The dreams that stick are not the lengthy narratives. The dreams that stick are images, a quick flash of this or that. And I think to myself, as if I were watching the dream on a screen, “Oh, that’s so-and-so,” or “I remember being there.”
And so it was that I saw her again.
What makes this kind of thing happen I do not know. Electro-chemical reaction in the brain, I suppose. Certainly that’s a more likely explanation than to say I was sailing the astral plane, although who but a neuroscientist wouldn’t prefer the latter?
Randomly firing synapses or soul travel, either way, there’s the question: why? Why her, why then?
Because music plays in my life all the time, maybe it was a song I heard the previous day—or one I was going to hear the next. It happens that way sometimes, in dreams. We see someone or go somewhere by night, and the next day we bump up against the memory in the waking world. We see a picture or somebody mentions a name, as if the dream made the reality and not the other way around.
I did not hear her name the next day, but I dreamed about her the night before.
In the dream, she is young, just as she was when I first saw her. In the dream, I am not, just as I am not young now. And it occurs to me, there in the dream, that I am not in the dream with her, really. “Oh, that’s so-and-so,” I think to myself, in precisely the way you do when a photo pops up in a slideshow, or when you turn the page in a photo album. “I remember her.”
What I remember specifically, I finally decide, is her eyes, round and dark, and the way they glowed with things you would never know—things about her, and things about you.
She didn’t know any more than anybody else did, of course, and she really couldn’t predict my future. But that’s not how it seemed when we were young.
Truth to tell, it’s not really how it seems in the dream, either. She is not flashing her intelligence in that haughty way she had. She’s just there.
And I wonder why she is there, as I have wondered before about dreams.
Why? Some night soon, when you’re being chased by a monster in a dream, or trapped in a fire, try telling yourself “it’s just an electro-chemical reaction in my brain” and see how far it gets you. Running into trouble on the astral plane has much more explanatory power. But even that might be too much.
She’s just there. She doesn’t look at me or speak to me. She doesn’t say, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry,” or anything else. And I don’t say anything to her. I don’t do anything, except to think, “Oh, that’s so-and-so. I remember her.”
It’s only when I wake up that I try to find a story, and it twists backward and forward, with scenes of her back then, and me back then, and scenes of me in the present, remembering.
Not sad-remembering, or angry-remembering, only faces-in-the-night remembering, unstuck in time like Billy Pilgrim on Tralfamadore.
And it strikes me finally, as Billy learned, that there is no why. She and her eyes, and the way she looked at the world, have always existed, and will always exist. There’s no explanation, not for the eyes or for the dream, because there is no why, out there on the astral plane.
It’s only our arrogance as rational animals that makes us believe there should be one.