Deep in the country of my dreams there is a home for me called Every House. And in this Every House lies every house I ever lived in, every bar I ever got smashed in, every roadside ditch I ever slept in, every alleyway and desert highway I ever crept through. Many are the fantastic rooms of this house. Many are the corridors and the faraway lands. And as I lie down for one more afternoon nap I wonder which door I will enter and which I will return by. When I come back will I be a new man or will I be the same old mean scoundrel who has raged down many a night? I know not. And yet I open that door and peer down its long dark hallway of secrets. Forever is the moment.
The Restaurant At The End Of Time
I woke up on the hour this morning with the strangest dream. It seems I was sitting in a large, spare dining room with three companions, none of whom I recognized outside of this dream, but all of whom, inside it, seemed – somehow - intensely familiar to me.
The four of us were seated around a large mahogany brown table that despite our small number we appeared to amply fill. Our chairs were wooden and carved with intricate designs of perhaps mystical meaning which none of us could quite divine.
Quiet, we four - me, dressed all in black and with my goatee hanging low to my Adam's Apple; the Professor, as I thought of him afterwards, with his gray hair, haggard face, and all-white cotton clothes; the woman I thought of as simply, “that gorgeous dame,” with short, crisp hair turned about a round face, and – like me – dressed all in black; and the little fellow I called “the college kid,” with his immaturity, short crewcut, and braggadocio about some unknown ethnic origin – we said hardly a word to one another. Just downed the froth off our beers and looked about the darkened hall as we interspersed the language of silently creaking bodies and the touch of cold mead upon our throats with that of loud laughter echoing about the bar and coming back to haunt us from the shadows.
The bar itself was a lonely place. There appeared to be no one there but ourselves in the corner. The counter from which the drinks were served was empty but for the small clean glasses on top. Spigots cast shadows upon the sink and no bartender was in sight. Yet I had a feeling that the Professor, seated with us casually, downing his brew, was the owner and sole operator of this establishment. Not until the dream's end, however, would I know for sure.
Over in a recess in the wall, set apart by veils, was the object of our fixations, the place where magic resided. Here, in bright, shining paint that even the veils could not shadow, were the words on walls, formed of some unusual substance none could identify. The signs there shined so far out that we could easily make out the words through those veils, and the signs, too, appeared to be in plain English but I know now they could not have been. They were more likely signposts to hell than to that which they claimed to lead.
Here is what they appeared to read to my own eyes: “Britain AD 1000 – 19th Century,” “India-Pakistan: The Wars, The Tribunals,” “Ethiopia: The Forgotten Queen,” and, oh, so much besides. There seemed to be an infinity of times and places for our beckoning, and we – all of us – were drawn to the portals as if our very lives depended on them. But the words, those bright, shiny words were so vague in their spell that it's a wonder any of us took heed to them. Perhaps we were mesmerized by them in the way that a man, on his way to shelter, is sometimes cast into a daze by a passing car. Who can say? I myself may never know for sure.
One by one, each of us downed his own beer and entered the shining walk. All of us, that is, except for the Professor who remained in his seat.
The kid entered first and I followed him with that almost -omniscient eye that is so often present in dreams. I saw him go in a flicker of eye, a haze of brightness, into the Pleistocene Era, into a jungle, that is, where ferns grew as tall as the lizards, themselves as tall as the highest buildings in my hometown of Frederick, Maryland. Immediately – before he could even scream – the raptors found their prey in him and ripped him into bloody parts with their teeth and long claws. I would have broken down into yells and tears myself but the sight of those fearsome lizards was too much for me and I could say nothing at all. Finally, he disappeared into a flurry of red and my eyes were drawn back to the table.
Next up, I entered the portal. I disappeared into a Dickensian hell of the British Industrial Revolution, working like a doomed Oliver Twist in a grownup slave labor, emerging days later (but seeming like years) with sores aching and my clothes well ripped. I had survived – yet still was mesmerized by the signs.
The third, and last of us, to enter the portal was that “gorgeous dame” I mentioned earlier. She simply ruffled her hair with her hand, smoothed out her black-sequined dress, and ran off into the Roaring Twenties, twisting her hips every which way as she went in. When she reemerged from her travels (I had not dared follow her progress as I had the kid's), I asked her how it'd been. “I was dancing,” she said and the twinkle in her eyes told me this was true.
Then suddenly the dream changed. There was a quick flicker of brightness across the room and the lady I'd been talking to was gone. Now it was just me and the Professor – and neither of us was at the table any longer.
Rather, he was behind the bar wiping the counter down. For my part, I was a few feel away admiring a stand of hats made totally out of the fur of some small exotic animal and fitted together in places without mark or seam.
I was aware, too, that years had passed. The Professor looked even older and more haggard. In addition, he had grown a beard that was all-white albeit neatly trimmed. I knew as well that my own features had aged though I beheld no mirror to tell the difference.
“How is Mrs. Simmons?” he asked as he smoothed out his white apron and wiped down the shiny bar. I said nothing though I could recognize the fact by now that “Mrs. Simmons” was the woman I had spoken to earlier about her trip to the 1920s, that “Simmons” was indeed my own name, and that she had been my wife. Also, I knew, as if the dream itself had told me such, that she had left me many years earlier and entered another one of those portals to a happiness I could never find, gone now forever from my dream of many dreams. I was able to discern that, yes, even at a restaurant at the end of time love can take its toll.
I fingered those small furry hats once more. Then producing a bill of some strange foreign currency from my wallet, I paid the proprietor for these goods. He said nothing. Merely handed me a hat that was completely different from those I had beheld. It was a black hat etched with detailed pictures of ladies and gentlemen from different eras on wings turned flat. It was a magic hat. I looked at the Professor once more. An old charlatan, he was up to his bag of tricks once more. He had not changed one bit. No, not a bit.
But by this time (if “time” counts for anything in a dream such as this) I was angry with fury past the root of my desire. I had had a failed marriage and had seen – eons ago – a friend tortured and killed. In addition, my youth was gone. I wanted no more to do with magic.
It was time to flee this dream of mad, awful love and desire. Pressing my palms together into tight fists, I closed my inner eye, concentrated hard...and succeeded.
It was, as I've mentioned, the hour. Still early in the morning. My dream of countless time had taken but a few hours. I sat in smoky silence, looking for meaning where there was none. Then went back to sleep. Hoping for better dreams.
a journal of sorts
a journal of sorts
May 22, 1996
When A Deal's Not A Deal
While making my way through Manhattan in 1977 I came across a low class man dressed in the cheapest clothes possible. Yet they seemed warm on a winter's night. I envied him that.
"Hey, man, want to buy a watch?" he asked.
And he rolled his sleeves up, revealing row after row of glittering gold watches.
"Uh, no, I don't think so."
How about some silverware?" he said. And opened up his coat to reveal necklaces and forks, knives and spoons hanging from the lining.
"Uh, no," I said.
"Well, what can I do for you?" he asked.
"Well, what I'm really looking for is a ride to Canada," I said.
"Well, now let's begin to haggle," he said. "How much money do you have?"
"None," I said. And I showed him my empty wallet.
"Well, then you just give me that watch on your arm," he said, "and I'll get you straight off to Canada."
"You get me to Albany first and then I'll give you the watch," I said, wondering what I was getting myself into.
"No, sir," he said. "Just give me your watch and a deal's a deal."
"You're full of shit," I said at that point. And I walked off.
"Hey," he called out to me. "You'll be regretting this when somebody takes your watch for nothing."
I sighed and walked on. Somehow I knew it was going to be another one of those nights. I wrapped my hands in my sleeves and I walked back into the darkness. It was cold and the hours were steeped in desperation. Just another step forward. And then another. I was gone.