wide, snubnosed 6 year old look. But those eyes have a shocking intelligence. If she's is a mutation, it's a positive one! Embarrassed to admit I'm attracted to her.

Maybe it's just that skimpy, thigh-high swimsuit. Now that I notice, everyone here but me is in swim gear, sunglasses, sandals and towels, as if they were on the way to the beach and just stopped to... tear apart engines?! Doubly weird. I gawk out my open side window.

I thought I put my foot firmly on the brake, but suddenly I jolt with alarm--the car's still drifting forward, soon it'll hit two kids on the crowd's edge! I stomp on the brake and the car doesn't stop--I turn the wheel in a panic and swerve around them, missing by only an inch. The car finally drifts to a stop as I set the parking brake.

It's happened again. Did I make a mistake, really hit the clutch not the brake? Or did the brakes pick this moment to go out at last? I feel confused and ashamed but also angry. Whenever I come here, near-accidents. Rather than blaming myself, there's an obvious solution. Avoid the place! Before someone gets killed.

NOTES IN THE MORNING

TWO MONTHS LATER

I did as the dream said--marched in, bought a new keyboard, marched right out. But even playing made me sick! So I left it on for days in a ventilated space (luckily, it only pulled 7 watts) till it outgassed completely. Kept the windows wide open when I practiced, for the first month. It doesn't poison me now. Only one billion devices to go!

I still don't get out much. I thought I was shy, and maybe I am. Who knows? I'm too busy just staying alive.



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