Sunday, March 22, 2020

Strange dreams of my father, drunk, and an irresponsible and unprofitable trip to a bookstore

The cat leaps on me at 7:24 AM. I guess I'm awake. On the plus side, without him doing that, I wouldn't have remembered my dreams.

The parts and pieces of the dream don't seem to have been presented in the right order as I dreamed them, but in a sort of assemble-them-yourself, out-of-sequence jigsaw that can only be read one way. So I'm going to try to just assemble the puzzle, put it in narrative order, if I can...

In the dream, I am working somewhere. I don't think it's an ESL school or so forth; it's somewhere where there has been a management change (something my wife has dealt with in the last year, but not me) and I have been under a bit of pressure.

I decide at some point to leave for lunch and go to a thrift store to see if I can find some books I can resell, with the intention of going back to work afterwards, thinking I can make it in time. I know (in real life, in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown) a used bookdealer who is open for business, and talked to both him and one of his employees on the phone yesterday, just to say hi, basically, and check in. (I did NOT chide them for being open during a pandemic; it's probably safer in that tiny store than any of the big box stores that people are crowding into for groceries, and what the hell, people might need a few books during the coming lockdown). In the dream, I spend a half hour in the thrift store - a corner of a basement in what feels like a Salvation Army, but is priced more like a Value Village - finding things said bookdealer might buy, putting them in my basket. The books are a bit pricy, but there are some promising ones, including some older books. The only specific title I remember seeing on the shelf is Tom Robbins' Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, which in fact I don't buy, since it's pretty common, and the only Robbins books out there said bookdealer usually wants, if he's out of stock, are Jitterbug Perfume and sometimes Skinny Legs and All (really). Fierce Invalids is not worth the investment. 

I don't think any of this is significant - in the dream, I had a clear picture of the other books, too, it just didn't survive into the waking world; another - not a real book, and not the sort of book I would actually have considered buying - was a history of World War I and II, oversized and older, that said bookdealer would later say would appeal to Chinese customers, looking it up online to establish that it was actually worth something. It is interesting that the two specific books that stayed with me both could be tied into the COVID-19 crisis, since the Robbins' title seems to resonate with Canadians stuck overseas, and the second has a reference to China -  but that might just be coincidence.

Anyhow, I fill my basket, and - if I've got the order right; it really did feel jumbled when I woke up - I then go back to the apartment where I live with my parents, who apparently are both still alive in the dream, to see if my father (who, in real life, gave up his car back in the 1990's, though he was a driver) can give me a ride, since I'm afraid I'm going to be late for work. The apartment seems to be laid out like a place my folks actually lived in in the early 1990's, before I moved out on my own, except that the real apartment was in Maple Ridge, and in the dream, the apartment is in downtown Vancouver. Often when I dream, I find myself living in Maple Ridge with my parents, except it's in the 216 and Dewdney Trunk condos where I grew up (Richmond Court, for those who keep a record: 21555 Dewdney Trunk Road, V2X 3G6, but I forget the unit number. This dream is a little unusual in that it takes us to the next location they lived at after they sold that condo, to get out of debt - which they would soon find themselves right back in again. The building was on 122nd street - 22292 122nd, maybe? - and I lived there with them from about age 21 to age 26. It's mildly interesting that my dreaming brain seems to be updating its sense of where I live, like if I live another 30 years - unlikely as that presently seems - I'll only then be dreaming of myself living where I now really DO live).

In the dream, my father is not home, but arrives as I sit in my bedroom, looking through the books and trying to decide how I'm going to get to the bookstore and back to my real job without being outrageously late (and what I might say if discovered). Suddenly he comes home! I ask him to drive me, and he says he can't; I move to explain why it's urgent, and realize - he's totally drunk. Friendly and happy about it, in the somewhat playful, sentimental way that would often be his go-to when drinking, but soused to the point of uselessness. Nevermind my getting to the store -  I'm worried that he might have driven home!

My father, for the record, was not a heavy drinker, though he drank too often when he was dying of cancer, back in 2009, and I lectured him too much about it. But the cancer had spread to his liver, and my thought was he could have bought himself time by not taxing his liver with alcohol. And I resented his drinking, a bit, back then, since it took him away from being emotionally grounded and present with us. I was jealous of it, of his drinking taking the best of him away from us. After he died, I would regret simply not having drunk more with him, rather than hoping he would join Mom and I in sobriety, so we could have quality time, or whatever it was I thought would happen... we could have had a different kind of quality time if I'd just joined him in the bottle, and he would have felt less nagged, less judged.

Some lessons you figure out too late.

Anyhow, I don't remember much of our conversation from the dream; he explains how he came to be drunk in the middle of the day, involving his having run into someone he knew. He accompanies me to the lobby of the building, staggering a bit, where I reassure him that I do NOT want a ride, and tell him very sincerely that I love him; I think that I think I should do this, in the dream, because I know when I wake up, he's going to be dead again. But then it's back to the plan: I race down to what seems to be Dunsmuir Street (near where my actual job is), trying to orient myself. There's a street sign for Main. I take a minute to decide on a plan, and end up at the foot of a Vancouver bridge, where I can catch a bus. This is the last thing I seem to remember in the dream, the last piece of the puzzle I am given, if I am right about things being presented a-sequentially for me to sort out; but there's stuff that happens after it, that may have come before, so let's follow the linear order of the story; who the hell do you think you are, dreaming brain, Quentin Tarantino?

Once I get to the bookstore, said bookdealer goes through my selections and arrives at a price for them: $69, which works out to about three dollars a book (I think I actually have 13 books in the dream, not 23, but my dreaming brain may not be good at math; 69 divided by 13 is $3 each, which is what I arrive at in the dream, and in the dream, it makes sense to me there). "But I paid three dollars a book! You mean I did this all for nothing? Can you bump it up a little?"

He obliges me and gives me $75, and then I race back off to work, thinking, Jesus, I've been gone an hour and a half, I guess I'll tell them I took my hour lunch break and my half an hour coffee break together and won't take any other breaks during the day. Maybe my supervisor will let me get away with that?

I have no idea now what this "dream job" (ha) was supposed to be - not my actual one, for sure, and maybe not even a tutoring gig - but all I remember is feeling the stress of trying to fit back in, hoping no one noticed I'd been gone for an hour and a half, and chastising myself for having compromised the job for a mere $6 profit. Will the Chinese really pay a premium on that war book? Wasn't it supposed to be valuable? Did my bookdealer friend actually give me a fair price for it? Maybe he forgot it... I sure hope my supervisor doesn't see me...

Thanks, cat, for having preserved my dream for me!

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