what dreans mecum?
1 November 2001
Dreams. I find dreams constantly unsatisfactory, because they never make sense.
And I know that sounds like a no-brainer - there you are in the Land of Cheese, carrying the sacred Gap khakis, which you know that you have to give to the sandblasting goats before dawn or you won't be able to hitch to Grosny. Except that I don't tend to have those kind of wacky, surreal dreams.
A quick diversion. At this point some clever kitten will inevitably perk up with "Oh yes, you do, you just don't remember them". I am, alas, a subjectivist. If something happened in my head, with no witnesses, and I do not remember it, I must behave as if it did not happen. I trust that explanation will be comforting when I pour said clever kitten's drink over his or her head, then shove the empty glass into his or her face. I take this seriously, and I don't brake for pub boors.
So yes, my dreams tend to be pretty realistic. Not replays of things I have done, but scenes from a life I could be having. Although I used to think that my subconscious could do with a better imagination.
I never get to be a racing driver or a tycoon, a gigolo or a hired killer. Generally, I seem to be doing the sort of things I do in general - catching tube trains, sitting at my computer working, scribbling things in notebooks and then forgetting all about them, hanging out with friends.
Speaking of friends...one of mine trained himself to need fewer and fewer hours of sleep. Apparently it's not too difficult to do, as long as you handle it right. Set your alarm ten minutes earlier for two days, then ten minutes earlier again, then one more time. Leave it there for a week. Then start the whole process again. The idea is that your body gets progressively used to functioning with a little less bed rest, so it readjusts itself to work best on the sleep available.
At least, that was the theory. It would be closer to the mark to say that a friend of mine signally failed to train himself to need fewer and fewer hours of sleep. The first couple of weeks were fine, then he got greedy and tried for the Margaret Thatcher special - so little time asleep that he didn't have time to hit the whole big deep-sleep, theta-or-whatever-they-are waves, the full slumberland experience. So little time asleep that the drool was still halfway to the pillow when he came to and staggered for the shower.
You can see where this is going, can't you? One increasingly red-eyed and irritable young man insisting with grim determination that he felt better than ever, and he had so much more time in the day. Time taken up largely in the vital pursuits of falling over, bumping into things, swearing and looking as if any minute he was going to burst into tears or take a swing at you, and he didn't know which himself.
So anyway, I'm training myself to get more sleep. An extra ten minutes a day, first by earlier nights, and then by quitting my job. I'm up to twelve hours a day, now. Pretty soon I'll have to work out some way to deal with the need to eat. My best plan so far is to skip breakfast, and keep a simple lunch by my bed, so I can wake up when the hunger pangs hit, eat quickly and get back to whatever I'm dreaming about. Sometimes that works. Other times it's like stepping into wet clothes. Everything feels wrong, and you may as well give up there and then - the events and conversations will be off, parodic. Senseless.
When I said that my dreams didn't make sense, I meant specifically that, when I wake up, no matter how much detail I pour into the bedside dream diary, some vital sense element is always missing. An explanation or an understanding of how I got to where I was, or some important bit of narrative between A and C. But it's getting better. It's always getting better. The more I sleep, the clearer things become.
When I dream, I am always better off than I am now. Sometimes it's as simple as earning more money, or having a better job. Living in a high-ceilinged flat in an unscarred New York, or cooking in a vast white kitchen with a Swedish fridge and Russian caviar. Having an Optimus Prime figure - original and Powermaster.
Those are the obvious ones. But there are others when I just feel better, where the way my bones and organs seem to lie and bind is a better way. Often, I'm with someone who fell out of my life, or out of life, years ago, or on my way to meet them. But unsatisfactory, because I never know the backstory. How I came to be resting my head on this person's stomach, or drinking green tea with that person, who left the country with no forwarding address, or celebrating the birthday of someone who never saw it.
And that's what drives me on. It has to happen - at some point I will remember in my dream and then remember in my waking life, and be able to implement the changes needed. Retroengineer the world according to that improved pattern.
This is important. It matters. And if it takes time, that's fine. I'll sleep the clock around to smoke out a better morning.
I can sleep myself to death.