Dreamed 1992/7/10 by Chris Wayan
I'm a reporter. A colleague of mine, a girl I like, has a lead on a big story. She takes me over to an alley behind a rich couple's house, at night. Snooping on them, trying to discover... what?
We climb atop their back fence, perching like cats. She points to the clothesline crossing the yard to the patio. She whispers "It's silent, it leaves no tracks..." And steps out onto the rope, walks it like a high wire!
I feel too visible up here on the fence, but worry the weight of two people will be too much for a flimsy clothesline. So instead of following her or waiting my turn, I hop down into their patio and slink through the shadows, meeting her at their back door. Their unlocked back door...
A minute or two of very productive snooping... and then, voices! They're still up! I force myself to breathe, and whisper "Where can I hide?" She's light as a spirit, she can escape to the roof, but I'm slower, heavier--have only seconds. She hisses "Hide by the sofa, the lamp, the TV. Just be still, a lump, and they'll see you that way. They own a lotta stuff, they can't keep track of it." She hops to the windowsill, and is gone.
Their voices near--but they don't enter. Yet. I sneak out the nearest door to find I'm in their garage. I just want out now--got enough useful data tonight. Or... if they go to bed now, would I dare to re-enter and look through the husband's library? That's where the paydirt is.
Again the voices come near. I hide in the back seat of their car. At the worst they'll get in the car and drive me out of here to somewhere random. The door opens--
Earlier, we got ourselves invited to their mansion. The couple showed off their toys, very unselfconsciously. Now and then, the house seemed to be my parents' place, then reverted to this... mansion. The husband played tapes he made with $100 of raw electrical parts he assembled into a recorder, editor, and mixer. Low quality tapes, I thought, but I lied, said "I'm impressed." Wait, WAS that a lie? I couldn't build such equipment from scratch. Maybe I am impressed!
His wife kept flirting with me, when he wasn't looking. She felt sly and predatory. Sexy, but I don't much like her.
And now she stands in the garage doorway, silhouetted in film-noir light. She slinks in and sits in the front seat. I wait silently a long time, refusing to admit she's caught me. At last she turns and squeezes her breasts over the seat-back, like water balloons in my face, and drawls "He's not coming, you know. We're all alone."
She assumes I came back here for her! I'm simultaneously annoyed at her ego and turned on and ashamed that someone so smug can still excite me.
And fear. I know I have to go along with her assumption, or she'll blow the whistle on me in rage. So I kiss her. If her husband comes out, shall I hide under the pillows and blankets? I feel torn because I really don't like her, and keep wondering where my fellow burglar went--she's the girl I'm really attracted to!
We sit on the library steps. She's good at making her wishes clear without words. She expects me to hold her. Gently, I do. Nope! She really wants me to grab her breasts, pull her to me hard, maul that fancy dress... So I do--and enjoy it. I wouldn't be comfortable doing it on my own initiative. But she's film noir, she expects this! So I obey and enjoy. Layers of pretense...
The next day, I meet the couple publicly. Today, I'm pretending to be a priest or hermit. I make some kind of art work and sell it--but not as a benefit for the hermitage, as it seems. I keep the money! At least that's what I confess to the couple; I confess my lie. Or is THAT a lie, is it all a cover for the sake of uncovering their big scandal?
"Wait!" I think. "Am I married? How can I tell them I'm a priest pretending to be an artist if I'm married? I neeed to get my cover stories straight!" But what IS the truth? I'm so busy, lost in the immediate tactical need to divert them from the deepest role I'm aware of--a reporter spying on them--that I can't think about what may lie under that.
Later, I'm alone. No, wait, that's a lie. But away from them! What a relief. I'm just an artist, a simple artist. I'm in an old factory converted into an artists' co-op, conferring with a colleague in the courtyard. Each of us in the co-op gets a part of the yard, marked by a high grid of chain-link fence.
I'm a metal sculptor. I do my welding here. The pieces I sold were all small, but looking around I can see those were just the minority of my pieces that casual buyers would be likely to afford. Most of my work's on a heroic scale. My latest, all around us, above us, rearing above the dead brick factories, a hundred feet high, are swaying foot-thick columns bursting out of the ground in tufts, like ocotillo whips or bunch grass. From Brobdingnag.
A van drives onto the art-lot. It's the husband's. Shit! I don't want to talk to him here. Where can I hide? No way out, no time. So I climb. Up, up... hoping he doesn't look up... a hundred feet. Jack on the Steel Beanstalk.
But it turns out he is capable of looking above himself. I have to shinny down and talk to the bastard. He's friendly, and so I tell him some half-truths, in a confessional tone. I'm investigating the monastery or hermitage, I say. "Their rules are medieval, they're prone to corruption from the top down..." He buys it. Whenever I'm caught in one lie, a confession seems to be the answer. It doesn't matter what--just so a secret is bared.
More scenes, more layers, all lost now. So confusing, this life of lies!
My next clear memory is from the following day. I learn that part of my improvisation is verified. He calls to confirm from a private source that there are indeed scandals within the monastery. Reality has covered for me again!
So I keep confessing. One more layer each time, Salome peeling off her veils, and they keep buying each one, and each lie turns out to contain some truth. Tell the wife about my ambivalence toward her sultry come-ons, about my uncertainty how much of my response is me and how much is a role. But I conveniently forget to mention much of my ambivalence is due to nagging images of my tightrope-walking burglar friend. Tell the husband about my attraction to his wife (but not about her aggressive come-ons to me, or my suspicions that she plays games with every man not six feet under)... I call the husband my friend, but admit "I've always had mixed feelings of envy and wariness about your money." Each confession contains more emotional truth than the last and makes it easier to hide the ever-smaller, ever-subtler lies and evasions. Like my original motive for entering their lives. Only... what WAS I investigating? Earlier, I knew, but now it's gone..
Lost scenes here. Gimme a break, this IS an epic dream.
A dream in which this is all a story, a detective novel. And I'm nearing the last page. I've found it wildly entertaining--following this guy and his roles within roles, lies within lies.. and every lie turning on him, turning out to be part truth, and every truth a screen that might as well be a lie.
The last page now--and the protagonist blows it! He tells the husband "The hermit who did the artwork mentioned you the other day..." then realizes, as the husband starts, that the hermit never MET the husband, can't mention him, for that contradicts other claims I made about the hermit... A wound in the structure, an inconsistency that's small on the surface, but deep. He, I, he, flounder, take a deep breath and say "well, that's what he SAID. But it doesn't make SENSE..."
I emphasize the contradiction that proves a lie. And in the end, I get away with THIS LIE TOO!
AS I WAKE...
I'm left feeling this is a wonderful comedy about honesty. Its moral: as long as you're increasingly truthful with people, they'll be your friends... it's the direction things go, better or worse, truer or falser, not the number of lies you tell, that people react to!
Of course, being the dream it is, the surface moral isn't the deep moral: that nature abhors fiction. So naturally, it rushes in to make it true! The tales we tell become our world... just not for New Age reasons.
This noirish novel, I now realize, is a dream. And I need to write it down, because it's the biggest and most intricately coherent dream yet, in a year of rich dreams. I could write it out directly as dreamed and sell it as a script or novel.
Huh. I can write a novel! Easily--in days, not years. I dreamed up this plot in a single night, didn't I? If I want to support myself without a day job, that's the way to do it.
THEN I WAKE...
...AGAIN. The career advice was part of the dream!
But I ignore the dream's warning to write it out promptly. Delay, have breakfast, and by the time I do write it out I've lost details, transitions... whole scenes.
This? This is just a bag of rubble after the statue's been busted--a lost head, a groping hand.
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