Dreams have no back stories or no reference to the context. They always start in the middle of something; some event that the dreamer struggles to make sense of within the surprisingly short-lived experience.
I am trying to make sense of the one I had after 5 a.m. I know the specific time because like I all normally do, I woke up at 5 a.m. to face the impending vagaries. Rather than getting out of bed I decided to sleep some more. By the time I woke up again it was 6.17. Between 5 and 6.17 I am fairly certain that the dream would have lasted only a couple of minutes but it was so well laid out.
If only there was some way of mastering the craft that dreams have of telling fantastically vivid, often disturbingly bizarre, achingly funny, visually stunning and richly detailed stories in just a few seconds or minutes.
The one I was part of this morning had my character—with no names or back stories—going to a bus despot to catch a bus for a vaguely named town. I forget to buy a ticket and wait for the bus to arrive. Then suddenly, having realized that I had no ticket, I go to the window and discover a long line. I remember the bus depot, the throngs of passengers, the body smells very well. The passengers generally had the expressions that passengers everywhere have—getting fast to wherever they want to get. They were jostling about as if doing that would shorten their actual journey.
For reasons I don’t know my first attempt at getting a ticket faded out of the dream and came another one where I am walking behind a boyish man lugging what feels like two very heavy camera equipment bags—the kind made of aluminum but with a bottle green coating of some hardy plastic. Empathizing with his plight I took one of the suitcases for him. He was so tired of carrying both that when he said thank you to me no word came out of his mouth. But I understood. As he regained some strength I asked, “Whereto?” To which he said, “Of course…..” Of course trails off because he did say the name of the place he was going to but I do not remember the name but know that I was also going to the same place. The way he said “Of course” it was as if why ask such an obvious question because everyone in that dream world went to just one place—that vaguely named town.
It turned out that he was a news cameraman on an assignment. When he mentioned that it also struck me that I too was a journalist. On the way to the ticket window he decided to stop by at what was a press club that looked like a dilapidated barbershop. He put on a white coat and told me that journalists were given that white coat so that people knew who they were. Why the white coat? I don’t know. I asked him if I could get one and he replied it was a long story why I couldn’t. When I suggested that we should get in the line if we were to get our tickets for the next bus leaving for the vaguely named town, he said being journalists our tickets will be delivered at the press club at 8 p.m. But I said I was not a member of the club and I had no white coat. That’s when he decided to wait in the line with me.
As we returned to the bus depot for some reason the ground had turned completely muddy. It was no ordinary mud but deep dark blackish brown mud that could trap you like quicksand. Again for reasons I don’t understand my character was in a white pajama, sleeveless vest and no shoes and no luggage either.
Just as we reach the ticket counter the ticket clerk says the bus was sold out and there was no more bus that evening. That’s when my real problem began. My boyish man acquaintance began disintegrating and suddenly faded away. My last question to him was “How much would a taxi ride (to the vaguely named town) cost?” He said 15,000. Note how no currency was specified. There was no ethnographic or geographic or monetary specificity to the dream at all. Suddenly, he was gone and I was left to fend for myself in my pajama and vest and no shoes. I had presumably lost all my belongings, including money and passport, or left them a the press club. I started walking in one particular direction for no particular reason. I was suddenly confronted with a landscape which was both muddy and littered with uniformly shaped turd everywhere. Yes, literally turd. It was as if someone had copy-pasted the same coiled up turd. I walked through that landscape looking lost and much to the amusement of others.
Finally, I reach what could only be called some sort of a town center where all buildings had been plastered with purplish-rusty corrugated metal sheets. At one point I stopped walking but the town kept revolving past me. It had the weird post-apocalyptic beauty. The haze turned increasingly purple but I smelled mostly sulfurous. That’s when I was woken up. The time was 6.17 a.m. When I got out of my bed, I felt somewhat unsteady.