Last night, I had a few dreams that are of a nature I'm sure all of us have from time to time. I won't pretend to be a Freudian psychoanalyst and interpret the meaning of these dreams, but merely ponder on what they caused me to feel in and out of them. In both of these dreams, I've returned to Jersey City, my home town after a long absence.
In one dream, I am in a liquor store in a seedy area. Outside, vagrants are loitering around the store. I can't decide what to buy, and the clerk, a lanky guy with a close cropped hair-cut is making various suggestions. I name a beer and he gives me the price. We do this over and over, but I am not coming to a decision. I say: man, that's high; things have gone up, since I was here. The patrons around me agree. The place smells like vomit, a stench hangs in the air, and shifty-eye people are milling about aimlessly. I finally pick Amaretto. He says the price is $10.10. I say okay, he bags it, and comes around the counter to take the bag outside, I don't notice that this is strange, and follow him out. I am fishing in my wallet to get the money as we pass, dangerous looking types: winos drinking together, addicts lying in alleys, and groups of men whispering conspiratorially. It now dawns on me, that he could've handed me the bottle in the store. The fact that he accompanied me out is suspicious. Is he going to rob me when I hand him the money? He has two or three dimes ready in his hand, as I try, with difficulty to get the ten-dollar bill out of my wallet. I can't separate the bills that are new and crisp. I file through several five dollar bills and even a 50 dollar one, before finally extracting a 10. I'm sure all the criminal elements on this street have noticed. He takes the 10 and hands me 2 dimes and waves his hands indicating I don't have to bother with the 10-cent change.He beats a hasty retreat to the store.I am left alone.Now, I can feel imminent attack is likely. I start walking toward where my home is, but I'm weak and tired. As I stride each step takes such effort, my right leg is dragging.I have the bag in my left arm cradled like a football. I am getting slower and slower, until I am lying down, crawling along, dragging myself with my right arm. I look to my right and see a group of men, talking and eyeing me, seeming to be waiting for the right moment to strike. In the next second, I wake up.
What is always strange about a dream is the difference in dream state perceptions, and those of your conscious mind. In the dream it seems perfectly understandable at first, when the clerk led me out of the store, that he was doing this to protect me from the patrons in the store. He didn't want them to witness our transaction and me with all that money.
The next dream involves several mental devices. It is a more complete example of the complex nature of nocturnal experience. In this dream, I experience an element of consciousness that I assume is common to most dreams. I am actor and observer. That is to say, I am somehow outside myself as well as acting in the dream. In this dream also, I am detached not really a part of the scene I observe until a point. I am going through a review of my former life, the landmarks and memories.
I am in Marion Gardens housing project. This project was home during my early adolescence. I walk around seeing people I knew, buildings and streets I traveled through, but no one even recognizes me. I am like a ghost just observing things. I look across Dales avenue standing in front of the Community Center, to see two grocery stores that used to bleed so much money from the impoverish residents of this housing project. They, Vito's and Sabeer's are both abandoned shells. I can see from across the street into the building.I can picture where the cash register and counter used to be. I see the entrance doors; they swung open so often with kids buying cigarettes for their mothers and fathers. In some cases even worst, they were sent to put in their numbers. I wonder why the city has not demolished these monuments to exploitation. Then, I chuckle instantly remembering how corrupt public administration was (and still is) in Jersey City, NJ.
I am seized with a desire to visit Duncan Projects just in back of Marion Gardens and make my way to the last courtyard of buildings, slipping back to where a long street leads to the 20 story buildings of Duncan. Beyond the tall fence is a highway that converges to the Skyway Bridge spanning the Hackensack River over to Newark. Before me are huge mounds of black coal and small mounds of the dirt. They provide a vista from which you can look down into a strange new geography. I see a valley of trees with a lingering fog at the foot of them. I know this is not how things looked when I was there. I walk by a guy smoking a joint and others dining cowboy style around a campfire. I see in the distance a woman lying on her side atop a concrete slab with her arm under her chin as if posing for a camera shoot. I walk closer and see she's in a long gown. Now, I'm approaching with increasing curiosity from the rear. I come around and face her. She recognizes me right away. Kenny! Kenny! You're back. I look at her. Her smooth skin is a coffee brown hue. She has a Barbie doll nose and light-brown eyes. She smiles and I say: Wanda? inquisitively. She bounces her head in and out, indicating yes. Wanda, this is perfect, look come with me, okay? Lets go to Duncan? Outside myself, I am aware that the city is coming to life; the day is dawning and that I want her. I take her chin in my hands and push my tongue in her mouth, kissing her passionately. She responds and we kiss longingly, then part lips. I ask her again to go with me. I know its because I feel alone and directionless. Knowing, I am just walking around seeing things without any reason why.She almost says: Okay, but hesitates, and shakes her head in dissent. I always let you do this Kenny, you just come here outta nowhere, then kiss me. And now you want me to go to Duncan? I can't. I can see from outside myself, I am standing there with her still on her side, I am standing upright, my hands on her shoulders. I know she won't leave. I hear everything picking up, the airy roar of all the cars speeding down the Holland tunnel, the sound of foghorns from tugboats on the Hudson river, and construction teams driving pylons, I remember P.S. 23 and can see kids hurrying into the doors of the school on Romaine Ave. The whole city is coming to life, I feel lost, defeated, thinking: why did I come back? In an instance I awake.
Robleh Wais 11/26/00
What about dreams that are not so typical? I explore them below
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