You don’t know why you dream about the writer. Seems like probably just because you fell asleep reading My Struggle.
But there’s a lot going on in the dream, and it feels significant in the way that some dreams do. Not in their storylines, perhaps, nor their imagery, their host of characters. But rather in waking up rapt. As if something real happened.
As if something real happened.
You get out of bed feeling disoriented.
In your high school yearbook, your peers posted the following prediction:
Delilah will go on to own a hostel in Europe, simply to be able sneak into the patrons’ rooms while they’re asleep and rearrange all of their furniture.
The dream makes you feel like this. Like someone rearranged your furniture while you slept.
Meanwhile, the dream furniture had its own presence, in particular the long conference table.
Maybe furniture has always been a theme for you, and you didn’t even recognize it.
Maybe you should pay more attention to these things.
Maybe you’d have time to, if life weren’t always stabbing you in the throat.
In the way that anyone’s life does.
These days, every time you talk to your brother you wind up upsetting him.
“You go too fast,” he tells you. “You don’t give me time to absorb what you’re saying before you move on to the next thing.”
You know precisely to what he’s referring—the clusterfuck of your thinking—and try to make light of it the next time you call.
“Hey,” you say, when he answers the phone. “Mind if I come in and rearrange your furniture?”
Your brother likes this analogy, and says that, in fact, this is exactly how he feels after your conversations. As though he’s tripping over objects that weren’t previously there.
In the dream you were in an oddly furnished hotel room. You sat with the writer at the conference table and the two of you argued. You weren’t particularly invested in the argument, though for the sake of intimacy, you wished you were.
He was sticking it to you, verbally. And you should have been hurt, perhaps, but you have trouble feeling. You come up short, generally, in that department.
“I guess I should go,” you eventually concluded.
The writer, however, did not want you to leave.
“Leaving is not the solution,” he let you know.
“No?” you countered, arrogantly. “Then tell me: what is the solution?”
The writer ran a crazy tattooed hand through his hair and appeared almost vulnerable in giving you a wry, if exhausted and sad, smile.
“Showing up more,” he answered.
You didn’t immediately sit back down.
Leaving being easier.
Note that you actually like the writer.
Not in the way you’ve been liking men, not in the way you’ve liked seducing them. Because really, that has been much more about liking yourself.
Or if not liking, then perhaps affirming.
Though perhaps not that, precisely, either.
Point being, the writer is somehow a more relevant character. Has a fierce intelligence wrapped up in a deep humility, and then doubled back on with a gritty toughness. To say nothing of his showy good looks, about which you couldn’t care less.
So there he was, wanting more, and you thought, “I knew it.”
Though even in your confident certainty, it was not at all clear what you knew.
The thing about your sister dying is that once she’s gone you’re going to be fine. This is what you tell yourself: that it’s this dying part that is hard.
And in this ending, hell if you don’t love her. Even after spending the past twenty or so years convincing yourself you didn’t.
Turns out, you were lying. The whole fucking time.
The winter the wall came down in Germany your family went to Berlin, and your sister got drunk and lost her passport.
No one act defines your sister better than this.
The more necessary it was to maintain her identity, the more likely she was to lose it.
Back in the hotel room, you half-heartedly tried to seduce the writer. Yet another in a series of paralyzed attempts at intimacy.
Situations in which you used to be able to present yourself just aren’t nearly enough anymore.
When you straddled him, when you kissed him, it was unconvincing. Your performance. And you didn’t even know who you were without it.
You didn’t know. Who you were.
When all of the cleverly-devised ways you’ve intricately developed to define yourself fail you, what is left? This the question the dream seemed to be asking.
There were more scenes that followed, including a scene in which your estranged mother had a cameo, one in which you tried to bill some drinks to the hotel room but couldn’t confirm your own name, and so on ad infinitum. But already, this has gone on too long.
This, all of it, has gone on far too long.