I’ve always been stuck in reveries. Often my actual life and my dreams meld together in one ambient landscape. I’ve always been a daydreamer, living as if every experience was a scene in a movie – not necessarily with me as the main character but, still, as if it were all a stage and I could take on roles at will. I’ve lately come to realise that dreams form the core of who I am.
A few nights ago I was walking in the street alone at night. Not anywhere too far or for too long – just down the road to the 7-Eleven to buy cigarettes. I had this light, bouncy feeling as my paces picked up speed and the wind blew my hair back, like Shu Qi in Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s Millennium Mambo. There was something in the air, something light and thrilling, I felt like nothing mattered since i was here, taking big strides down a black street in the middle of an anonymous city, in full awareness that I will never be this young again. This was around 9pm and I knew there was a party going on somewhere. I thought about you, I hoped that you would come, just pop up out of the night and turn it all into magic. I never thought of myself as an optimistic person but I realised lately that I am; I’m always hoping, always dreaming, always anticipating delirious surprises just around the corner. I’m always sniffing out the night, waiting for magic to happen, waiting for romance to bloom, waiting and dreaming, walking down dark windy streets to the little 7-Eleven at the end hoping it’s a dim closet into Narnia, then having my bubble burst by the drowsy-looking, bad-tempered night cashier, but it doesn’t take much for me to get back in the mood again, and no it’s not drugs, it’s never drugs, I’m just simply high off my own youth fantasy… It’s dangerous, all my friends would be shocked if I told them, but don’t worry, I’m always aware of my surroundings at the back of my mind, but I’m a writer, so all of the elements of this scene just blur together into the story. The story and its telling always come first.
Someone else, looking in on my life, might say that it’s extravagant and indulgent. Don’t worry Mr Hypothetical Third Person, because whatever you’re thinking about me is something I’ve thought about myself many, many, many times already. I always sink back in, because I’m a person of dreams, and alcohol is a way of bringing dreamtime down into real-time. When I’m sober, I feel awkward, guarded, sluggish, and everyone around me seems boring. When I’m three beers deep, the night starts to feel like a funny little strategy game, and I weave through people while sparring with my tongue, making pirouettes and backflips and other cool tricks with our shared banter. I feel like a magician, I feel so cool and funny and correct. The other night at a big art opening, I was talking with S and Z about the awkwardness of the entire affair — caterers kept butting into our conversations to tell us not to smoke — and they have a phrase for this social discomfort, they call it “not being in their bodies”. Z wonders at how I can do all this schmoozing and art-ing as my day job and then for my free time to consist of the same. When, he wondered, do I ever get time to be “in my body”? And I told them, I feel the most like myself when I can make people laugh. The answer surprised them so much that they just laughed in response and went, “Wow, huh, okay!” And I laughed too. It’s a corny answer, it’s the type of thing that you expect a stock character in a Disney or Marvel movie to say. But it’s true, and that’s really the thing about me, I love to make people laugh, I love to say things that surprise people, I love to dream and hope, and make everything as fantastical as possible.
At the right amount of alcohol, the world starts to feel like a dream where anything can happen. But of course this is not a practical state to be in all the time. The world still needs to be managed in the daytime, so that the nighttime’s alcohol reveries can be light and dreamy, rather than tormented and addictive. The Mr Hypothetical-Third-Person looking in might say that this is already the addiction talking but I think, like another famous alcoholic writer once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Too much of sobriety and control is also an addiction, a denial of the breadth of human experience.
When I return back to reality (i.e., when I wake up the next day with my head throbbing), I begin the task of parsing through and analysing all the memories that gradually start to return with the day. The task is to sort out which part was a dream and which not. The days after the weekend are spent looking inward and catching up on emails from my internal administrator. My internal admin asks, was it him that told me he went to the same school as X, or was it the other guy that I met at the venue after that? And I search my memories for the answer. Wondering if I really did blow kisses at that person, or did I just think I did. Wondering, did I really ask someone to his face what his name was, even though I knew already? And what was that all about, what was I trying to say or prove with that? It’s like Freudian dream analysis, but on the plane of the real. I invite the memories back, I let them in while telling myself not to dwell on them too much. So this is my life, bouncing between dreams and reality, and trying to draw out meaning from the gaps between the two. Some people have much more normal hobbies I guess, they go hiking or furniture-shopping or they walk their dogs or cook dinner for people they love. Me, I pick apart my memories for everything beneath them, I play with memory’s shadow figures and direct them in the stage of my mind. I dream and create stories. In order to live.
I feel like I know you now. I feel like the fantasy we had momentarily shared has been shattered (by my own hand, by a desire to take control over the shared fantasy). You’re not as free as I thought you were, you still hold strong to certain principles and responsibilities, and I respect you for that, for not getting distracted. I’m just a distraction, a wisp of cloud. I don’t think we can ever overcome this chasm that has opened up between us, but perhaps we can help and understand each other from a distance. it always hurts to be reminded of the distance between people, the awful fact of each person’s individuality, when you had thought there was none. People perceive me as someone who gets along with everyone, who always seems to be having a great time, who seems so chill and easy-going, who is always surrounded by friends who call out my name everywhere I go, I’m the girl who says she just wants to make people laugh, but i do have a core, a still centre, just like anyone else – I have a B-side, a verso, a locked door, a “place that you dare not look” (I just finished reading Dune), just like anyone else. This doesn’t mean that I have depth per se, or secrets, or anything corny like that! This means that the lightness and the fun are my personality, that it doesn’t get deeper than that, nor is my personality as shallow as that. The hurt arises when people think i do this unseriously. As if I would forget so easily, as if making people laugh is just something that comes out of nowhere, rather than something that gives me deep, philosophical pleasure. As if the drunken revelry is all forgotten by the morning after — I tell you now, it is not. The dreams, the alcohol-poison: as it is in Dune, the spice-melange is a way of heightening vision and consciousness. I do not forget. When I wake up with the melange-headache, I plunder and I plunder, for material, analysis, and understanding. For foresight.
One day it’ll start to make more sense to me why I did what I did. Nevertheless, what has transpired between us has helped me clarify something, about you and about me.
In your head everything seems so complicated and you balance so many indulgences of vanity, thinking that you’re hiding it all very well, and you secretly (so secret it’s even a secret from yourself) manipulate other people to match your idea of the world. The Prufrock dilemma… is it better to force a situation to a head or to let things be? I used to think the former but now, perhaps, the latter. The emptiness, the lack of anything, can also be a lesson, a sign from God.
I’ve been running my mind in circles, trying to discipline myself into letting fate and time run their course, while also tempering my utter impatience and itching suspicion that all I need to do is just to Will things into existence. I take every failure and disappointment so personally as failures of will on my part. If I had just tried harder, if I was nicer (always this), if I was prettier (this too), if I had more initiative, if I worked harder, then it wouldn’t have turned out this way. But then, when I think of all my regrets (and as a plunderer of memory, my life is nothing if not a laundry list of regrets), I find that I don’t have as many regrets for the things I don’t do as much as for the things I have done.
Something I have to learn to do is how to live outside of my mind, and how to follow the thin thread of all my actions to their diminishing consequences.
In Whit Stilman’s The Last Days of Disco, everyone is always falling in love with each other at the wrong time. Nobody is ever falling for someone at the same time as that person is falling for them – nobody is ever able to keep up with each other in the valleys of love. Sometimes one person is at the peak, while the other is still taking the view from the plateau below, and once the other has reached where the first person was before, the first person has already started descending. Always missing love by about an inch. You have to get so lucky.