The Cinderella Effect

The dream was lurid, and though only dead now for a few minutes as I begin, the afterglow still floats in the middle of my chest like a stubborn, anemic heartache.

Soon, it too, will be gone.

I dreamed of my classmates last night, gathered together one last time in celebration out on the town.

barThe party was joined by hundreds of others and spanned houses, hotel rooms and lobbies, bars, and coffee houses throughout the archetypal nighttime city of my subconscious, all separated by what in real life would have been great distance, but thanks to the ephemeral reality of the dream, were easily crossed in seconds and thoughts rather than steps and miles.

There was great drinking and laughing, people playing pool, dancing. A few clustered together in deep, significant conversation, engaged in their fascinating intellectual co-creation. Others sat huddled together, wiping tears from their eyes and holding each other in heartfelt love and consolation at the inevitable, drawing closer with every tick of the third hand on the clock.

Still others were nowhere to be seen, and their absence was a splinter wound on the heart: not fatal, but the ache to see their missing faces ran deep. Though not dead, they were not here, they were not now.

They had missed the only chance to step into the stream as it was tonight, and we all felt heartsick at the diminishment of “us”. As far as the moment was concerned, that diminishment was forever.

For my own avatar in this dream, I experienced him getting tired around the 3am mark. He looked around his peers with a silent, desperate reluctance. To honor the body’s desire for rest or be with this? But what else was there, after this? A sunrise and a waking up. Some dim awareness of a job and a life,of seeing the same individuals under different lights, one at a time.

Obeying his body’s needs, my dream self left the party, returning to the lobby of his hotel only to find that it was not yet the end, that there was still some money in the meter.

Drawn back to the festivities in those predawn hours one last time, my dream self returned to find many others had gone, or had changed clothes and packed their suitcases. There was talk of impending bus arrivals and airport shuttles among the travelers. A few sat in tear-stained smiles holding hands and trainstationgoodbyestaring out at the brightening glow outside the windows.

And soon, I – the person writing this now, in this reality/dream – found myself beginning to wake up into my own pre-dawn darkness….and the stubborn heartache has nearly exhausted itself. Typing on fumes with still that last mile to go.

When two or more are gathered together in a conversation that matters, it’s always a sort of fairy tale celebration, a deliberate dream weaving. Inside of it, we spin ourselves into whatever forms and avatars we choose. We dance in the conversation, we eat from the banquet table, we share our hurts, our angers, our fears, and our passions garbed in the most elegant of dresses and dapper jackets.

And then, before we know it, the clock strikes midnight, and the coach turns back into a pumpkin, and we all go home, as individuals…

It could be our preoccupation with “forever”, with “preservation”, with “keeping it going”, though born of good intentions, is misplaced. When we roll the credits on the film, or close the last page of a beloved novel, the Bittersweet leaves us present and so utterly alive with love and grief, creating a possibility of reverence that we bring to bear on the first page of the next book, the first scene of the next film. The twinned illusions of “forever” and “keeping it going” rob us of that delicious vitality.

Where we are at right now, and who we are with, carries all the permanence of a breath vapor on a cold spring morning. Bear witness to the mist while you can.

Vanilla Sky1


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