The Dreamer

January 9, 1997

I'm probably not the only person who confuses dreams with reality. When you remember a dream, there's nothing to tell you that you're remembering something that only happened inside your head. Memory is a bit untrustworthy anyway, and only by comparing what you remember with what other people remember or with some other kind of reality check can you use it as a reliable tool.

Dreams usually contain a tip-off, such as things or people behaving in a non-realistic, dreamlike way: you're flying around in the air, or you suddenly realize that for some strange reason you've come to school without getting dressed. The cross-over is in the area of emotions: somebody does something to you in a dream that angers or upsets you, and you wake up mad at them and even though your rational side says it was a dream and the person didn't do any of it, your emotional side still doesn't forgive them for it and sometimes you can stay mad at them for days.

Also, of course, you can have a wild old time having the most extraordinary surreal sex with someone and somehow you feel like you would if you really had spent a heady, secret night rolling around in the hay and sort of expect them to feel that way, too. So you remember the emotion, and when you see them next time you feel a genuine emotional bond with them. They don't know why you're different to them from the way you were before, but you do: you remember something as though it were real, except that it only happened to you and it only happened in your head. Most sex is actually in your head anyway, so the memory of dream sex and the memory of real sex probably doesn't amount to that big a difference.

You spend a third of your life asleep, and about a third of that is spent dreaming. You remember some of it, though most of it dissolves in tatters before it can get into the memory banks the same way as experienced events seem to. But you do remember some, and some dreams can be extraordinarily powerful, and you remember them as intensely as though they were real and genuine. Sometimes more so.

And you react to them the same or even more strongly than to waking events, and they haunt you for the rest of your life. Maybe there really are two kinds of dreams: real ones and false ones. Maybe the dream self--the part of you that comes awake when the other part of you goes to sleep--has as active a life as you think you have when you are awake. Maybe the dream self has as hard a time remembering what happened while you were awake as the waking self has remembering what happened while you were asleep. Maybe there are two of you that come in contact only fleetingly and imperfectly when the semi-permeable membranes of dreams and waking intersect and it all becomes real.


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The Dreamer

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