I run through the warm/cool darkness of an enchanted summer evening. Each leap into the perfumed air sustains me aloft a little past what gravity usually allows. My older brother comes running down the street, surrounded by the rowdy pack of friends I wish were mine. They have just come from the candy store, breathless, and by some miracle, my brother shares some of his candy with me. “I just came back from Candy Land,” he tells me. “A Good Witch told me to give this to you.” Incredulous, I take the candy, happy for the treat, but happier still for the unexpected windfall of my brother’s loving generosity and kindness. I am thrilled by the otherworldliness of his encounter with the Good Witch of Candy Land, but even at five years old, I “kind of” know it’s not true. I would have to be much older before I would realize that the real thrill was having a brother who loved me enough to weave a little magic into my little life.
My little life was populated by loving parents, a brother I adored, neighbors whose first names were preceded by “Aunt” and “Uncle,” fun and not so fun cousins, scrappy, feral street kids, shady characters and menacing freaks impaired by alcohol, bad luck or both, who roamed through the potholed streets and into my nightmares, cats and dogs who let themselves be dressed in my dolls’ clothing, and my mother’s French-speaking family who would appear out of nowhere and make us laugh till we cried.
The architecture of my dream space houses all those memories distorted by and infused with my love of magic, an overactive imagination, and, of course, unresolved conflicts. A beach bungalow with open windows dressed in sunny curtains billowed by Easter breezes, where the walls hitch themselves up to admit a potholed road, which drags me down to a cold, wet basement of dirt and spider webs, where dead people with contorted faces shuffle endless decks of cards and speak gibberish while they lie in wait for me. Their demented eyes glow in the dark, but I dare not look into them, knowing that I’ll get sucked into their heads and never get out. I am paralyzed by panic, but sometimes my parents save me and then we hug and laugh and sing and dance and laugh some more. Sometimes I dream they are dead, and even though the grief hurts my heart so bad I can’t breathe, it’s almost not as bad as being afraid.
But the most persistent dream of all, the one that is as faithful as my own shadow, the one that has followed me throughout my entire life thus far, is the one that wasn’t a dream at all; it’s the one that really happened, except that I’m not five years old anymore–I’m the “me” of the always now.
The point of departure is always the same as that cherished memory: I run through the warm/cool darkness of an enchanted summer evening. Each leap into the perfumed air sustains me aloft a little past what gravity usually allows. Each time I land, I land a little more gently than the time before. I clench my fists and swing them purposefully at my sides, while pumping my legs, trying to rev up the momentum which will propel me off the ground.
Each time, I go higher and higher until I am soaring above everyone below. Everyone’s watching me and I’m so happy, so ecstatic to be flying. I’m amazed that it’s finally so effortless—it’s like I knew how to do this all along! I try to show everyone else how incredibly easy this flying business is! Look! All you have to do is just keep trying and not give up. See? I feel like Prometheus sharing fire with the cold, suffering mortals abandoned by their oblivious, self-centered gods. My motives are pure…but maybe, I’m showing off, just a little bit.
I soar and glide, dip and loop, to the amazement of all below, who follow my every movement with collective ooooohhh’s and aaaaahhh’s. Then…something distracts me, and…poof!…my confidence is gone. I see how far I will have to fall and I am devastated. I plummet through the air. I’ve lost control. It’s all gone terribly wrong! I have made my final, fatal error.
What was I thinking? In my flying dreams, I always make it off the ground, and if I’m really lucky, I wake up during the ecstatic stage, still hopeful, amused, happy, liberated. But the bad landings? Each one is awful in its own way. It’s one thing to have your illusions shattered, but quite another to be in the free fall of despair.
And after all these years of nocturnal flights and crashes, it finally dawns on me what I was thinking. Regardless of where I wake up in that dream, the truth is revealed not by what happens, but by what doesn’t happen. That cold, hard fact which I’ve known all along has always been staring up at me. Those, cold, dead, glowing eyes have always been the distraction that precipitates my fall. My brother never makes it back from Candy Land.
Art Credit: Dreamweaver CS6: Visual QuickStart Guides
Music Credit: Gypsy Kings, “Volare”