In the dream, we’re in a farm field with our couples counselor, M. The field is carpeted with a rich deep green grass, dark with rain, and bending down into a hollow. There’s a red clay wall at its center where you stand as others from a short line look at pictures of you from when you were a kid and confront you with what they see. I watch someone being told by strangers how they see his past. His shoulders slump a little. His head falls. It’s all part of an exercise that M has concocted. We’ve agreed to try, but I am frightened by it now.
I turn. I’m at a curving red diner booth with you at the edge of the field. M is there to tell us what she has learned. Somehow our oldest is there too. He knocks a glass of milk off the table and it shatters on the floor under the booth. I look down. A big crescent shard of sharp glass wobbles in the milk near a rusting chair leg. As I focus on it, I feel your anger and frustration at the interruption. You won’t get the chance to hear what M found out.
Then we are in a truck going along a green road, just me and you and the kids, to do something else M has asked. We turn up a muddy track to find a place. We pass an old beaten tract home with a low cinder block wall around the back and a rusting swing set. It’s up on a little hill and we briefly think to stop and knock on the door but we don’t.
We drive another 500 yards to where the wire fence ends and park to climb to the top of a small knoll. We start the exercise M has set out for us. The house we passed to get here glows in the distance.
Suddenly the owner of the house is out driving wildly around us. He is Ernest Borgnine and he is crazy angry. We’re on his property. We’re disturbing him. Get off! Now!
We yell we didn’t know. We say we are almost done. Who knows if Ernest Borgnine hears us through the open window of his old pickup truck?
Then he is gone. I re-assure you that it’s okay if we finish what we are doing (whatever it is). It’s unnerving but I feign confidence and we continue until I am pelted by a paint ball. I know it’s come a long way because it doesn’t hurt when it hits me. I look to the house. It’s Ernest Borgnine‘s kids shooting at us.
I yell again. We’re almost done. We’re about to leave. Stop. We have kids with us.
They don’t care. I start to get angry.
Suddenly, the shooter is there. He is big and broad shouldered in a football jersey that’s torn at the midriff. He tries to intimidate us. We’re scared and angry. We tackle him and attack. Then I realize what’s happening. Wait, I say. This is wrong. We can’t hurt him.
We step away from him laying face down on the wet grass.
In a flash the scene changes and I’m in someone else’s body that is also mine. I’m heavily tattooed with dark tribal patterns. I am standing in a narrow hallway leading to the stage. I feel exhilarated and naked; strong and aware.
I am also wearing a cheerleader outfit. It is a joke, a Britney Spears pastiche, but it is weird.
Someone is trying out for the band. It is the kid from the house who intimidated us in the field. He wants to be the drummer.
The dark patterns on my skin hide me from him. He passes me without realizing he knows me from before. I can also tell he is afraid. He thinks we are tough so he is tough. He does not realize that our inked shells are just masks we look through, protective signs of our inner tenderness.
A test for the try-out appears in my mind. I begin to weep and my band mates — who know me as even I do not know myself — begin to cry with me. I twist in the cheerleader uniform and go to each band mate with a pink balloon that I blow up myself and give them in place of my heart. Each takes it protectively in acknowledgment of what I am feeling.
I bend to offer it to the boy who does not recognize me. He is more afraid and unsure than ever.
Will he take it?
I wake before finding out and scramble to write it all down before it evaporates in the rising light of morning.