Early this morning I dreamt that I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I wasn’t upset about it. I simply accepted it as fact. My mother insisted that the whole family had to say their goodbyes so somehow I ended up in a huge maxi taxi heading into central Trinidad along with all my Chinese-mix Trinidadian second cousins going on a field trip.
When the maxi stopped, we got into a large basket attached to ropes that hoisted us high above the world into a rainforest. Strangely, I dream about this forest recurrently. It does not resemble anywhere I’ve been in my conscious life but when I dream, every detail is the same. It’s startlingly familiar.
There’s always a man in the entry booth, a muddy pathway with a steep incline and rich green trees so dense the sunlight is obscured. I always walk the same way, see the same chopped trunks and the stones hold the same pattern. Every time I’m hoisted up there, I know that I’m supposed to be going to the forest recreationally but I never feel safe.
This time, something was different. The man in the booth wasn’t there. There was a sign saying that the walk was closed. Then it came out of the brush. The cougar with a head shaped like a dog. I’m sure I’ve seen this on a badly illustrated billboard on the highway to Port of Spain.
I tell everyone to stay calm, ignore it and it will go away. The dog-headed cougar follows me first, brushing its head against me for a sniff. I feel its hot breath and begin to panic but it loses interest and walks away.
Then I see my brother’s girlfriend (she wasn’t in this dream before!) reach to pat it’s head. I pull her away but the creature has already latched on to her leg. She doesn’t scream. Her little face contorts in pain and tears roll down her cheeks. She tells me how much it hurts. I hold on to her and tell her to ignore it and it will go away but I can hear the bones in her leg being crushed.
Then there is a gunshot and the man who’s usually in the entry booth is holding the gun. He says that ignoring it won’t make it stop.
Then the real me woke up and willed the dream to be different but I kept going back to where I left off. The last time I tried to move to another, I ended up on a beach that I’ve also never been to but is a recurrent setting for dreaming. I know that there are sharks in the shallows, there always are. I go in anyway and they take my legs apart.
I often dream lucidly. In fact, I worry when I don’t dream that there must be something I’m worried about. But I can’t help but feel there are connections between these dreams and what’s going on while I’m awake. I’ve wondered if there’s a connection too between the way I feel about my brother’s girlfriend and the way I see myself.
She recently started university and I’ve been reassuring her that she will make friends easily. I have no doubt, consciously, that she will. I’ve even given her some suggestions for meeting people and deepening acquaintances.
All the while, I’ve been painfully aware that I need to take my own advice. We moved to Bristol two months ago and I have milked the refrain that it’s so much easier to meet people in university – because it is.
How did I not notice before that I hardly ever initiate friendships? I think of all my closest friends and can tell the story of how most sought me out and made the effort to forge something deeper. I either went along with it or both of us fell into friendship spontaneously, as if by accident.
Last night I went to a clothes swapping party, knowing that my university friend wouldn’t be there until the end and that I likely wouldn’t know anyone. I resolved that I was going to do it and force myself to chat easily. Baby steps.
When lazbash was ready to get into the car and drive me there I complained that I was tired/too full from dinner/had too much to do. He insisted, “You’re going.” I joked, “I don’t need friends – I have you.” This has been an ongoing back-and-forth jest ever since that episode of Rev where the vicar’s sad that he has no mates and his wife tells him he’ll always have her.
But go I did. And I had a great time meeting some genuinely friendly women. So, why the sharks and the dog-headed cougar?